India launches 20 satellites at one go: The force is well and truly with Isro - Firstpost
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India launches 20 satellites at one go: The force is well and truly with Isro

Editor's note: This article was originally published on 29 April, 2016. It is being updated in light of Isro's successful launch of 20 satellites on Wednesday.

After India launched its own space shuttle on 23 May 2016, Isro launched 20 satellites from Sriharikota on Wednesday.

Indian rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) on Wednesday morning, lifted off successfully with the country's earth observation satellite Cartosat, Google company Terra Bella’s SkySat Gen2-1 and 18 other satellites from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh.

The PSLV rocket standing 44.4 metres and weighing 320 tonnes, tore into the morning skies at 9.26 am, breaking free of the earth’s gravitational pull. The 20 satellites weighed 1,288 kg.

The rocket's main cargo is India's 725.5 kg Cartosat-2 series satellite for earth observation. This satellite is similar to the earlier Cartosat-2, 2A and 2B.

The other 19 satellites weighing totally around 560 kg are from the US, Canada, Germany and Indonesia as well as one each from Chennai's Sathyabama University and College of Engineering, Pune.

The whole launch mission will be completed in around 26 minutes. Wednesday's mission is the first time Isro will be launching more than the 10 satellites with a single rocket.

For the first time, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) launched a winged-flight vehicle, called the Reusable Launch Vehicle — Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) that can launch satellites, which will orbit around the Earth.

Also known as hypersonic flight experiment, the RLV-TD then glided back onto a virtual runway in the Bay of Bengal. What's interesting is that this can be considered India's own 'space shuttle': it can help with low cost, reliable and on-demand space access, according to Isro scientists.

ANI, on its Twitter feed, also included a video of the launch:

The RLV-TD was a 6.5 m structure that weighed 1.75 tons (approx 1,600 kg) and resembled an aeroplane. It was elevated into the atmosphere on a special rocket booster.

India now has a constellation of its own — seven satellites that make up the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) that will work together to provide accurate services including terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, mobile phone services, mapping and land surveying data, voice navigation for cars and disaster management.

The satellite launch, which took place on Thursday, was hailed by the prime minister as a "great gift to people from scientists", ANI quoted him as saying:

— ANI (@ANI_news) April 28, 2016

Dubbing the system as ‘Navic’ (Navigation with Indian Constellation), Narendra Modi invited the Saarc nations to “navigate with Indian constellation” of satellites, reported The Financial Express and added that "this is an example of Make in India, made in India and made for Indians." According to the officials of Isro, the total cost of the project amounts to around Rs 1,420 crore.

Courtesy ISRO

Courtesy ISRO

So what will be the benefit of this satellite navigation (satnav) system?

In simple terms, such satnav systems are employed as a global positioning system. The Wire explains that these are "used the world over to accurately track and know the location and positioning of... pretty much anything with an appropriate receiver and transmitter on it." Our satnav system will be similar to the United States' GPS (which has 24 satellites) and to those of China, Europe and Russia, according to The Hindu.

We've all heard of space being the final frontier (with due credit to Captain James Tiberius Kirk). And it looks like the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is taking its steps, slowly but surely, to the destination. Isro has launched 57 foreign satellites from 20 countries: Six from Singapore, including the 400 kg TeLEOS-1, the primary satellite, in September 2015, four American, one Canadian and one Indonesian satellite, along with India’s Astrosat as the primary passenger.

The feathers in its proverbial hat, of course, are the missions Chandrayaan-1 and Mangalyaan, the Mars orbiter. According to Isro, the former, which is the country's first Lunar Exploration Mission, was a "high-resolution remote sensing of the moon in visible, near infrared (NIR), low energy X-rays and high-energy X-ray regions". But the key takeaway was that water was detected in the form of vapour in trace amounts. Chandrayaan also helped in the historical Mars Orbiter Mission.

India's first interplanetary probe, the Mars Orbiter Spacecraft is onboard PSLV-C25. Courtesy ISRO

India's first interplanetary probe, the Mars Orbiter Spacecraft is onboard PSLV-C25. Courtesy ISRO

Mangalyaan, the $74 million mission, that took place in September 2014, put India on the map making it the first country in the world to have successfully launched its mission to the Red Planet on the very first attempt and joining Europe, Russia and the United States in successfully sending probes to orbit Mars.

This helped Isro win the 2015 Space Pioneer Award presented by the National Space Society of the USA.

The Hindu BusinessLine reported that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests recommended a 50 percent increase in Isro's annual budget, a necessary addition considering the organisation's efforts to join the global space market, which is valued at more than $200 billion and growing.

Space has never been this interesting before and Isro's future possible missions, such as the Chandrayaan-2 and even one to Venus, promise to get even any non-geek excited.

With inputs from PTI

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