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ISRO launches five British satellites in copy book style

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Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh), India successfully put into orbit five British satellites with its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle’s XL variant (PSLV-XL) on Friday night in copy book style.

isroThis was the first commercial mission for ISRO in 2015. Exactly at 9.58 p.m., the PSLV-XL rocket, standing 44.4 meters tall and weighing around 320 tons, with a one way ticket tore into the night skies with fierce orange flames at its tail.

The expendable rocket carrying five British satellites cumulatively weighing around 1,440 kg as its luggage slung them into their intended orbit just over 19 minutes into its flight.

A.S. Kiran Kumar, ISRO Chairman, said: “An entirely successful launch for a customer. This time a set of new tool was developed. Five satellites were put into orbit for a customer.”

It was the heaviest commercial mission for the PSLV rocket till date though its total carrying capacity for such a mission is around 1,750 kg. The rocket blasted off from the first launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here, about 80 km from Chennai.

For the onlookers, the rocket looked like an inverted flare/torch as it lit up the night sky amidst the cheers of the 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.

Of the five British satellites, three are identical DMC3 optical earth observation satellites weighing 447 kg.

Of the other two satellites, CBNT-1 weighs 91 kg and also is an optical earth observation technology demonstration microsatellite, while the De-OrbitSail weighs 7 kg. This is an experimental Nano satellite for demonstration of large thin membrane sail and drag deorbiting.

Just over 17 minutes into the flight, the rocket started ejecting the DMC3 satellites one after another and they were followed by De-OrbitSail and CNBT-1 satellites.

The whole mission was completed just over 19 minutes into the flight as planned.

Immediately on the successfully ejection, scientists at the mission control center were visibly relieved and started clapping happily.

The three DMC3 and the CBNT-1 satellites are built by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. The De-OrbitSail is built by Surrey Space Center.

According to ISRO, the DMC3 constellation, comprising of three advanced mini-satellites DMC3-1, DMC3-2 and DMC3-3, is designed to address the need for simultaneous high spatial resolution and high temporal resolution optical earth observation.

Launched into a single low earth orbit plane and phased with a separation of 120 degrees between them, these satellites can image any target on the earth’s surface every day.

Major application areas include surveying the resources on earth and its environment, managing urban infrastructure and monitoring of disasters.

According to ISRO, accommodating the three DMC3 satellites each with a height of about three meters within the existing payload fairing or the heat shield of the PSLV was a challenge.

Thus, a circular L-adaptor and a triangular Multiple Satellite Adapter-Version 2 (MSA-V2) were newly designed and realized by ISRO for this specific purpose.

France’s SPOT 7 satellite weighing 714 kg was the heaviest single foreign satellite carried by a PSLV rocket till now. It was launched on June 30, 2014.

Meanwhile, ISRO is also readying for the launch of GSAT6 communication satellite using its heavier rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).

The GSLV rocket’s first stage/engine has been assembled and the activities relating to that rocket assembly are progressing smoothly.

Only after the GSLV rocket launch the testing of a small model of reusable launch vehicle shaped like an aeroplane would be done, an ISRO official told IANS earlier.

Earlier, it was said the test reusable launch vehicle would happen in July.

(IANS)

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Joint Mission To Mercury By Europe-Japan Satellite Launches

The mission is an expensive one. It's estimated the costs borne by the European Space Agency and the Japanese space agency amount to about 1.65 billion euros.

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TESS, rover, NASA, mercury
TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is shown in this conceptual illustration obtained by Reuters on March 28, 2018. NASA sent TESS into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. VOA

Two satellites developed in Europe and Japan are on their way to the Sun’s closest planet Mercury. It is likely to take them seven years to reach their destination.

The joint endeavour BepiColombo left Earth on an Ariane rocket that launched out of South America on Friday, the BBC said.

The probes lifted clear of the Kourou spaceport in Atlantic coast of French Guiana at 10.45 p.m. on Friday.

Mission controllers based in Darmstadt, Germany, would spend much of Saturday talking to the spacecraft, to confirm they were properly configured for the long cruise ahead.

Coming close on the heels of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe that was launched in August, Bepi is aimed at finding more about Mercury that “doesn’t really fit with our theories for how the Solar System formed”, said Bepi scientist Professor Dave Rothery from the UK’s Open University.

Parker Solar Probe, NASA, mercury
This illustration from NASA shows the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun. VOA

“We can’t understand our planet fully unless we’re able to explain Mercury that has an oversized iron core — 60 per cent of its mass,” Rothery said.

Science has not yet explained why the planet only has a thin veneer of rocks. Bepi’s high-resolution data should bring us nearer to an answer, the BBC reported.

It’s the first time the European and Japanese space agencies (Esa and Jaxa) have set out for Mercury. The Americans have already been there, briefly with the Mariner 10 probe in the 1970s, and with the Messenger orbiter earlier this decade.

Messenger discovered that water-ice is held inside some of Mercury’s shadowed craters, and that its crust contains a lot of graphite (pencil lead).

Bepi will build on those. The new mission carries twice as much instrumentation and will get closer for longer.

Mercury’s dense body does not reflect its initial form. It’s possible the planet began life much further and later migrated inwards, mission scientist Suzie Imber from Leicester University.

Mercury
We know so little about the planet Mercury… The BepiColombo mission will try to unravel some of its mysteries. Flickr

 

“It’s also got huge cliffs, many kilometres tall. And those cliffs formed as Mercury shrank. We call them wrinkle ridges,” Imber said.

It is possible to directly reach Mercury in a matter of months, but the speed picked up by a spacecraft falling into the Sun’s deep gravity would make it very hard to stop at the planet, the BBC report said.

Bepi will take a more circuitous route. It will fly past Earth, Venus and Mercury itself, using the tug of their gravity to bleed off speed, so that by 2025 the mission can gently slot into position.

The toughest prospect ahead is the heat. At just 58 million km from the Sun, working at Mercury is like being in a pizza oven, Imber said.

The sides of the probes in direct sunlight will have to cope with temperatures over 400 degrees Celsius. Even those surfaces facing away from the Sun have to be protected.

Coping strategies include covering the MMO in thick blankets of insulation material made from titanium and ceramics. “The environment is extremely hostile,” explains Esa mission controller Elsa Montagnon.

Mercury
Solar system. Pixabay

 

“On Mercury, we get 10 times the solar energy we get on Earth. But then from the illuminated side of Mercury, we get about four times what we get on the Earth. So, the spacecraft are continually in a heat sandwich,” Montagnon said.

The mission is an expensive one. It’s estimated the costs borne by the European Space Agency and the Japanese space agency amount to about 1.65 billion euros.

Additionally, national space agencies in Europe have paid for the instrumentation on the MMO, taking the overall budget above 3 billion euros.

Also Read: Another Space Telescope Shuts Down: NASA

This number covers the full lifecycle of the mission, from its approval (2007) to its termination (late 2020s).

Engineers have had a torrid time developing the technologies to keep Bepi safe so close to the Sun. Delays have kept on adding to the price. (IANS)