India to Launch a Record 104 Satellites on One Rocket Tonight

Indian Rocket Poised to Launch on Record-Setting Mission
India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle is scheduled to launch a record-setting 104 satellites on Feb. 14, 2017. (Image credit: ISRO)

An Indian rocket will shatter a satellite-launching record tonight (Feb. 14) if everything goes according to plan.

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is scheduled to lift off from India's Satish Dhawan Space Center at 10:58 p.m. EST tonight (0358 GMT on Feb. 15) with a whopping 104 satellites on board. The current record for most spacecraft lofted in a single launch is 37, set by a Russian Dnepr rocket in June 2014.

The primary payload atop the PSLV is India's Cartosat-2 Earth-observation satellite. The other 103 spacecraft are nanosatellites provided by organizations from a number of countries: India, Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. [Photos: Tiny Satellites in Space]

The vast majority of the tiny spacecraft are from the U.S.; indeed, San Francisco-based company Planet (formerly known as Planet Labs) owns 88 of them. Each of these Earth-observing satellites, known as Doves, is just 12 inches long by 4 inches wide by 4 inches high (30 by 10 by 10 centimeters) and weighs about 10 lbs. (4.5 kilograms). Despite their small size, Doves have very sharp vision: From low-Earth orbit, they can resolve surface features just 10 feet (3 meters) across, Planet representatives have said.

Together, the 104 satellites atop the PSLV weigh about 3,040 lbs. (1,380 kg), according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). More than half of that weight comes from Cartosat-2, which accounts for 1,574 lbs. (714 kg) by itself.

Tonight's launch aims to place the 104 spacecraft into polar sun-synchronous orbit with an altitude of 314 miles (505 kilometers), ISRO officials said.

You can watch India's launch webcast tonight starting at 10:30 p.m. EST (0330 GMT) on the ISRO website here.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.