AsianScientist (Sep. 10, 2012) – At 11.47 am on Sunday, ISRO mission director P. Kunhi Krishnan activated an important key in the high-tech missions operations control room at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota authorizing the launch of ISRO’s much-awaited hundredth mission to space.
The rocket used for this historic flight – the hundredth after the launch of India’s first satellite Aryabhata on April 19, 1975 from the former Soviet Union – was the core-alone version of the highly-proven four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) carrying the 712 kg advanced French remote sensing satellite Spot 6 along with the 15 kg Japanese micro satellite, Proiteres.
Spot 6 is the heaviest satellite to be launched by the PSLV for a foreign customer. Since May 26, 1999 ISRO has launched 27 foreign satellites.
Twenty minutes prior to the lift off the weather was a go, though a bit cloudy. A command transmitted from the mission control center announced: “Request all stations to switch to channel two.”
Prior to the launch the winds were measured and the flight was programmed keeping in view the wind conditions, the aerodynamic loads on the rocket, and its structural conditions. There was no threat of lightening.
At 14 minutes before take off (T-14 minutes), the automatic launch sequence system of the rocket was activated. Those present included ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan, who appeared a bit tense, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was seated in the VIP gallery.
Then came the countdown before the first stage of the rocket ignited and the vehicle lifted off majestically with an awesome roar, triggering a huge round of applause among those in the mission operations control room and others gathered on the terraces of various buildings at Sriharikota.
The rocket rose higher and higher piercing the sky over Sriharikota travelling in a yellowish plume of smoke, its ear-deafening sound reverberating across the vast spaceport.
Fifty seconds into the flight when the rocket had attained a velocity of 1.3 km per second it was declared that the lift off was normal.
While the rocket was zooming at a hyper velocity, the ISRO team in the control room had a brief moment of anxiety when there was an indication that it was deviating from its trajectory. But, it was soon corrected.
Seventeen minutes and 49 seconds into the flight Spot 6 was placed into its orbit and a few seconds later Proiteres went into orbit. Both of them were placed into a 655 km polar orbit. Immediately, mission director Kunhi Krishnan declared over the communication loop to thunderous applause, “This is the mission director. PSLV-C21 mission has been successfully accomplished.”
Apart from the fact that ISRO scored a century with regards to its missions with Sunday’s flight, it also sent a strong message to the world: the PSLV was a highly reliable rocket which can be used confidently by foreign customers. In commercial terms, it was a huge success.
Spot 6, a new generation optical remote sensing satellite, was built by Astrium SAS, a leading European space technology organization and is capable of imaging the earth with a resolution of 1.5 meters. Proiteres which is an auxiliary payload will study powered flight of a small satellite by an electric thruster and observe the Kansai district in Japan with a high resolution camera.
It was the 22nd flight of the PSLV and the eighth one of a core alone configuration. Core alone means that the rocket did not have solid strap on motors.
A few minutes after the successful launch of Isro’s hundredth mission on Sunday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dismissed the oft-repeated criticism that funds spent on space exploration could be better utilized elsewhere.
Addressing the nation from the mission operations control room at Sriharikota after the PSLV launch, he said, “This misses the point that a nation’s state of development is finally a product of its technological prowess.”
“The founding fathers of our space program faced a similar dilemma, but they persevered in pursuing their vision.”
According to him, when one looks at the enormous societal and national benefits that have been generated in the country, there can be no doubt that they were right.
“Equally, I have no doubt that ISRO will build on these glorious traditions and scale till greater heights,” he said.
The PM said that the launch of the two foreign satellites on board an Indian launch vehicle is a testimony to the commercial competitiveness of the Indian space industry and was a tribute to Indian innovation and ingenuity.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Screenshot: IBNLive.
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