Indian Rocket Prepares to Launch 104 Satellites at Once

A flock of 88 Dove imaging satellites, plus another 16 spacecraft, are poised for launch on board an ISRO Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

The Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO, is preparing for its first launch of the year Tuesday night with a whopping 104 satellites packed aboard its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

Liftoff of the PSLV, which has racked up an impressive string of 34 successful launches in 18 years, is scheduled for 10:28 p.m. EST Tuesday (0328 GMT Wednesday) from India's Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota.

The primary payload is the 1,574-pound Cartosat-2 Earth observation satellite, but the rocket includes a record 103 hitchhiking cubesats weighing a combined 1,464 pounds, according to ISRO.

The bulk of the cubesats belong to San Francisco-based Planet (formerly Planet Lab), which intends to use its fleet of shoebox-sized Dove satellites to image the entire Earth daily for commercial, environmental and humanitarian purposes.

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The 88 satellites launching on the PSLV will bring Planet's constellation up to 100 spacecraft operating in a similar orbit. Combined with the company's RapidEye satellites and Doves flying in other orbits, Planet will begin its daily global imaging service, the company said on its website.

Earlier this month, Planet announced that it also was buying the satellite-imaging business Terra Bella from Google's parent company Alphabet.

Sharing a ride with Cartosat and the flock of Doves are miniature satellites owned by India, Israel, Kazakhstan, The Netherlands, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Image: The Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle as seen in 2013 during the launch of the ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission (Getty)

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