The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C15) put five satellites in their precise orbits on Monday, unequivocally demonstrating its reliability and robustness. It was a flawless mission all the way, with the ignition and separation of the rocket’s four stages taking place on time, the heat-shield protecting the satellites falling off on schedule and the satellites flying out of the fourth stage at a velocity of 27,000 km an hour. The on-board computers worked with clock-work precision. This was the 16th consecutively successful fight of the PSLV.

The five satellites that were injected into orbit were: ISRO’s 694-kg Cartosat-2B; the 116-kg Alsat-2A of Algeria; a 6.5-kg nano satellite named NLS 6.1 AISSAT-1 of the Space Flight Laboratory, University of Toronto, Canada; a 1 kg nano satellite called NLS 6.2 TISAT-1 built by the University of Applied Science Sciences of Switzerland; and a tiny satellite named Studsat built by 35 students of seven engineering colleges in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Studsat was the centre of attraction as the students had designed and built this pico satellite with an imaging camera and had employed several frontline technologies. They had also built a clean room to test the satellite and a ground station in Bangalore to receive its signals.

ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan called it “an excellent launch” and said the mission went off “extremely well, as expected”. The Mission Director, P. Kunhikrishnan, stressed the satellites went to their precise orbits. If the mission was to inject five satellites into a polar orbit an altitude of 637 km, the final figure was an apogee of 637.39 km and a perigee of 631 km.

There was no “hold” in the 51-hour countdown to the PSLV-C15 launch. After it lifted off majestically at the appointed time of 9.22 a.m., it roared skyward, painting the sky with yellow flames. At the end of 17 minutes and 14 seconds of rocket’s flight, the satellites were home and dry.

There was applause when T.K. Alex, Director, ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore, announced that Studsat’s signals were received at the ground station in Bangalore and the Alsat’s signals were received in Algeria.

While the PSLV-C15 cost Rs.80 crore to build, the Cartosat-2B cost Rs.175 crore. The PSLV - C15 Vehicle Director was B. Jayakumar, the Satellite Director was M. Krishnaswamy.