Sriharikota (AP): India today successfully launched ASTROSAT, its maiden dedicated space observatory aimed at undertaking a detailed understanding of the universe, and six foreign satellites, including four from the US, onboard PSLV-C30 from the spaceport here.
This was the first time that India launched US satellites, belonging to a San Francisco-based company, under an agreement signed with Antrix Corporation Ltd, the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
In a textbook launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here, 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 launch was witnessed by Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Y S Choudhry, who later congratulated the ISRO scientists and said the space programme was “exactly going as per our present Prime Minister's vision and plan” and what he has said in the United States yesterday.
“Relationships our country is now harnessing and nourishing is the reason ISRO was able to launch American satellites from here,” he said.
With a lift-off mass of about 1,513 kg, ASTROSAT was first injected into a 650 km orbit by PSLV-C30, followed by the other six satellites in the space of about three minutes. International customer satellites that piggybacked the PSLV C30 were the LAPAN-A2 of Indonesia meant for maritime surveillance using Automatic Identification System (AIS), and maritime monitoring nanosatellite from Canada, NLS-14 (Ev9), which uses ‘next generation' AIS.
The rocket, one of world's most reliable launch vehicles which clocked its 30th successful mission in a row today, also carried four identical LEMUR nano satellites of a Spire Global Inc., San Fransisco, US, that were non-visual remote sensing satellites ‘focusing primarily on maritime intelligence through vessel tracking via' the AIS, ISRO said. With this, a total of, 51 satellites belonging to global customers from 20 countries, including Germany, France, Japan, Canada, U.K, have been launched successfully by ISRO so far.
Declaring the launch successful, a beaming ISRO Chairman said PSLV had put in an astronomy mission which is being looked at not only within the country but also globally to bring in new information to scientific community.
“I congratulate the entire ISRO community for the wonderful job they have done,” he said addressing the gathering at the Mission Control Centre. Hailing the ISRO for the 30th consecutive success of PSLV, Choudhry said it was really a proud moment for every citizen of the country.
“I congratulate the entire ISRO team present and past who have started these missions. This being the 30th success I am sure you will be doing many more successful launches,” he said.
Director of Satish Dhawan Space Centre Kunhi Krishnan said ASTROSAT was the ‘hard earned' gift of ISRO to the world in the area of astronomy and noted ISRO had crossed the half-century mark in commercial launches with this mission.
“We are getting ready with another dedicated commercial mission in PSLV C29 with six satellites from Singapore. All of us must be proud to see PSLV has established its prominent presence in the international space market,” he added. ASTROSAT, which has a mission life of five years, carries four X-ray payloads, one UV telescope and a charge particle monitor.
The scientific satellite mission ASTROSAT has unique features including simultaneous multi-wavelength observations of various astronomical objects with a single satellite. According to ISRO, ASTROSAT will observe the universe in optical, ultraviolet low and high energy X-ray regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, while most other scientific satellites are capable of observing a narrow range of wavelength band.
The spacecraft control centre at Mission Operations Complex of ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Bengaluru will manage the satellite during its mission life.
The scientific objectives of ASTROSAT mission are to understand high energy processes in binary star systems containing neutron stars and black holes, to estimate magnetic fields of neutron stars and to study star birth regions and high energy processes in star systems lying beyond our galaxy.
The mission is also aimed at detecting new briefly bright X-ray sources in the sky and performing a limited deep field survey of the universe in the ultraviolet region. Apart from ISRO, four other Indian institutions - Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics and Raman Research Institute, were involved in payload development, officials said.