‘Modi wants benefits of ISRO activities to reach common man’

“The Prime Minister is a sharp man. He was inquisitive. He was very much interested in various ISRO activities” was the unanimous reaction of the brass of the Indian Space Research Organisation who took Narendra Modi to the first and second launch pads at the spaceport at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, on Sunday evening.

Mr. Modi visited the first launch pad from which the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C23) will lift off on June 30 (Monday) morning and the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) of the second launch pad. He was accompanied by ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan and Directors of various ISRO Centres. They included M.Y.S. Prasad, S. Ramakrishnan, A.S. Kiran Kumar, M.C. Dathan. S.K. Sivakumar and V.K. Dadhwal.

Mr. Modi saw the fully assembled four-stage PSLV-C23 and visited the VAB of the second launch pad where the integration of the gigantic GSLV-Mark III (Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) is under way. An experimental flight of the GSLV-MKIII is scheduled for August.

“Every question that came from the Prime Minister gave the impression that he wanted the benefits of ISRO activities to reach the common man,” said Mr. Dathan, Director, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), ISRO. “He has a fantastic power of memory. He was asking sharp questions,” the LPSC Director said. Other ISRO officials, who went around with Mr. Modi, also said the Prime Minister was “curious” to know about the range of ISRO activities.

Mr. Modi was amazed to look at the PSLV-C23, which stands 44.4 metres tall and weighs 230 tonnes. In the VAB of the second launch pad, Mr. Radhakrishnan explained the salient features of the GSLV-MkIII experimental mission. In the VAB, the Prime Minister saw the fully assembled two strap-on booster motors of the GSLV-MkIII, each weighing 200 tonnes. ISRO officials said the countdown for the lift-off of the PSLV-C23 at 9.52 a.m. on Monday at Sriharikota was “progressing well.” The 49-hour countdown, which began at 8.52 a.m. on June 28, is “normal.” The launch vehicle was to originally lift off at 9.49 a.m. on June 30 but the launch was put off by three minutes to avoid space debris which may cross the path of the vehicle.

This is a dedicated commercial launch for the PSLV-C23 which will put into orbit five satellites from abroad. The satellites belong to France, Germany, Canada and Singapore. Antrix, the commercial wing of ISRO, will be charging a fee for putting into orbit these satellites. The main satellite to go into orbit is the 714-kg remote-sensing satellite, SPOT-7, from France.

The four co-passengers are the 14-kg AISAT from Germany; NLS7.1 (CAN-X4) and NLS7.2 (CAN-X5) from Canada, each weighing 15 kg, and the seven-kg VELOX-1 of Singapore.

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