Aditya MadanapalleSep 26, 2016 09:18:31 IST
A Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) blasted off at 9:12 with eight satellites on board, from the First Launch Pad (FLP) at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. Over the course of two hours, satellites will be deployed at different orbits. Typically, a launch takes place in less than 20 minutes.
Isro will maintain the flawless two decade long record of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) with a technically challenging launch, if everything goes according to plan. Multiple burn operations will be used to put satellites in two different orbits, a maneuver that was previously used by Isro in the record setting 20 satellite launch in June. The multiple burn operations capability was tested for the first time by Isro when it launched six Singaporean satellites in December 2015.
This was a busy month for Isro, the first time there were two launches in a single month. Earlier this month, Isro launched the InSat-3DR weather satellite. Initial reports pegged the number of satellites included in this launch at four, but as the launch date approached, it emerged that the number of satellites on board was actually eight.
The ScatSat-1 was the primary payload of the launch. The ScatSat-1 is a weather satellite, and is a continuity mission for the OceanSat-2 scatterometer. On board the satellite is a Ku-band pencil-beam scatterometer similar to the one on the OceanSat-2. The ScatSat gets its name from this scatterometer.
The ScatSat-1 is the heaviest passenger on the mission, with a weight of 377 kg. The satellite is expected to be operational for a duration of five years. It is an Earth observation satellite that will help with weather forecasts and cyclone detection. The altitude of orbit of ScatSat-1 is 720 km.
Pratham is a satellite developed over nine years by IIT-B students. The satellite is expected to be operational for a period of four months. The satellite will be put into a Polar Sun-Synchronous orbit at an altitude of 720 km. Pratham is a microsatellite weighing a little over 10 kg.
Pratham will measure the electron count in the ionosphere. This can be used to detect tsunamis, reduce communication errors, and improve the accuracy of the Indian alternative to the GPS system. Pratham was developed on a budget of Rs 1.5 crore. The satellite was originally scheduled for launch in 2012, but missed the date due to technical faults and administrative delays.
PiSat developed by the PES Institute of Technology in Bengaluru, was the other Indian academic satellite on board. PiSat is a remote sensing nanosatellite. The main mission of the satellite was to develop the capability of designing satellites on campus with collaboration from students and professors.
The PiSat has a three axis image stabilising system. The satellite has a weight of 5 kg, and was the lightest passenger on the rocket. There is an image camera that can capture pictures with 80 meter resolution. There are telemetry and telecommand systems on board. These will be used to track and maintain the satellite post launch, which is also one of the mission objectives for the students.
The AlSat-1N is the smallest of three Algerian satellites on board. It has a weight of 7 kg. The AlSat is a nanosatellite based on the CubeSat standard. The satellite was jointly developed by the Algerian Space Agency, the UK Space Agency and Surrey Space Center. This is a technology demonstration satellite.
The AlSat-1N is equipped with the C3D2, a CubeSat camera suite offering multiple fields of view. The camera will be part of a Open Science Laboratory remote experiment for distance education students. A novel thin film solar cell is being tested on the satellite. There is also the AstroTube Boom, a robotic arm that can take sensors far away from the satellite to reduce interference.
The AlSat-1B is a technological collaboration between the Algerian Space Agency and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL). The AlSat-1B is an earth observation satellite, that will be used to monitor agricultural activities, the state of the environment and natural disasters. With weight of 103 kg, this is the biggest passenger on board, apart from the ScatSat-1.
The main components are a multispectral imager with a 24 meter resolution and a panchromatic imager with a 12 meter resolution. The satellite will be a part of the Disaster Monitoring Constellation, a cluster of satellites that pool data on natural disasters. The AlSat-1B is a continuity mission for the AlSat-1A, an Earth observation satellite with a 32 meter resolution.
The AlSat-2B is an Algerian Satellite developed on a contract with Airbus Defense and Space. This is a high resolution satellite with panchromatic and multi-spectral imaging capabilities. The AlSat-2B weighs 117 kg and will be in an orbit at an altitude of 690 km. The satellite is expected to be operational for a period of five years.
Images taken from the AlSat-2B will be used for multiple purposes including cartography, agriculture, forestry, water management, land planning and management of natural disasters. The satellite will be used to monitor natural resources, including mineral and oil. An earlier satellite in the series, the AlSat-2A was launched on a PSLV by India in 2012.
The BlackSky Pathfinder-1 is a commercial earth observation micro-satellite from the United States. BlackSky provides 1 meter resolution satellite imagery on demand to companies, organisations and nations, for various kinds of use. The Pathfinder-1 is a part of a constellation of 60 earth imaging satellites that BlackSky plans to operate. The satellite weighs 44 kg.
The satellite will separate from the PSLV using a Motorized Lightband separation system developed by Planetary Systems Corporation, a company that specialises in separation systems. Unlike other such separations systems, the one used by Pathfinder-1 does not use pyrotechnics. The satellite is loaded with liquid butane fuel that will be used at the end of its life cycle, to de-orbit the spacecraft and leave behind no space garbage.
The Can X-7 is an experimental technology demonstration satellite. The satellite is developed by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS). The unique feature about the satellite is a drag sail, which will allow the satellite to de-orbit. If successfully used, the drag sail would demonstrate a low cost, modular method to de-orbit microsatellites and nanosatellites to reduce the amount of junk in Earth orbit.
The satellite will also test out the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system. The ADS-B system is a way to track Aircraft from space, instead of ground based tracking stations. This would allow for more comprehensive surveillance of Aircraft.
Three stages of the rocket will ignite and fall away. The fourth stage engines will be cut off, and the ScatSat-1 launched at seventeen and a half minutes. After two restarts and cut offs, two hours and thirteen minutes later, the remaining satellites will be deployed. The burn operations will be monitored by Svalbard Satellite Station in Norway and Troll Satellite Station in Antarctica. Over the course of three minutes, AlSat-1N, Can X-7, Pratham, PiSat, AlSat-1B, AlSat-2B, and Pathfinder-1 will separate from the PSLV. India has worked with engineers from Algeria, England, US and Canada for the launch.
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