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India’s Heaviest Rocket GSLV-Mk III with GSAT-19 Satellite all set for Maiden Flight

The rocket, weighing 640 tonnes and standing 43.43 metres tall, will blast off from the second launch pad at India’s rocket port at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh

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Sriharikota: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)'s communication satellite GSAT-9 on-board GSLV-F09 lifts off from Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota on Friday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has termed the satellite as India's “space gift for South Asia”. PTI

Chennai, June 6, 2017: India’s heaviest rocket — Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III) — is all set for its maiden flight into space along with a communications satellite GSAT-19 on Monday evening.

The countdown of 25 hours and 30 minutes began at 3.58 pm on Sunday, an official of the Indian space agency said.

The rocket, weighing 640 tonnes and standing 43.43 metres tall, will blast off from the second launch pad at India’s rocket port at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, around 105 km from Chennai.

It will carry a 3,136-kg GSAT-19 communications satellite — the heaviest to be lifted by an Indian rocket till date — to an altitude of around 179 km above the Earth after just over 16 minutes into the flight.

On June 2, the Mission Readiness Review Committee and Launch Authorisation Board had cleared the countdown for GSLV Mk-III D1/GSAT-19 mission.

The rocket’s main and bigger cryogenic engine has been developed by space scientists here.

The mission’s success will enable India to launch four-tonne satellites on its own rocket instead of paying huge amounts of money to foreign space agencies to execute the operation.

According to Indian Space Research Organisation, GSAT-19 with a life span of 10 years is a multi-beam satellite that carries Ka and Ku band forward and return link transponders and geostationary radiation spectrometer.

“The rocket’s design carrying capacity is four tonnes. The payload will be gradually increased in future flights of the GSLV Mk-III,” K. Sivan, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, told IANS earlier.

The Indian space agency had flown a similar rocket without the cryogenic engine but with 3.7-tonne payload in 2014 mainly to test its structural stability while in flight and the aerodynamics.

S. Somanath, Director, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, told IANS that the inputs of the 2014 mission enabled the ISRO to reduce the rocket load by around 20 per cent.

Interestingly, GSLV-Mk III at around 43 metres is slightly shorter than Mk-II version that is around 49 metres tall.

“The new rocket may be slightly short but has more punch power,” an ISRO official told IANS.

India presently has two rockets — the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and GSLV-Mk II — with a lift-off mass of 415 tonnes and a carrying capacity of 2.5 tonnes. (IANS)

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Robot Equipped with Emotion-Sensing Heads to International Space Station

Emotion-sensing Robot Heads to Space Station to Help Astronauts

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Bret Greenstein, IBM Global Vice President of Watson Internet of Things Offerings, holds a clone of an artificial intelligence bot named CIMON, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. VOA

An intelligent robot equipped with emotion-sensing voice detectors was headed to the International Space Station after launching from Florida on Thursday, becoming the latest artificial intelligence-powered astronaut workmate in orbit.

The Crew Interactive Mobile Companion 2, or CIMON 2, is a spherical droid with microphones, cameras and a slew of software to enable emotion recognition.

The droid was among 5,700 pounds (2,585 kg) of supplies and experiments aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, whose midday launch had been delayed from Wednesday because of high winds.

Create a companion

“The overall goal is to really create a true companion. The relationship between an astronaut and CIMON is really important,” Matthias Biniok, the lead architect for CIMON 2, told Reuters. “It’s trying to understand if the astronaut is sad, is he angry, joyful and so on.”

Based on algorithms built by information technology giant IBM Corp and data from CIMON 1, a nearly identical prototype that launched in 2018, CIMON 2 will be more sociable with crew members. It will test technologies that could prove crucial for future crewed missions in deep space, where long-term isolation and communication lags to Earth pose risks to astronauts’ mental health.

Robot companion
The overall goal of creating this robot is to create a true companion. (Representational Image). Lifetime Stock

While designed to help astronauts conduct scientific experiments, the English-speaking robot is also being trained to help mitigate groupthink — a behavioral phenomenon in which isolated groups of humans can be driven to make irrational decisions.

“Group-thinking is really dangerous,” Biniok said. In times of conflict or disagreement among astronauts, one of CIMON’s most important purposes would be to serve as “an objective outsider that you can talk to if you’re alone, or could actually help let the group collaborate again,” he said.

Inspired by Professor Simon, HAL

Engineers have said CIMON’s concept was inspired by a 1940s science fiction comic series set in space, where a sentient, brain-shaped robot named Professor Simon mentors an astronaut named Captain Future. CIMON 2 also parallels HAL, the sentient computer in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” film.

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SpaceX is the first private company to fly to the space station, a $100 billion project of 15 nations. Along with CIMON 2, the cargo aboard its 19th resupply mission to the orbital research lab included 40 live mice that will show scientists how muscles change in the microgravity of space. (VOA)