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Two launch campaigns gathering speed at Sriharikota

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EASILY RECOVERABLE: A dummy SRE dropped from a helicopter, being recovered from the Pulicat Lake near Sriharikota in a drop-test conducted in 2004. - FILE PHOTO: ISRO
EASILY RECOVERABLE: A dummy SRE dropped from a helicopter, being recovered from the Pulicat Lake near Sriharikota in a drop-test conducted in 2004. - FILE PHOTO: ISRO

T.S. Subramanian

GSLV to put in orbit INSAT-4C in July and PSLV will deploy three satellites in August

CHENNAI: Two launch campaigns are gathering speed at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh one for the take-off of the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) in July and the other for the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in August.

An important highlight of the PSLV mission is that one of the three satellites it will launch , weighing 610 kg, will be recoverable. After performing micro-gravity experiments in space, this satellite will descend into the earth's atmosphere and splash into the Bay of Bengal, from where it will be recovered by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) with the help of the Navy. This satellite is called the Space-capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE), a precursor to the ISRO building re-entry technology and re-usable rockets.

The other two satellites are the 660-kg Cartosat-2, and a small Indonesian satellite called LAPAN TUBSAT that weighs 56 kg. The PSLV will take off from the first launch pad in the third week of August.

The GSLV will blast off the from the state-of-the art second launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in the second week of July. The GSLV will put in orbit a communication satellite called INSAT-4C. ``Stages of the GSLV and the PSLV are being stacked up in their launch pads. All operations are going on full steam. Launch campaigns are initiated and they are progressing smoothly,'' said B. N. Suresh, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, which builds these vehicles.

Dr. Suresh said the launch of the recoverable satellite ``is going to be exciting.'' He called the SRE ``a good experiment,'' for ``a lot of new technologies are going to be tested.'' The SRE could stay in orbit for 10 to 30 days because the onboard power available was large. The payloads on the SRE would perform two micro-gravity experiments that might last 10 days. ``We will de-orbit it and bring it back [to the earth],'' the VSSC Director said.

The recoverable satellite had its own control and guidance, deceleration and flotation systems. It had three parachutes, which would have to open one after another. ``There are a number of sequential operations. Ultimately, it will fall on the sea,'' about 140 km east of Sriharikota, he said. A flotation system would keep it afloat and enable its recovery.

Several successful drop-tests of a dummy SRE from helicopters had been conducted. These SRES fell on land, in the Pulicat Lake near Sriharikota and the Bay of Bengal around the island. They were recovered.

Dr. Suresh described the SRE as ``a stepping stone to re-entry and recoverable technologies.''

(When a satellite re-enters the earth's atmosphere from space, a lot of heat and friction is generated but the satellite has to be brought back safely to earth. ISRO is also working on re-usable launch vehicles).

Cartosat-2 is an advanced remote-sensing satellite with a resolution of one metre for imageries and a swath of about 10 km. Its camera can provide ``scene-specific spot imageries for cartographic and a host of other applications,'' ISRO sources said. LAPAN TUBSAT is a mini-satellite from Indonesia which will be used for remote-sensing. The PSLV is a four-stage rocket that is 44.4 metre tall and weighs 295 tonnes. This will be its 10th flight.

The GSLV is a bigger vehicle that has three stages. The topmost stage is powered by cryogenic propellants. The GSLV is 49 metre tall and weighs 414 tonnes. This will be its fourth flight.

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