India today successfully launched its advanced meteorological spacecraft INSAT-3D by a European rocket from the spaceport of Kourou in French Guiana, enhancing the country’s capability in weather forecasting and disaster warning fields.

After a smooth countdown lasting 11 hours and 30 minutes, the Ariane-5 launch vehicle of the French commercial space transportation company Arianespace lifted off on schedule at the opening of the launch window at 1.24 AM IST.

The rocket, after a flight of 32 minutes and 48 seconds, placed INSAT-3D in an elliptical Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO), very close to the intended one.

Soon after the separation of INSAT-3D from Ariane-5’s upper cryogenic stage, the satellite’s solar panel automatically got deployed and ISRO’s Master Control Facility (MCF) at Hassan in Karnataka took over the control of the spacecraft.

Ariane 5 rocket also launched Alphasat, a co-passenger of INSAT-3D and Europe’s largest telecommunication satellite-ever manufactured.

In the coming days, orbit raising manoeuvres will be performed on INSAT-3D using the satellite’s own propulsion system to place it in the 36,000 km high Geostationary Orbit, the Bangalore-headquartered ISRO said.

“Preliminary health checks of all the subsystems of INSAT-3D bus were performed and the satellite’s health is satisfactory,” it said.

After placing the satellite at 82 deg East orbital slot, it is planned to turn on the meteorological payloads of INSAT-3D in the second week of next month to extensively test them.

INSAT-3D will add a new dimension to weather monitoring through its atmospheric sounding system, which provides vertical profiles of temperature, humidity and integrated ozone from surface to top of the atmosphere.

“I am happy to inform you that the MCF has already received signals from INSAT-3D,” Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) K Radhakrishnan said minutes after the launch.

“We are looking forward to an excellent operational performance of INSAT-3D for the next seven years making a difference for the weather forecasting and disaster warning systems for the country,” said Radhakrishnan, also Secretary in the Department of Space.

Radhakrishnan did not travel to Kourou for the launch of INSAT-3D, designed to provide meteorological observation and monitoring of land and ocean surfaces.

However, senior ISRO officials including INSAT-3D Project Director S C Rastogi and Director of ISRO Satellite Centre S K Shivakumar were among those present at the Kourou spaceport.

With a lift-off mass of 2060 kg, INSAT-3D carried four payloads — Imager, Sounder, Data Relay Transponder (DRT) and Satellite Aided Search & Rescue payload.

The six channel imager can take weather pictures of the earth and has improved features compared to the payloads in KALPANA-1 and INSAT-3A, the two Indian Geostationary Satellites providing weather services for the past one decade.

The 19 channel sounder payload of INSAT-3D adds a new dimension to weather monitoring through its atmospheric sounding system, and provides vertical profiles of temperature, humidity and integrated ozone.

The DRT will be used for receiving meteorological, hydrological and oceanographic data from remote, uninhabited locations over the coverage area from Data Collection Platforms (DCPs) like Automatic Weather Station, Automatic Rain Gauge and Agro Met Stations.

India Meteorological Department and ISRO have established more than 1800 DCPs.

INSAT-3D is equipped with a search and rescue payload that picks up and relays alert signals originating from the distress beacons of maritime, aviation and land based users and relays them to the mission control centre to facilitate speedy search and rescue operations.

The major users of Satellite Aided Search and Rescue service in India are the Indian Coast Guard, Airports Authority of India, Directorate General of Shipping, Defence Services and fishermen.

The Indian service region includes a large part of the Indian Ocean region covering India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Tanzania for rendering distress alert services.