In space agency’s 100th mission, PSLV puts 2 satellites in orbit

A Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C21) blasted off from here on Sunday and placed two foreign satellites in orbit, accomplishing the Indian Space Research Organisation’s 100th mission, a milestone in the country’s space journey.

After a 51-hour countdown, the PSLV lifted off at 9.53 a.m., two minutes behind schedule, to avoid any collision with space debris.

In the textbook launch, it carried SPOT-6, a 712-kg French earth observation satellite and injected it into an orbit of 655-km altitude, inclined at 98.23 degrees to the equator. Proiteres, a 15-kg Japanese microsatellite, was put into orbit as an additional payload. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a host of dignitaries watched the flight path on electronic screens, as the 44-metre tall PSLV accomplished its task, reinforcing the fact that it is the ISRO’s workhorse, with 21 successful missions in a row.

The four-stage ignition and the injection of the satellites into the orbit took 18 minutes and 37 seconds. As Proiteres separated at the final moment, the scientists erupted into joyous applause.

SPOT-6, an optical remote-sensing satellite capable of imaging the earth with a 1.5-metre resolution, is built by Astrium SAS, a European space technology company.

Proiteres is meant to study the powered-flight of a small satellite by an electric thruster and to observe Japan’s Kansai district with a high-resolution camera.

With Sunday’s mission, the ISRO has launched 62 satellites and 38 rockets. It has so far injected 28 foreign satellites into orbit, beginning with Germany’s 45-kg DLR-TUBSAT aboard the PSLV-C2 in 1999. SPOT-6 is the the PSLV’s biggest commercial lift so far. At a press conference, Dr. Radhakrishnan said the financial matters relating to the launch could not be disclosed, but the cost of the vehicle was recovered. The ISRO also sent its own payload, ‘Mini Resins,’ for demonstration of an instrument called Redundant Strap down Inertial Navigation System.