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Smooth countdown for ISRO launch of six Singapore satellites

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ISRO's satellites

Chennai: The countdown for the launch of six Singaporean satellites using an Indian rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is progressing smoothly at the rocket port in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, a senior Indian space agency official said.

“The countdown is progressing smoothly without any hitch. The rocket is slated to blast off at 6 p.m. today (Wednesday) with six Singaporean satellites,” a senior official of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) told IANS. Sriharikota is around 80 km from here.

Apart from launching the six foreign satellites, ISRO will also be testing the rocket’s fourth stage/engine’s ability to restart after it is cut-off around 17 minutes into the flight.

Technically speaking, India will be testing a multiple burn fuel stage/rocket engine for the first time.

“The restart and shut off of the fourth stage engine is done as a first step towards launching multiple satellites but in different orbits,” a senior ISRO official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told IANS.

Launching of multiple satellites with a single rocket is nothing new for ISRO and it has been doing that for several years. The challenge is, however, to launch several satellites at different orbits with one rocket.

This is what ISRO will be testing after PSLV ejects out six Singaporean satellites on Wednesday.

The PSLV rocket is a four stage/engine rocket powered by solid and liquid fuel alternatively.

“Restarting a rocket engine soon after it is shut off is a critical technology that has to be mastered. Once a rocket engine is activated, then the heat generated is very high. The trick is to cool it down in space and to restart it at a short gap,” an industry expert told IANS.

“This is entirely different from switching on and off the communication satellite’s engines in space. The interval between two restarts of a communication satellite engine will be in days. But in the case of restarting a rocket engine, the time gap will be in hours,” the expert added.

“By that time, the rocket’s engine has to be cooled down. This part of the experiment is very critical,” he explained.

The PSLV’s fourth stage/engine will be restarted just over 67 minutes into the flight or 50 minutes after the engine was cut-off.

At the time of restart, the fourth stage will be in a lower altitude of 523.9 km while the satellites were ejected at 550 km altitude.

The engine will be operated for four seconds and is planned to go up to an altitude of 524 km before the stage will be cut-off again.

On December 16, ISRO will be flying the ‘core alone’ variant of the PSLV rocket. The rocket will not have the strap on boosters, its standard feature.

The successful launch of the six Singaporean satellites will take ISRO’s total flights of foreign satellites to 57.

Out of the six satellites, the 400 kg earth observation satellite called TeLEOS-1 is the main passenger for the PSLV rocket and hence the mission is called TeLEOS mission by ISRO.

TeLEOS-1 is Singapore’s first commercial earth observation satellite designed and developed by ST Electronics.

The other five co-passenger satellites are VELOX-C1 (123 kg), VELOX-II (13 kg), Kent Ridge-1 (78 kg), Galassia (3.4 kg) and Athenoxat-1.

The December 16 mission will be the last rocket launch mission for ISRO in 2015.

So far in 2015, ISRO has launched 14 satellites (three Indian and 11 foreign) from its rocket port in Sriharikota. Thirteen satellites were launched with PSLV rocket and one communication satellite – GSAT-6-with geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV).

Last month India also launched its communication satellite GSAT-15 using the Ariane rocket of the European space agency which takes the total number of satellite launches in 2015 to 21 (17 foreign, four Indian).(IANS)

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NASA and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) team up to inspect ‘Oldest Civilisation’ site in Haryana

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Harappan Civilization Site. Image Source - Wikipedia

Chandigarh, May 15, 2017: Teams of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) would inspect the excavation being carried out at an archaeological site in Haryana’s Fatehabad district to verify claims of it being the oldest civilisation in the world.

Archaeologists have recovered artefacts pre-dating the Harappan Civilisation from the site, located in village Kunal in Fatehabad district.

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NASA and ISRO inspection is likely to be done in October this year, 2017, Haryana Archaeology and Museums Minister Ram Bilas Sharma said on Monday.

“The recovery of artefacts, estimated to be 6,000 years old, strongly indicated that the civilisation that had flourished in Kunal was in fact the oldest civilisation in the world. The Harappan Civilisation, considered so far to be the oldest civilisation, flourished about 3,500 years ago,” the Minister said.

The artefacts recovered included ornaments and pots, apart from spherical structures.

The Haryana government is considering to establish international-level museums at Kunal and Rakhigarhi. (IANS)

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India launches its own weather satellite SCATSAT-1 into orbit

It said the SCATSAT-1's scatterometer will provide wind vector data products for weather forecasting, cyclone detection and tracking services to the users

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Image used for representative purpose only. Wikimedia

26 Sept, 2016: On Monday morning, India successfully put into orbit its own weather satellite SCATSAT-1 in a copy book style.

In the second phase of its mission, the rocket will launch seven other satellites – five foreign and two Indian – between 11.25 to 11.28 a.m., in a different orbit.

Exactly at 9.12 a.m., the PSLV rocket standing 44.4 metres tall and weighing 320 tonne tore into the morning skies with fierce orange flames at its tail.

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Gathering speed every second, the rocket raced towards the heavens amidst the cheers of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) officials and the media team assembled at the rocket port here.

At the rocket mission control room, Indian space scientists at ISRO were glued to their computer screens watching the rocket escaping the earth’s gravitational pull.

Seventeen minutes into the flight, the rocket’s main cargo, the 371 kg SCATSAT-1 – for ocean and weather related studies – was injected into a 730 km polar sun synchronous orbit.

Although SCATSAT-1 is a follow-on mission for Oceansat-2 improvements have been made in the satellite’s hardware configuration based on lessons learnt from Oceansat-2 instruments.

Also SCATSAT-1’s payload has been characterised with the objective of achieving data quality for Climate Data Records, apart from facilitating routine meteorological applications, the ISRO said.

It said the SCATSAT-1’s scatterometer will provide wind vector data products for weather forecasting, cyclone detection and tracking services to the users.

The satellite carries Ku-band scatterometer similar to the one flown onboard Oceansat-2.

The mission life of the satellite is five years.

The remaining seven satellites will be placed in a 689 km polar orbit later.

These seven satellites include five foreign satellites: three from Algeria (Alsat-1B 103kg, Alsat-2B 117kg, Alsat-1N 7kg), and one each from Canada (NLS-19, 8kg) and US (Pathfinder-44kg).

The two other Indian satellites are: Pratham (10kg) built by Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) and Pisat (5.25 kg) from PES University, Bengaluru and its consortium.

According to the ISRO, the two Algerian satellites Alsat-1B and Alsat-2B are remote sensing satellites while Alsat-1N is a technology demonstration nano satellite for Algerian students.

On the other hand, the US satellite Pathfinder-1 is a commercial high resolution imaging micro satellite while the Canadian NLS-19 satellite is la technology demonstration nano satellite for experimentation in helping to reduce space debris and for tracking commercial aircraft.

The IIT-B’s satellite Pratham’s mission objective is to estimate the total electron count with a resolution of 1km x 1km location grid while Pisat from PES University and its consortium is a nano satellite for remote sensing applications.

After slinging SCATSAT-1 into its orbit the rocket’s fourth stage will be restarted one hour 22 minutes into the flight and cut off around 20 seconds later.

Two hours and 11 minutes into the flight the fourth stage will again be restarted to be cut offAone minute later.

Following that in three minutes all the seven satellites will be ejected putting an end to PSLV’s longest mission till date.

The PSLV rocket is a four stage/engine rocket powered by solid and liquid fuel alternatively.

Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) director K. Sivan told IANS on Sunday that the long time gap between the cutting off of the engine and its restart was not an issue.

Sivan said the first time the multiple burn technology was first tested by ISRO while flying its PSLV rocket on December 16, 2015 and in June 2016, the technology was again demonstrated.

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About the challenge, Sivan said: “After cutting off the engine, its condition should be brought to such a stage that it could be restarted again. The next challenge is to controlling the engine and bringing it so as to eject the remaining satellites into a different orbit.”

He said the rocket has GPS aided navigation system so that data generated by the rocket’s inertial navigation system and the one provided by the former will be blended so as to erase and errors and to generate a precise data. (IANS)

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ISRO Chief Kiran Kumar is thrilled to create India’s own space shuttle

The idea to make reusable rockets a reality is to cut down the cost of access to space by at least 10 times

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ISRO Chief Kiran Kumar. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The stepping stones of ISRO (Indian space research organisation) were laid by none other than our own beloved Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. After deploying its own GPS system through NAVIC, ISRO (India’s version of NASA) is all set to achieve another milestone in the field of space and technology. India is going to launch its own indigenous Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV). According to indianexpress.com if this attempt becomes a success then the cost of access to space will decline significantly by 10 times.

What does RLV mean ?

RLV is a mechanism of launching which intends to bring down the cost of launch. Initially, a series of technology demonstrations will take place followed by the testing of HEX-01 (also called winged body). ISRO chairman Kiran Kumar explains the whole mechanism of this upcoming experiment. He further elucidates that HEX-01 will be launched from Sriharikota Island. After coming back from space it will be guided by satellites and radars to make it land in the Bay of Bengal. However, the final winged body will land on Sriharikota Islands only (i.e. on land only).

Vikas engine of ISRO, Wikimedia commons
Vikas engine of ISRO, Wikimedia commons
  • K Sivan, director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram said “These are just the first baby steps towards the big Hanuman leap. The final version will take at least 10-15 years to get ready since designing a human-rated reusable rocket is no kid stuff.
  • Apart from America, no other superpowers have attempted operational flights.
    • The US flew its space shuttle 135 times and then retired in 2011. It is said that it lost its capacity afterwards to send astronauts into space.
    • Russians made only a single space shuttle called ‘Buran’ which flew into space once in 1989.
    • French and Japanese made some experimental flights, though.
    • However, Chinese have never even attempted a space shuttle.
  • Indian space shuttle or RLV-TD began its construction nearly 5 years ago. Our government has invested nearly RS 95 Crores in this project. The capability of the vehicle to survive a re-entry at velocities more than that of a supersonic range will be tested by the flight. That is the reason this experiment has also been named as Hyper Sonic Experiment (HEX). Later RLV will be tested for another return flight experiment. After successful completion of these experiments, ISRO will plan the final configuration of the upcoming Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV).
  • Scientists have even developed a material called ‘Indian space plane’. This will help in protecting the exterior surface of the shuttle from the friction caused heat while entering earth’s atmosphere (this temperature goes up to 5000-700 degrees Celsius). This thermal coating failure was the reason due to which the American space shuttle (Columbia) crashed which lead to the death of Kalpana Chawla in 2003. Hence, ISRO is emphasising on the thermal management.
  • Scientists have worked hard in making this dream come true. ISRO’s aim is to have its own ‘swadeshi space shuttle’. Sooner or later the RLV will be renamed as ‘Kalyanam’ after India’s famous former president Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (a legendary aeronautical engineer and rocket scientist) who dreamt of making India into a developed nation.
Former President - Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Wikimedia commons
Former President – Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Wikimedia commons
  • Given the vast potential which lies within our very own ISRO, we all hope this project becomes a success where all other superpowers have failed.
  • Even though the whole world is silent in attempting winged flights, ISRO’s main motto behind all this is bringing down the overall cost of building space infrastructures. This way scientists at ISRO believe that their capability will increase significantly.

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-Prepared by Pritam

Pritam is a 3rd year engineering student in B.P. Poddar institute of management and technology, Kolkata.

You can reach the author at @pritam_gogreen