Astrosat, the country’s first astronomy observatory to study distant celestial objects, will be launched on Monday morning. A 50-hour countdown began at 8 a.m. on Saturday at the launch port in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
The Indian Space Research Organisation said the launch vehicle, PSLV-C30, was being readied with propellants ahead of the launch, slated for 10 a.m. at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
Six tiny satellites of three foreign customers, weighing 118 kg, are being put in space on the same flight. Significantly, for the first time, the PSLV launcher has a U.S. customer using it to put four small satellites in space. The other customers are from Canada and Indonesia. The vehicle has, to date, lifted 45 small and mid-sized foreign satellites for a fee.
The 1,513-kg Astrosat, estimated to have cost around Rs. 180 crore, carries five instruments and is among the few Indian scientific satellites. Most of ISRO’s spacecraft are planned for specific applications such as communication, Earth observation and more recently, navigation.
Moving in a near Equatorial orbit 650 km above Earth, Astrosat will study black holes, scan the distant universe, star birth regions beyond our galaxy, binary and neutron starts over at least five years. It will simultaneously observe the sky in multiple light bands or wavelengths of ultraviolet, optical, low and high energy X-ray. For the light-lift workhorse PSLV vehicle, this will be the 31st flight with 30 successes in its belt. The C-30 will be flown in the extended XL version.
The instruments on the Astrosat were made in association with over half a dozen research institutions. ISRO notes that it was challenging to develop the high-resolution UV telescope and its gold coating and materials, optical elements to control contamination, the thermal control design of all instruments, and the software to allow data flow, some of which took many years.