SARAL will study sea surface heights and have an altimeter

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has slated its first launch of the year — ocean study spacecraft SARAL — for February 14.

It will herald the 8 to 10 missions, including satellites and launch vehicles, which ISRO has planned this year,

Flights of the GSLV rocket would be resumed and the first of the navigational spacecraft would be sent up, an ISRO official told The Hindu .

Along with the 450-kg Indo-French SARAL, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will put into orbit six small experimental satellites built by western universities for a fee.

SARAL would be one of the very few such ocean-centric satellites and a vital cog in studying sea surface heights and other aspects, the official said.

It would be similar to ISRO’s Oceansat-2, but with an altimeter (named ‘Argos’ here) to measure heights.

In October 2012, NASA relied on Oceansat-2 to get finer details of Hurricane ‘Sandy’ that wreaked havoc on the eastern U.S.

SARAL is short for S atellite with ARgos and ALtiKa, the two main devices on it which have been provided by French space agency CNES. Besides building the spacecraft, ISRO will launch and operate it through its life.

SARAL will come up two months later than the earlier planned fancy date of 12-12-12.

The December launch was put off to complete a few tests and validations, the official said.

Around April this year, ISRO expects to resume flying the GSLV rocket. The GSLV-D5 will lift the communications satellite GSAT-14 into orbit.

ISRO had put the GSLV programme on hold after it suffered two successive failures in April and December 2010. The lapses were analysed and corrections made, the official said.

Navigational satellite

May will see the first of the national navigational satellites or navsats — the IRNSS-1 — which will fly on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. IRNSS or the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System with its seven satellites is tipped to be India’s own regional Global Positioning System.

“We hope to complete the navigation constellation during 2015-16,” by following this up with two more navsats in 2014 and the remaining a year later, the official said.

“For all these launches from the Sriharikota launch centre, we normally need an interval of 45 days between two launches since we have two launch pads,” he said.

GSAT-7, a dedicated satellite for the Navy, is also set to be launched around May on a European Ariane rocket. Two other larger satellites, INSAT-3D and GSAT-10, will also use ‘procured’ or foreign launches on separate Ariane vehicles in the second half of this year.