Agencies, Sriharikota Indian Space’s endeavour today achieved another significant landmark when ISRO launched seven satellites onboard its trusted launch vehicle PSLV (PSLV-C20) from the Satish Dhawan Spaceport facing Bay of Bengal.
In a copy book blast off, PSLV-C20 majestically soared into the skies, stayed on its chartered course without deviating even an iota and hurled the satellites into space one after the other at precise intervals. The main passenger in the 229.7 tonne rocket was the 410 kg SARAL, an Indo-french collaborated satellite for ocean monitoring.
After the successful 23rd mission of PSLV, President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, who watched the launch along with AP Governor E S L Narasimhan, Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, Minister in PMO Office V Narayanasami, gave a standing ovation to the successful mission. The launch was delayed by five minutes with the 44.4 metre tall rocket soaring majestically over the Bay of Bengal spitting huge fire and smoke and the first stage separated successfully after 113 seconds, exactly as planned earlier.
Earlier, the T-59 hour countdown ended five minutes later as ISRO slightly delayed the flight to make last minute technical checks and the ‘core alone’ vehicle lifted off from the second launch pad of the spaceport. SARAL (Satellite with ARGOS and ALTIKA) is an ISRO-CNES (France) joint venture for oceanographic studies. It was placed in about 800 km sun synchronous orbit. The French space agency, CNES, contributed two payloads to the 400-kg SARAL—Argos for data collection and Altikameter —for measuring the height of the sea surface. ISRO has provided the satellite bus (satellite frame) and built the satellite.
The data generated by SARAL would be shared by France and India. The launch of the other satellites was on commercial basis. Incidentally, PSLV-C9 launched by ISRO in 2008 had created a world record by successfully launching 10 satellites in one mission. This included CARTOSAT-2A, IMS-1 and eight foreign nano satellites. The other satellites that rode piggy-back on SARAL were two Canadian satellites, the 82 kg NEOSSat (Near Earth Object Space Surveillance Satellite), the world’s first space telescope designed by Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the 148-kg SAPPHIRE satellite built by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), besides two satellites from Austria and one each from UK and Denmark.
According to CSA, NEOSSat would detect and track asteroids and satellites circling the globe every 100 minutes and scanning space near the Sun to pin point otherwise almost invisible asteroids. The satellite would also be useful in tracking resident space objects including space debris, while SAPPHIRE would look for resident space objects that includes functioning satellites and space debris circling between 6,000 km and 40,000 km above the earth.
The other four satellites ferried by PSLV-C20 were NLS-8.1 UniBRITE AND NLS-8.2 ‘BRITE’ (both from Austria, weighing 14 kg each), a Smartphone-sat STRaND-1 from UK and Denmark’s Aalborg University’s satellite (A CUBESAT) NLS-8.3 AAUSAT, weighing a mere three kg. ‘STRaND-1’ is the world’s first ‘smartphone-satellite’, built in Guildford by volunteers from the Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL).
The innovative STRaND-1 CubeSat would carry a Google Nexus One Android smartphone into space to demonstrate the feasibility of using cheap smartphone electronics to control a spacecraft. Smartphones contain highly advanced technologies and incorporate several key features that are integral to a satellite—such as cameras, radio links, accelerometers and high performance computer processors—almost everything a spacecraft needs except the solar panels and propulsion, ISRO source said.