The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) crossed yet another milestone on Monday after the PSLV-C20, in its 22nd consecutive successful launch, put into orbit an Indo-French satellite Saral for ocean and marine studies and six other satellites.
“The PSLV-C20/Saral Mission’ has been successfully accomplished by precisely injecting all the (seven) satellites into their designed orbits,” a jubilant mission director, Kunnhikrishnan declared from the control centre at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) on Monday evening, some 22 minutes after another history was made.
Majestically taking off under a clear sky from the first launchpad here at 6:01 pm, the 44.40 m tall rocket, weighing 230 tonnes, glided instantly into its flight-path leaving behind a thick trail of white-brownish plumes as President Pranab Mukherjee along with top Isro scientists and other dignitaries watched from the control centre.
The Saral mission was earlier scheduled for launch in December 2012, but had to be put off until Isro had to resolve some technical glitches in the joint satellite project. The launch-window on Monday was fixed for 5:56 pm, but during the countdown was rescheduled to take off five minutes later. This was “possibly to avoid the rocket colluding with any space debris,” anticipated earlier today, a source said.
Saral is the 56th satellite to be launched by the PSLV for Isro, making another happy relieving moment for the space agency’s chairman K Radhakrishnan who sat through the flight duration nervously until all the seven satellites were successfully separated from the launch vehicle. To rapturous applause from the Isro scientists, they heaved a sigh of relief as Saral first separated with almost clock-work precision at about 1077 seconds after the rocket’s take-off.
While Isro has built this new ‘satellite bus’, the two payloads comprising Saral, namely Argos and Altika, weighing 407 kg, were built by the French National Space Agency (CNES). The Saral satellite also carries a C-band transponder payload for “ground radar collaboration support”, Isro officials said. The satellite will be put into a variety of ocean-related uses, from studying the ocean currents circulation, sea surface elevation, climate monitoring, sea state forecasting to marine animal movements.
After ejecting Saral, the PSLV-C20 injected the other six smaller commercial satellites into their respective orbits with amazing rapidity, which included two satellites from Canada, “Sapphire” (148 kg), “Neossat” (74 kg), two research satellites built for the University of Austria, “Unibrite” (14 kg), “Brite” (14 kg), a nano-satellite “Aausat-3” weighing 3 kg for Denmark’s Aalborg University and “Strand-1” (6.5 kg) for the UK-based company, “Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL)”.
Announcing that Isro has, with this launch, done its 102nd “space mission successfully,” Radhakrishnan presented a symbolic memento to Mukherjee to mark the occasion, after the latter congratulated all the scientists at Isro.