On September 9, the Indian Space Research Organisation will launch its hundredth mission. Over a period of 49 years, the space agency has sent up 63 satellites and 36 launchers, made indigenously.

The ISRO says it will be a routine, no-frills event, with just two foreign commercial launches going on board the PSLV-C21. It will not carry an Indian satellite.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will witness the milestone event scheduled for 9.50 a.m. at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.

Confirming this, ISRO spokesman told The Hindu, “There will be no celebrations, but yes, the Prime Minister will be there.”

Atal Behari Vajpayee was the last Prime Minister to witness a launch — that of the ISRO Oceansat-1 on May 26, 1999; Dr. Singh has visited the site on another occasion.

The PSLV-C21 will put in orbit a 712-kg French remote sensing satellite, SPOT-6, and a 15-kg Japanese microsatellite. They will be placed in polar slots (where the satellites move from pole to pole) at a distance of 655 km from the Earth’s surface.

SPOT-6 will be released first, followed by Proiteres, the experimental Japanese spacecraft, the official said.

The workhorse PSLV rocket can take up a weight of around 2,000 kg for a polar launch. The C21 will fly in the “core alone” format without the six additional strapped-on motors. This configuration will be about 30 per cent less than the standard mode with four smaller strap-on motors, the official said.

At over 700 kg, SPOT-6 will be the ISRO’s heaviest since it started doing paid launches in late 1990s. The 27 foreign satellites it has launched so far weighed between 1 and 320 kg. Italy’s Agile has been the first heavier spacecraft to date and was placed in orbit in April 2007.

This article is corrected for a factual error.

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