Problems surfaced when Indo-French satellite was put through thermo-vacuum testing

Glitches in SARAL, a satellite meant for studying the ocean currents and sea surface heights, has led to the postponement of its launch from December to the second week of February 2013 from the Sriharikota spaceport.

A core-alone version of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was to carry SARAL, an Indo-French joint venture, and five other satellites.

But problems that surfaced during the thermo-vacuum testing of SARAL at the ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore, have led to the postponement.

“We had technical problems in the satellite. Some problems were encountered during the thermo-vacuum testing… They have been solved,” said a top ISRO official. “The satellite has new payloads and new systems. When new payloads are used, technical issues will be there. We are resolving them,” said another ISRO engineer.

The 400-kg SARAL (Satellite for Argos-3 and Altika) has two payloads: Argos-3 for data collection and Altikameter for measuring the height of the sea surface. These payloads from French space agency CNES have been integrated into a satellite bus from India. The entire satellite is built in the ISRO Satellite Centre.

ISRO officials said the SARAL payloads would basically study the circulation of currents in the oceans and measure the sea surface heights, phenomena that played a complementary role in studying the state of the oceans and understanding them.

“They circulate heat and they play an important role in the development of weather in the short term and climate in the long term. If you want to understand the environment, the study of ocean surfaces and the variability of sea levels is important. They also impact on the coastal areas,” the officials said.

The five satellites to accompany SARAL are the 148-kg Sapphire and the 82-kg NEOSSAT, both from Canada; two nano-satellites for astrophysics, BRITE and UniBRITE, from Austria; and AAUSAT from Denmark.

AAUSAT, built by students of the Department of Electronic Systems at Aalborg University, will test some of the technologies developed by them.

Sapphire will look at other satellites and space debris, circling between 6,000 km and 40,000 km above the earth.

According to Canadian Space Agency, NEOSSAT (Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite) is “the world’s first space telescope dedicated to detecting and tracking asteroids and satellites.”

“It will circle the globe every 100 minutes, scanning the space near the Sun to pinpoint asteroids that may some day pass near our planet. NEOSSAT will also sweep the skies in search of satellites and… debris as part of Canada’s commitment to keeping orbital space safe for everyone,” it said.

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