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Updated: September 24, 2009 15:46 IST

Challenges ahead for ISRO

T. S. Subramanian
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Oceansat-2 and nano satellites inside the heat-shield of the PSLV-C 14. Photo ISRO
The Hindu Oceansat-2 and nano satellites inside the heat-shield of the PSLV-C 14. Photo ISRO

Although the PSLV-C14 mission on Wednesday was a success proving the vehicle’s maturity again, there were challenges ahead for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), according to K. Radhakrishnan, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram. These included launching a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D3) with an indigenous cryogenic stage from Sriharikota in December 2009 and the PSLV-C15 ahead of December.

The GSLV-D3’s launch would be “a landmark in indigenous technology,” Dr. Radhakrishnan said. It would put a communication satellite called GSAT-4 in orbit. The first stage of the GSLV-D3 had already moved to Sriharikota. Its indigenous cryogenic stage would undergo tests at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu. Then it would be moved to Sriharikota and integrated with the other stages, and the flight would take place in December. The PSLV-C15 would put Cartosat-2B in orbit.

On reports about NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper on board Chandrayaan-1 locating water ice on the moon, ISRO Chairman, G. Madhavan Nair, said, “I cannot confirm at the moment. May be, at the end of the week, I will let you know.” He said the Moon Mineralogy Mapper had covered 97 per cent of the moon’s surface.

Asked how the ISRO had underestimated the radiation levels in the moon’s environment which had baked Chandrayaan-1’s components and led to the spacecraft’s premature death, Mr. Madhavan Nair asserted that the ISRO was “100 per cent satisfied with the mission’s objectives.” Chandrayaan-1 had performed as per its design. There were hostile factors in the space above the moon. Radiation levels were high. There were charged particles. So the power monitors on board Chandrayaan-1 were affected. The inputs from this mission would be kept in mind when ISRO sent more spacecraft to the moon.

He called Chandrayaan-1 “a dead object going round the moon.” It would slowly come down over a period of 1000 days and then crash on the moon.

ISRO had completed the preliminary design of Chandrayaan-2, which would boast of a lander-cum-rover. The rover would go about on the moon and pick up lunar samples, which would be analysed in situ. The launch of Chandrayaan-2 would take place in 2012-13, Mr. Madhavan Nair said.

Vice-President Hamid Ansari witnessed the PSLV-C14 launch from the Mission Control Centre at Sriharikota.

While M.Y.S. Prasad, Associate Director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota called it “a good mission,” S. Ramakrishnan, Director (Projects), VSSC, described it as “a wonderful mission.”

R.R. Navalgund, Director, Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, said the 960-kg Oceansat-2, put in orbit by the PSLV-C14, had three important payloads. They were the ocean colour monitor, a scatterometer (both designed by the SAC) and Radio Occultation Sounder for Atmospheric Studies (ROSA) built by the Italian Space Agency. The ocean colour monitor would gather data about plant life in the oceans which would provide information on where schools of fish were located. The scatterometer would measure the sea surface winds. “Winds are important for weather forecasting and how the cyclones are generated,” Dr. Navalgund said. Data from both these sensors would be available to the national and international community. The ROSA would study the temperature and humidity in the atmosphere. “These three payloads will help in monitoring many of the phenomena (related to the oceans and the atmosphere) and help in predicting the weather,” Dr. Navalgund said.

The six nano satellites put in orbit by PSLV-C14 were educational satellites from abroad, meant to test new spacecraft technologies. Of the six, four were Cubesats weighing one kg each. They were from Ecole Polytechnique federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, Technical University of Berlin and University of Wurzburg, both in Germany and Istanbul Technical University. The Rubinsats, weighing eight kg each, were from Luxembourg and Germany.

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