SARAL will study heights of ocean surfaces and waves

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s next PSLV launch slated for December this year will also put five small commercial foreign satellites in orbit.

Among them is a 148-kg Canadian surveillance satellite, Sapphire.

ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan said the satellites, weighing between 148 kg and 3 kg, would fly piggyback with the main satellite, SARAL, which was an Indo-French cooperative mission. The flight is slated for ‘12-12-12’: or December 12 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.

Roughly, a PSLV rocket — which has three variants — can lift around 1,000-kg payload into near-Earth orbits of around 800 km.

“There is a demand for one more small satellite to be put along with [them.] We are seeing the technical feasibility” of it, he said in an interview to The Hindu.

It was not immediately known what Antrix Corporation, ISRO’s commercial arm, has charged for launching these satellites.

It reportedly earned close to Rs. 100 crore when the latest PSLV put France’s SPOT-6, weighing 720 kg, into a 600-km orbit.

SARAL, weighing 350-400 kg, is acronym for ‘SAtellite for ARgos and ALtiKa’ and carries two Earth sensing instruments provided by ISRO’s French counterpart, CNES.

It will study heights of ocean surfaces and waves.

ISRO has built the satellite as per their agreement in 2007.

The other small paid passengers to be flown on the PSLV-C20 are NEOSSAT, another Canadian 82-kg surveillance satellite; BRITE and UniBRITE each weighing 14 kg from Austria; and the 3-kg AAUSAT for Denmark’s Aalborg University.

The PSLV, ISRO’s workhorse vehicle, has placed 29 commercial satellites in orbit, the latest being SPOT 6 on September 9.

Dr. Radhakrishnan said the PSLV, operating since 1997, alone will contribute 18 of the 25 launches up to 2017, as proposed in 12th Five-Year Plan. Five launches of the two-tonne-lifting rocket, the GSLV, and two of the four-tonne-lifting GSLV-MkIII were also planned.

Besides the 58 overall missions (i.e., satellites and launchers) planned over the next five years, there was scope for two commercial projects, he said.