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India notches another space success

By Venkatachari Jagannthan, IANS,

Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh) : India notched another milestone in its space programme Friday evening when it successfully launched a heavy-duty rocket that placed a major communications satellite in space.

A beaming Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief K. Radhakrishnan told reporters after the 4.48 p.m. launch Friday that the mission was a success.

“I am extremely happy to state that the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle)-C17 GSAT-12 mission is successful. The satellite was launched in the intended orbit.”

“Within the next 30 minutes information about the GSAT 12’s health and how it is working will be known,” he told cheering scientists at the launch site here, 80 km north of Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai.

V. Narayanasamy, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, said: “I am extremely happy (at the successful launch). I am coming here for the second time, and it is a second successful launch. On behalf of the prime minister, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, I congratulate the ISRO scientists for the wonderful performance.”

The PSLV blasted off successfully at 4.48 p.m., carrying the 1,410 kg GSAT-12 satellite from the spaceport here.

With this, India added 12 more communication transponders to its space-based network.

The launch took place under a cloudy sky, with the Rs.90 crore rocket PSLV-C17 – measuring 44 metres in height and weighing 320 tonnes – soaring off into space with a roar.

It ferried the Rs.80 crore GSAT-12 having 12 extended C-band transponders – automatic receivers and transmitters for communication and broadcast of signals.

With a rich orange flame at its rear, the one-way ticket rocket left behind a huge tail of white plume as it rose into the sky to the cheers of ISRO scientists and media team assembled at the launch centre.

People perched atop of the nearby buildings too happily applauded as PSLV-C17 went up.

Around 20 minutes after the blast off, the rocket achieved its mission by placing the latest Indian communication satellite in the intended sub geosynchronous transfer orbit (sub GTO).

The GTO is an intermediate orbit from where normally communication satellites will be moved to its final geosynchronous orbit by firing the on-board motors.

The GSAT-12 carries around 851 kg of fuel on-board to fire the motors. (A geosynchronous orbit is one directly above the earths’ equator. For an observer from the earth a satellite in geosynchronous orbit will seem motionless, stationary at one point in the sky).

The rocket placed the satellite in sub GTO with a 284 km perigee (nearest point to earth) and 21,000 km apogee (farthest point from the earth). The satellite will be raised to 36,000 km apogee from 21,000 km.

Immediately after satellite ejection, ISRO with its network of ground stations monitored its health.

The satellite with a life span of about eight years will augment transponder capacity of Indian National Satellite (Insat) system which at present comprises of eight satellites – Insat-2E, Insat-3A, Insat-3C, Insat-3E, Insat-4A, Insat-4B (working at 50 percent capacity) Insat-4CR and GSAT-8 providing 175 transponders in the S, C, extend C and Ku bands.

The Indian space agency has leased 86 more transponders from various foreign satellites. It is estimated there is an unmet demand for 170 transponders.

The GSAT-12 satellite is expected to serve the Very Small Aperture Terminal (V-SAT) sector. VSATs are used to transmit data like point of sale transactions or to provide satellite internet access.

It will also be useful for various communication services like tele-education, tele-medicine and for village resource centres.

ISRO used its third PSLV rocket variant – PSLV-XL – with longer strap-on motors with higher fuel capacity – to put the latest communication satellite in the space.

The other two rocket variants are the PSLV standard with 11.3 metres six strap-on motors and the PSLV Core Alone (CA) rocket without the six strap-on motors.

The PSLV-C17 that went up Friday had 13.5 metres long strap-on motors carrying 12 tonnes of solid fuel than the normal strap-on motors measuring 11.3 metres with nine-tonne fuel capacity.

This is the second time ISRO has launched a rocket with this specification. The earlier one was for the Chandrayaan moon mission.

This is also only the second time ISRO is using a PSLV rocket for launching a satellite to be finally placed in geostationary orbit. The first satellite was Kalpana-1 (originally named as Metsat), a meteorological satellite launched in 2002.

The PSLV has an excellent success record since 1994, launching many Indian and foreign satellites.

ISRO officials told IANS that a remote sensing satellite – Megha-Tropiques – is being planned for launch later this year.