Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh), Oct 12: An Indian rocket Wednesday successfully launched an Indo-French tropical weather satellite and three other smaller satellites into orbit from the spaceport here.
India became the second nation in the world to launch such a mission. The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) scored past the half-century mark by launching the Megha-Tropiques and other satellites.
The PSLV-C18 — standing 44 metres and weighing 230 tonnes — soared towards the heavens from the first launch pad of the Sriharikota spaceport, 80 km from Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai, ferrying four satellites together weighing 1,042.6 kg.
ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan told reporters: ‘The PSLV-C18 has been a grand success. Very precisely, four satellites were injected in circular orbit.’
Megha-Tropiques with its circular orbit inclined 20 degree to the equator will enable climate research and also aid scientists seeking to refine prediction models.
The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) — a joint mission of NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) designed to monitor and study tropical rainfall — was launched Nov 27, 1997.
The French space agency, Centre National d’etudes Spatiales (CNES), has built three instruments of Megha-Tropiques: SAPHIR, SCARAB and GPS-ROS. The fourth, MADRAS, is a joint effort of ISRO and CNES.
The three small satellites that were ferried by the PSLV-C18 were the 10.9-kg SRMSAT built by the students of SRM University near Chennai, the three-kg remote sensing satellite Jugnu from the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur (IIT-K) and the 28.7-kg VesselSat from LuxSpace of Luxembourg to locate ships on high seas.
With a rich orange flame at its tail, the rocket left behind a huge tail of white fumes as it ascended towards the blue sky amid resounding cheers of ISRO scientists and the media team assembled at the launch centre.
People perched atop the nearby buildings happily clapped as PSLV-C18 — the rocket’s core alone variant — without its six strap-on booster motors went up.
Around 22 minutes into the flight the rocket first spat out Megha-Tropiques and followed it up with SRMSAT, VesselSat and Jugnu.
The whole process got completed in 25 minutes from blast off. ISRO, with its network of ground stations, monitored its health.
The Rs.1.1 crore SRMSAT using a grating spectrometer will monitor greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and water vapour in the atmosphere.
The Jugnu satellite is intended to prove the indigenously developed camera system for imaging the earth in the near infrared region and test image processing algorithms, evaluate global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver for its use in satellite navigation.
VesselSat will be used to detect ships at sea automatically from the signals they emit in the regions covered by it. The satellite carries two signal receivers called Automatic Identification System for ships (AIS).
The PSLV rocket has now launched successfully 52 satellites out of 53 it carried – majorly remote sensing/earth observation satellites both Indian and foreign – and has been a major revenue earner for ISRO.
The one failure happened in 1993 when the satellite was not able to reach orbit.
This is the third successful rocket launch for ISRO this year from India. In April, the agency successfully launched remote sensing satellite Resourcesat-2 and two others. In July, communication satellite GSAT-12 was put in orbit.
The PSLV is a four stage (engine) rocket powered by solid and liquid propellants alternatively. The first and third stages are fired by solid propellant and the second and fourth stages are fired by liquid propellant.
ISRO has developed three PSLV variants. The first is the standard variant weighing around 290 tonnes with six strap-on motors measuring 11.3 metres with a fuel capacity of nine tonnes.
The other two rocket variants are the PSLV Core Alone without the six strap-on motors and PSLV-XL with longer strap-on motors measuring 13.5 metres having a fuel capacity of 12 tonnes of solid fuel.
(V. Jagannathan can be contacted at email@example.com)