About an hour past midnight as Thursday lapses into Friday, the country’s second and advanced meteorology satellite INSAT-3D will be lofted into its space orbit from the South American launch pad in Kourou in French Guiana.

The 2,060-kg metsat comes up a few years well beyond its planned launch.

According to Indian Space Research Organisation, INSAT-3D, which carries sophisticated and indigenously built devices, will “add a new dimension to weather monitoring” over the country.

Expectations are that its instruments, a sounder, an imager and a search and rescue component, will provide more accurate temperature, look closely at forest fires and aid rescue during disasters and offer neat details of cloud motions and humidity.

The spacecraft is being put in orbit on the European Ariane-5 launcher, numbered VA-214, between 1.23 a.m. and 2.41 a.m. IST on Friday. At Kourou, it will be around 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Temporary orbit

INSAT-3D will first be released into a temporary oval orbit which ISRO will gradually correct into a circular orbit at 82 degrees East longitude, 36,000 km from the ground over the coming days.

The Ariane launcher will eject it after releasing Europe’s largest telecommunication satellite Alphasat, according to launch services company Arianespace.

INSAT-3D, with a designed life of seven years in space, will be significantly better than the first metsat, KALPANA-1, or INSAT-3A, which has a met component, ISRO said.

Its real-time observations of important factors will be valuable during cyclones, floods and drought, ISRO said.

The new spacecraft will be up in time to replace KALPANA, which was launched in 2002 and is nearing the end of its life at 74 degrees East longitude.

According to ISRO spokesperson Deviprasad Karnik, earlier weather payloads were embedded in the multi-tasking INSATs which were mainly meant for communication.

With the demand on communication satellites increasing and the country’s weather requirements also mounting, ISRO has carved out this function into a genre of metsats.

A key payload is the search and rescue (SAR) function which will pick distress beacons from users on land, sea and in air.

The signals will be relayed to the Indian Mission Control Centre located at the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network, Bangalore.

Users of the space-based SAR component are mainly the Coast Guard, Airports Authority of India, Directorate General of Shipping, Defence services and fishermen.

The distress alert service covers much of the Indian Ocean region, including India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

The sounder has been put on an INSAT for the first time; its 19 narrow channels will provide temperature, humidity and ozone details every hour for the land mass and six-hourly information on the Indian Ocean region.

The multi-spectral imager or optical radiometer will supply data on radiation, precipitation, sea surface temperature, snow cover and cloud motion winds.

The third instrument on the satellite, the data relay transponder, will pick data related to meteorology, water vapour and oceanography from remote places on ground through automatic weather stations, rain gauges and meteorology stations; it will send the data back to relevant centres.

ISRO, which will completely process the data, and India Meteorological Department have set up over 1,800 data collection platforms. The space agency has developed and set up an INSAT-3D Meteorological Data Processing System at IMD in New Delhi with a mirror site at its Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad.

INSAT-3D joins a band of geostationary and polar orbiting metsats such as GOES-12, 13 and 15 of the U.S., Russia’s GOMS, Europe’s Meteosat, Japan’s MTSAT, and China’s Feng yun.