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ISRO's PSLV launches Oceansat-2, 6 nano satellites

The PSLV rocket in the sky after launch.
The PSLV rocket in the sky after launch.

The Indian Space Research Organisation's workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C14) took off in clouded skies from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota (SDSC-SHAR) on the Andhra Pradesh coast at 1151 hours today and minutes later successfully placed India's Oceansat-2 satellite and six nano satellites from European universities and agencies in orbit.

This was the PSLV's 16th mission and the 15th consecutive successful launch. Incidentally, today's text-book launch has come on the 16th anniversary of the day in 1993 when the first PSLV mission had failed.

"Since then all the 15 launches have been successful and we have achieved a level of perfection far greater than before," ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair told reporters later.

The PSLV launched the seven satellites in the space of 1200 seconds ending at 1206 hours, ISRO officials said. In April last year, ISRO had launched ten satellites in one go.

Apart from the country's second ocean observation satellite, the nano satellites launched by ISRO today were two German Rubinsats 9.1 and 9.2 and four CubeSats--the Beesat (assembled by Technical University, Berlin), UWE-2 (from the University of Wuerzburg, Germany, ITU-pSat (from the Istanbul Technical University, Turkey) and SwissCube-1 (Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne, Switzerland).

Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari was amongst those who watched the launch from mission headquarters and later said the ISRO scientists had made India proud.

PSLV had placed the 958 kg Oceansat-2 and the six nano satellites into a 720 km intended Sun Synchronous Polar Orbit (SSPO), an ISRO statement said.

PSLV is a four-stage launch vehicle employing both solid and liquid propulsion stages. It has repeatedly proved its reliability and versatility by launching 39 spacecrafts (17 Indian and 22 for international customers) into a variety of orbits so far.

It may be recalled that during its previous mission, PSLV had successfully launched RISAT-2 and ANUSAT spacecrafts on April 20, 2009.

One of the PSLV-C14 first stage segments at Mobile 

Service Tower.
One of the PSLV-C14 first stage segments at Mobile Service Tower."

In its standard configuration, the 44 m tall PSLV has a lift-off mass of 295 tonne. It is a four-stage launch vehicle with the first and the third stages as well as the six strap-ons surrounding the first stage using HTPB based solid propellant. PSLV's first stage is one of the largest solid propellant boosters in the world. Its second and fourth stages use liquid propellants.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who left later for a four-day visit during which he will attend the third G-20 Summit at Pittsburg in the United States, congratulated the ISRO team for the successful launch of Oceansat-2 satellite.

"PSLV has once again demonstrated its versatility and reliability through this fifteenth successful launch in a row. The OCEANSAT-2 satellite will herald a new beginning in our understanding of the oceans.

"I congratulate the entire ISRO team responsible for this achievement, and wish ISRO continued success in future missions," he said in his message.

G. Madhavan Nair with his colleagues after the launch of PSLV-C14.
G. Madhavan Nair with his colleagues after the launch of PSLV-C14."

Dr Nair said the frequency of launches had increased in recent years, proving that ISRO had come of age. He said the agency planned to launch India's first fully indigenous Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) in a couple of months.

Nozzle and segment oPSLV C14 first stage.
Nozzle and segment oPSLV C14 first stage."

Today's mission is unique for PSLV as this is the first time that the new AMC/ATS based avionics is being used for a typical SSPO mission. A Core Alone configuration of the vehicle with PS4 L2.5 stage is being employed to put the satellites in orbit. This is the fifth mission of PSLV in the Core Alone configuration.

The Oceansat-2 satellite mainframe systems derive their heritage from previous IRS missions. It is carrying three payloads---an Ocean Colour Monitor (OCM), a Ku-band Pencil Beam scatterometer (SCAT) developed by ISRO and a Radio Occultation Sounder for Atmosphere (ROSA) developed by the Italian Space Agency.

Oceansat-2 is envisaged to provide continuity of operational services of Oceansat-1(IRS-P4) with enhanced application potential.

The scatterometer, which has a resolution cell of 50 kms x 50 kms is expected to provide the wind vector range of four to 24 metres per second with better than 20 per cent accuracy in speed and 20 degrees in wind direction. It is expected to be useful for forecasting the state of the sea to help the fishing industry and maritime navigation.

With its ability to look at surface winds and temperature, unlike Oceansat-1 that could only look at the colour of the ocean, Oceansat-2 is expected to help identify potential fishing zones, weather forecasting and other trends of the sea, coastal zone studies and provide inputs for general meteorological observations.

The four CubeSats are educational satellites, each weighing around one kg and developed to perform technology demonstration in space. The satellites were launched inside a Single Picosatellite Launcher (SPL), also weighing one kg., which is a dedicated European launch adaptor to deploy a CubeSat.

SROSS deployed.
SROSS deployed.

The UWE-2 is a pico satellite, with the mission objective of demonstration of a newly developed Attitude Determination and Control system (ADCS) and the technology demonstration of a GPS on a Cubesat.

BeeSat is a pico satellite project of the Technical University of Berlin with the main objective of on-orbit verification of newly developed micro reaction wheels for pico satellite applications and will demonstrate the use of coin sized micro reaction wheels for attitude control of pico satellites in orbit as one of the key elements.

The primary mission of ITU-pSAT1 from Istanbul Technical University, Turkey, is to examine the performance of an on-board passive stability system consisting of a magnet which will align the satellite to the magnetic field of the Earth with an error of about 15 degrees according to simulations, and to verify this figure. A secondary objective is to download photographs taken using a camera with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels.

PSLV-C14 on launchpad.
PSLV-C14 on launchpad."

The objective of SwissCube is to house a science payload and take optical measurements and characterize the airglow intensity over selected latitudes and longitudes thereby demonstrating that the airglow emissions are strong enough to be measured by an off-the-shelf detector and validating the concept for the development of a low-cost Earth sensor.

Rubin-9 consists of two spacecrafts Rubin-9.1 and Rubin-9.2 weighing 8 kg each and will primarily be used for the Automatic Identification System (AIS) for Maritime applications.Rubin-9.1 is developed by Luxspace and has a mission objective of providing an insight into the issue of message collisions that limit detection in areas of dense shipping. The main purpose of Rubin-9.2 is to test and qualify nano technologies from Angstrom company Sweden and to continue space based maritime Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver experiments (started with Rubin-7 and Rubin-8 missions). Rubin-9.2 is similar to the Rubin-8 launched on PSLV-C9 in April 2008.

Pictures: Courtesy ISRO

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