India hopes to make history by launching a record 104 satellites into orbit on Wednesday, as it looks to cement its position as the dominant destination for low-cost launches.
The launch would almost triple the current record of 37 satellites Russia sent into orbit in 2014. The NASA record is 29, which it accomplished in 2013, and the current Indian record is 20 satellites in one go, which it set last year.
The rocket’s payload includes three Indian satellites and a 101 foreign satellites from six countries — US, Kazakhstan, Israel, Netherlands, Switzerland and UAE.
“It’s going to be a big deal. It shows the sophistication of India’s space program,” says Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, head of the Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation.
The rocket will be carrying a satellite for earth observation and 103 smaller “nano satellites” and will be launched from Sriharikota, a tiny barrier island in southeastern India. The launch is scheduled for 9:28 local time.
To date India has launched 79 satellites from 21 countries, including satellites from Google and Airbus, earning India at least $157 million, according to government figures.