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Indian Rocket Launches Load of Satellites Into Orbit

An Indian rocket took a14-minute trip into orbit early Monday, releasing nine satellites from sixcountries on missions to observe Earth, demonstrate low-cost space technologiesand educate students around the world.

The Polar Satellite LaunchVehicle blasted off at 0353:51 GMT Monday (11:53:51 p.m. EDT Sunday) from theSatish Dhawan Space Center on Sriharikota Island on India's east coast. The146-foot-tall rocket turned south from the launch base, traversing the IndianOcean before arriving in orbit about 14 minutes after liftoff.

Five minutes later, thenine satellites were all deployed and Indian officials announced the launch wasa success.

The payloads totaled about1,800 pounds, allowing India to use the PSLV's core-alone configuration withoutthe rocket's trademark strap-on solid-fueled boosters. Monday's launch was thethird flight of the core-alone version and the 11th successful launch of thePSLV in 13 tries since 1993.

Released first from thelauncher was Cartosat 2A, a 1,521-pound satellite built to snap images of Earthalong with Cartosat 2, a predecessor launchedin January 2007. Both craft carry cameras capable of producing imagesshowing objects as small as about three feet, according to the Indian SpaceResearch Organization, the operator of the satellites.

The addition of Cartosat 2Awill give the tandem quicker response times and provide more timely imagery tousers. The information will be used mostly by civil government agencies andmilitary forces, according to Indian media reports.

Monday's flight also putthe first Indian Mini-Satellite, or IMS 1, into orbit for ISRO. The smallspacecraft features two medium- and low-resolution cameras to gather photos oflocations around the world. Data from the 183-pound satellite's technologydemonstration systems and cameras will be made available to developing nations,according to ISRO.

Eight other miniaturepayloads rode into space fastened to a support structure underneath Cartosat2A. Six tiny CubeSat spacecraft, each weighing between two and eight pounds,separated from the rocket within about 20 minutes after launch.

The CubeSat payloads werebuilt by students at universities in Canada, Japan, Germany, Denmark, and theNetherlands.

The final satellite toseparate from the launcher was CanX 6, a 14-pound Canadian spacecraft designedto track ships using maritime navigation signals transmitted from sea vessels.

A similar German instrumentremained attached to the PSLV's fourth stage to conduct communications testingfor a system used to relay navigation data from ships through the commercialORBCOMM satellite fleet.

The ten payloads set arecord for an Indian space launch, besting the previous mark of four satelliteson one flight.

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Stephen Clark

Stephen Clark is the Editor of Spaceflight Now, a web-based publication dedicated to covering rocket launches, human spaceflight and exploration. He joined the Spaceflight Now team in 2009 and previously wrote as a senior reporter with the Daily Texan. You can follow Stephen's latest project at (opens in new tab) and on Twitter (opens in new tab).