India successfully launched 104 satellites in a single mission on Wednesday, setting what its space agency says is a world record of launching the most satellites in one go.
Of the 104, 101 are foreign satellites to serve international customers as the South Asian nation seeks a bigger share of the $300 billion global space industry.
“This is a great moment for each and everyone of us. Today we have created history,” said project director B. Jayakumar.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his congratulations on the launch conducted by the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) that went off smoothly and was carried live on Indian news channels.
Modi is bullish on India’s space programme, and has repeatedly praised the efforts of scientists who three years ago pulled off a low-cost mission to send a probe to orbit Mars that succeeded in the first attempt.
ISRO’s low prices attracted international customers to launch 75 satellites last year from Sriharikota in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
The rocket took off at 9:28 am (0358 GMT) and cruised at a speed of 27,000 kilometres (16,777) per hour, ejecting all the 104 satellites into orbit in around 30 minutes, according to ISRO.
The rocket’s main cargo was a 714 kilogramme satellite for Earth observation but it was also loaded with 103 smaller “nano satellites,” weighing a combined 664 kilogrammes. The smallest weighed only 1.1 kilogramme.
Nearly all of the nano satellites are from other countries, including Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and 96 from the United States.
Around 90 of the satellites are from a San Francisco-based company, Planet Inc., each weighing around 4.5 kilogrammes (10 pounds) that will send Earth images from space.