PSLV-C20 puts SARAL, 6 other satellites in precise orbits

Flawless mission:Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C20 soars from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on Monday.— Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

Flawless mission:Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C20 soars from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on Monday.— Photo: S.R. Raghunathan  

Pranab, present at Sriharikota, hails meticulously executed launch

In a multiple launch mission, a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C20) on Monday put India-French satellite SARAL and six others into their precise orbits after its successful launch from the Sriharikota spaceport.

This was the 22nd consecutive successful PSLV mission by the Indian Space Research organisation (ISRO). It was such a flawless mission that President Pranab Mukherjee, who was present at the Mission Control Centre, said he was “delighted to be present during this meticulously executed launch” and that “the PSLV has become a household name in the country.”

The President was sure that the ISRO would scale greater heights in the coming years. He mentioned in this context the ISRO’s plans to launch the Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle with an indigenous cryogenic engine and India’s mission to Mars, both scheduled this year.

ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan responded, saying the President’s speech would “really encourage, ignite and inspire the ISRO to execute what you want us to do.”

Lift-off at 6.01 p.m.

The lift-off of PSLV-C20 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre took place at 6.01 p.m., after a delay of five minutes in the launch sequence and to avoid possible collision of the rocket with space debris.

As the rocket roared up from the first launch pad, in the backdrop of a clear, blue sky, it climbed steadily into the horizon, riding on top of white, brownish flames. At the end of 108 seconds, the first stage, powered by solid propellants, peeled away and fell into the Bay of Bengal.

As the rocket climbed steadily further, it went like a dot of light. Throughout the 18 minutes of its flight, when PSLV-C20’s four stages ignited on time and jettisoned, the rocket’s actual path never wavered. It hugged its pre-determined path.

At the end of 18 minutes, PSLVC-20’s fourth stage rifled the 407-kg SARAL into orbit at a height of 785 km.

The other satellites to go into orbit one after the other were SAPPHIRE, NEOSSAT, AAUSAT, BRITE, UniBRITE and STRand, all from abroad.

SARAL stands for Satellite for Argos-3 and Altika. While these two payloads are from French space agency CNES, a third payload, a solid state C-band transponder, is from the ISRO. All the three payloads were integrated into a satellite at the ISRO Satellite Centre in Bangalore.

Unique satellite

SARAL is a unique satellite that will cater to the research community and it has practical applications as well. It will help in oceanographic studies. It will study the ocean currents and sea surface heights. While ARGOS-2 will collect the data, the Altikameter will measure the height of the sea surface. ARGOS provides scientists with a tool to increase their understanding of environment and helps industry comply with environmental protection regulations. SARAL will help researchers to study the development of climate. It has practical applications in continental ice studies, coastal erosion, protection of biodiversity, study of marine animals’ migration and so on.

SARAL’s mission life is five years.

The 148-kg SAPPHIRE and the 82-kg NEOSSAT are both from Canada. SAPPHIRE will look at space debris and other satellites in orbit. NEOSSAT — Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite— has a telescope for detecting and tracking asteroids, satellites and space debris. BRITE and UniBRITE, both weighing 14 kg, are from Austria. The 3-kg AAUSAT has been built by the students of Aalborg University, Denmark to receive automatic identification system signals from ships in the Arctic region. STRand, weighing 6.5 kg, from the U.K., will evaluate the performance of mobile phone electronics in space environment.

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