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Friday, Sep 13, 2002

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PSLV puts Metsat in orbit

M. Ramesh

PSLV-C4 lifts off from Sriharikota on Thursday.


THE PSLV-C4 rocket, carrying the 1,060 kg meterological satellite (Metsat), today successfully put the satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).

At 3.53 pm on this hot, sunny afternoon at the Sriharikota launch station, the 295-tonne Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle that cost ISRO Rs 80 crore, kissed goodbye to the earth with a loud growl and disappeared into a lone cloud, leaving a trail of grey smoke all the way down.

Exactly 20.19 seconds after the lift-off, the Rs 100-crore Metsat was injected into space, ending an agonisingly nail-biting wait for the ISRO scientists in the control room. When it was spat out by the 4th stage (top part) of the rocket, the satellite was moving at a velocity of a little over 10 km per second.

Sometime tomorrow morning, the satellite would have reached an altitude of 36,000 km, at which point scientists would fire the on-board apogee rockets, to nudge the satellite into a circular orbit, so that it stays `fixed' above a particular point on the earth, over the 74 degree East longitude. "It is a wonderful moment, a very memorable one in the history of ISRO," commented Dr K. Kasturirangan, Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation.

Later, at a press conference here, he said that ISRO had made some modifications on the PSLV, so that it could be used to put a satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. This has been done for the first time in the country.

Both the rocket and the satellite were built almost entirely indigenously by ISRO. This is India's sixth consecutive successful PSLV launch.

The Metsat carries a Very High Resolution Radiometer (VHRR) capable of imaging the earth in visible, thermal, infrared and water vapour bands. It also carries a `data relay transponder' for collecting data from unattended meteorological platforms. "Metsat will relay the data sent by these platforms to Meteorological Data Utilisation Centre at New Delhi. Such platforms have been installed all over the country," says a background note issued by ISRO.

For the Director-General of Meteorology in the Indian Meteorological Department, Dr R.R. Kelkar, it was "a dream come true". Now the department would not have to share the satellite for other functions such as telecommunications and television, as is the case with the INSATs sent up so far.

Dr Kelkar told Business Line that with the Metsat, the Meteorological Department would be able to scan the earth more frequently, say at half hour intervals, and also get clearer pictures.

Moves closer to commercial launches

Answering a question, Mr Sridhar Murthy, Executive Director, Antrix Corporation (a PSU engaged in selling India's space capabilities abroad), said that the corporation was talking to some 80 potential satellite users. Antrix, he said, was offering them both to launch the satellites for a fee, or, if the customer so desires, to manufacture the satellite and launch it too. "We have given them proposals for on-orbit delivery also," he said.

Mr Murthy said that today's launch "takes us closer to potential customers," he said, in response to a question. (Indian launch vehicles have already launched a German and a Belgian satellite).

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