India into elite club of nations with space observatories with ASTROSAT launch


New Delhi: With the successful launch of ASTROSAT, India on Monday joined the elite list of countries having its own space observatory after the US, Japan, Russia and Europe. ASTROSAT – India’s first dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory will help in understanding the universe, and six other foreign satellites.

In a textbook launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, ISRO’s trusted workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), in its 31st flight, injected ASTROSAT and the six co-passengers into orbit about 25 minutes after a perfect lift-off amidst cheers from scientists led by the space agency’s Chairman Kiran Kumar.

The 44.4 metre-tall 320-tonne polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV-XL) version is a four-stage rocket with six strap-on motors for additional thrust during the initial phase of the flight.

The first and third stages are powered by solid fuel while the second and fourth stages are powered by liquid fuel which was filled during the countdown.

The 50-hour countdown for the rocket launch began at 8.00 am on Saturday at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, around 70 km from Chennai.

Seven satellites launched in single mission

The rocket with seven satellites cumulatively weighing 1,631 kg took off at 10.00 am from the first launch pad of the rocket port. For the third time an Indian rocket launched seven satellites in a single mission. In 2008, ISRO had launched 10 satellites in one go, including India’s Cartosate-2A satellite.

Just over 22 minutes into the flight, the rocket ejected ASTROSAT. Soon after, six other satellites were put into orbit and the whole mission came to an end in just over 25 minutes.

ASTROSAT, with a life span of five years, will observe the universe through optical, ultraviolet, low and high energy X-ray components of the electromagnetic spectrum, whereas most other scientific satellites are capable of observing through a narrow wavelength band, ISRO said.

The Indonesian 76 kg LAPAN-A2 is a micro-satellite from the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space, meant for providing maritime surveillance using automatic identification system (AIS), supporting Indonesian radio amateur communities for disaster mitigation and carrying out earth surveillance using video and digital camera.

The 14 kg NLS-14 (Ev9) of Space Flight Laboratory, University of Toronto Institute for Advanced Studies, is also a maritime monitoring Canadian nano satellite using the next generation AIS.

The remaining four LEMUR nano satellites from Spire Global Inc., San Francisco, US, are non-visual remote sensing satellites, focusing primarily on global maritime intelligence through vessel tracking via AIS and high-fidelity weather forecasting using GPS radio occultation technology, ISRO said.
How ASTROSAT is different from Hubble

However, it will not be right to call ASTROSAT, which costs around Rs 180 crore and is 1,513 kg in weight, as India’s Hubble. The Hubble owned and launched by the US in 1990 is 10 times heavier than the ASTROSAT and is said to cost $2.5 billion. While the Hubble space telescope is still working now, India’s ASTROSAT’s life span is five years.


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