India launches Oceansat-2

perfect takeoff: The PSLV C-14 leaves a trail of smoke during its launch from the Satish Dhavan Space Centre in Sriharikota on Wednesday. PTI

“This happens to be the 16th birthday for the Polar Satellite Launching Vehicle (PSLV). On September 23, 1993, we had its first launch from here, carrying a remote sensing satellite. That was a failure, but after that we did not have to look back as all the other 15 consecutive launches have been 100 per cent successful,” a jubilant G Madhavan Nair, ISRO chief, declared here after the launch.
The Oceansat-2 is a small but critical step in ISRO’c capabilities to provide high resolution images and data to study oceans and the impact of the atmosphere on them, particularly in the context of global warming.
It would also enable livelihood information to fisher folk in terms of fishing zones and weather conditions. 

At 11.51 am, the 44-4 metre tall 230 tonnes weighing majestic PSLV-C14, carrying the 960 kg Oceansat-2 and six other nano satellites, blasted into space with a roaring thunderous crackle from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here.
Vice-President Hamid Ansari, M G K Menon, former scientific advisor to the prime minister and other dignitaries watched the lift-off from the Mission Control Centre (MCC).

About 45 seconds later, four of the six nano satellites –– called Cubesat, 1, 2, 3, and 4, –– were also separated. “All satellites separated, mission accomplished,” George Koshy, the mission director,  declared to a round of applause by the other scientists. The two other nano satellites, Rubin 9.1 and 9.2, will remain permanently attached to the PSLV-C14’s upper stage.

Celebration
It was then instant celebration at the MCC, as Nair conveyed the mission’s success to the Vice President. Ansari then congratulated the ISRO chief and other top scientists. He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had conveyed his “deepest appreciation” to the ISRO scientists for the success.
The altitude achieved in orbit by PSLV-C14 of 718.45 km above the earth, against the targeted 720 km was the best for any conventional launch, Nair told a press conference.

While Oceansat-2 carries three critical payloads led by an Ocean Colour Monitor (OCM), the six tiny satellites are mainly developed in European and Japanese Universities, he said. This was one of the “most cost effective missions” for ISRO, with the PSLV ‘core alone version’ costing Rs 75 crore and the spacecraft costing Rs 160 crore, Nair said.

The satellite’s health was being monitored from the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network Control Centre in Bangalore with the help of other ground stations including in Lucknow , Mauritius and in Troll in Antartica, he said.
The two solar panels which energise the Oceansat-2 have been successfully deployed and “we have started receiving signals”, said Koshy, adding, it took one-and-a-half hours for one rotation of the earth.
The Oceansat-2 would add to the service capacity of Oceansat-1 launched in May 1999.

R R Navalgund, Director of the Space Application Centre (SAC) in Ahmedabad, which largely built the Oceansat-2, said the OCM and the scatterometer were fully designed and developed by the SAC. The third satellite payload, ROSA, a GPS receiver which determines the position of ships in the ocean using radio signals, was built by the Italian Space Agency.

Potential fishing zones
Stating that ISRO had made some changes to the OCM this time, Navalgund said its new sensors would help in imaging plant life in the ocean, which is vital for identifying potential fishing zones. The modified OCM was also vital for detecting algal blooms in the seas which sometimes can harm  fishes, he said.
The scatterometer payload with a one metre diameter antenna on the other hand will “measure the sea surface winds”. That data will be extremely important to determine more accurate weather forecasts and study the origin of  cyclones, Navalgund added.

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