India's space agency breaks dry spell with its 1st rocket launch of 2020

After nearly 11 months without a rocket launch, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is back in action. The space agency successfully launched 10 satellites to orbit Saturday (Nov. 7), including a new Earth observation satellite and several smaller payloads. 

The rideshare mission lifted off Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, dubbed PSLV-C49, from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on the island of Sriharikota, at 3:11 p.m. local time (4:41 a.m. EST; 0941 GMT). 

It was the 51st flight of India's workhorse PSLV rocket, and the second time the rocket flew in a new "DL" configuration with two solid, strap-on motors, ISRO said in a statement. The 50th PSLV mission, in December 2019, was the last time India launched a rocket before the agency went on a launch hiatus amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

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India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C49) lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on Nov. 7, 2020, carrying the EOS-1 Earth observation satellite and nine secondary payloads. (Image credit: ISRO)

The primary payload for this launch was the EOS-1 Earth observation satellite, which is part of India's RISAT series of radar-imaging satellites. RISATs use synthetic aperture radars to provide all-weather, day-and-night images of Earth from space. EOS-1 will collect data and imagery for "applications in agriculture, forestry and disaster management support," ISRO said in the statement.

Also on board this mission were four small satellites from Kleos Space, a Luxembourg-based company that provides reconnaissance data commercially, four Lemur-2 cubesats for the American company Spire Global, and the R-2 technology demonstration satellite for the Lithuanian company NanoAvionics.

With its first launch of 2020 under the belt, ISRO is aiming to launch one more mission before the end of the year. ISRO is currently preparing to launch the GSAT-12R communications satellite sometime in December, according to Space News. That launch will use another variant of the PSLV rocket, called PSLV-XL, which has larger strap-on boosters. 

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.