India’s space agency ISRO will launch Microsat-TD, a small earth observation satellite, in its first launch of 2018 in early February on a PSLV-XL launch vehicle. The launch of Microsat-TD has been confirmed by an announcement by ISRO’s Space Applications Centre (SAC), which says that Microsat-TD’s payload, a panchromatic imager, has been flagged off.
Microsat-TD, which weighs approimately 120kg with a design life of 3 months, will piggyback on the launch of the main payload Cartosat 2F, a 650-kg remote sensing satellite that is part of ISRO’s Cartosat-2 series. Another ISRO satellite to be launched simultaneously is the INS 1C, a technology demonstration nanosatellite carrying a Miniature Multi Spectral Imager known as MMX-TD.
Along with these two ISRO-developed satellite, the PSLV will carry some 30 other smallsats, mostly from South Korean institutions, and smallsat companies Planet Labs and Spire.
What makes the Microsat-TD/INS 1C launches interesting is that ISRO does not usually develop satellites of this size, and has launched only 2 satellites weighing approximately 100kg or less since 1988. These were the INS-1A and INS-1B, launched a year ago in February 2017.
This seems to indicate the ISRO is taking to the global trend of developing small satellites, which has seen countries like China announcing the possibility of launching a constellation of smallsats in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). ISRO, to capitalize the growth of smallsats, has also announced that it is developing a low-cost small launch vehicle that will be dedicated towards launching smallsats.