Megha-Tropiques in the sky; PSLV mission, a ‘grand success'

| Updated on: Oct 12, 2011




India has come to expect nothing but success of the PSLV rocket, and the country was not disappointed. Today, the old workhorse accomplished its mission flawlessly, from its lift-off into the cloudy skies over the Sriharikota satellite launch centre at 11.01 am and, between 22 and 25 minutes after that, ejected its four satellites into their designated orbits.

When the 3 kg Jugnu satellite, built by IIT Kanpur, got off the vehicle 866.4 km above the earth, the event marked the 19th straight success of the PSLV rocket.

In the past, the PSLV has reached the Chandrayaan-1 to the moon, and has even carried a telecommunications satellite into a geo-synchronous orbit close to 37,000 km above India. Viewed against this record, today’s work of carrying four satellites that together weigh only a little over a tonne to only 866 km above the earth was, for the PSLV-C18, child’s play.

Its chief passenger today was the 1,000 kg Megha-Tropiques satellite, which, while traveling at an angle of 20 degrees to the equator, will observe condensed water in clouds, water vapour in the atmosphere, precipitation and evaporation. The satellite, a product of Indo-French collaboration, has been described as “a unique satellite for climate research” and will aid scientists in refining weather prediction models.

'Grand success'

“It was a grand success,” commented the Chairman of ISRO, Dr K. Radhakrishnan, dwelling long on ‘grand’, for emphasis. He and his colleagues have a good reason to celebrate (as they did in the control room, hugging and shaking hands) because all the four satellites the rocket took up today were well settled in their chosen spots in the sky.

India and France contributed Rs 86 crore each to build the satellite, which has the distinction of being only the second of its kind in the world. The first was the 'Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission' launched in 1997 by the Americans. The Megha-Trophiques will contribute to a multinational project called Global Precipitation Measurement Mission - a constellation of satellites to measure climate and rainfall in the tropics, where half the humanity lives.

The 28.7 kg VesselSat-I, built by LuxSpace of Luxembourg, carries automatic identification receivers to detect signals from ships automatically, when the satellite passes over them.

The 10.9 SRMSat, built by the SRM University, Chennai, carries a spectrometer to monitor carbon di oxide levels in the atmosphere. The 3 kg Jugnu has a clutch of scientific instruments to aid GPS navigation.

Looking ahead

Later, addressing a press conference, Dr Radhakrishnan said that ISRO had a tight programme ahead, with three more PSLV launches in 2011-12. The next launch of the GSLV, the bigger rocket meant for carrying heavy satellites weighing over 2 tonnes, is planned for the second quarter of next year. This will be keenly awaited because the rocket will use an indigenously built cryogenic engine for the third stage. The previous two attempts at using indigenous cryo engines have failed, but Dr Radhakrishnan said that the learnings from those failures have helped debug the engine.

Published on October 12, 2011

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