Smooth countdown for India joining space observatory owner club

Chennai, Sep 27 (IANS) The countdown for the launch of Indian rocket carrying ASTROSAT, India’s first dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory that will help in understanding the universe, and six other foreign satellites was progressing smoothly on Sunday, a senior official of the Indian space agency ISRO said.

“The countdown is progressing without any hitch. The fuelling of the rocket’s second stage (engine) has started and would be completed late on Sunday. The rocket is set to blast off at 10 a.m.,” a senior official of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) not wanting to be quoted told IANS over phone from Sriharikota.

The successful launch of the around Rs.180 crore and 1,513 kg ASTROSAT and placing it in orbit at an altitude of 650 km above the earth on Monday morning would make India a member of select group of nations having its own space observatory after the US, Japan, Russia and Europe.

However, it will not be right to call ASTROSAT 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.

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 will be filled during the countdown.

Apart from fuelling up the engines, all the systems would be checked and re-checked during the countdown.

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

The rocket with seven satellites cumulatively weighing 1,631 kg will blast off on Monday at 10.00 a.m. from the first launch pad of the rocket port.

For the third time an Indian rocket will be launching 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 will eject ASTROSAT.

Soon after, six other satellites will be put into orbit and the whole mission will come 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, the agency 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, the ISRO said.

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