In a morale-boosting success for its space programme after two consecutive GSLV setbacks, India put into orbit its sophisticated remote sensing satellite Resourcesat-2 and two micro satellites carried onboard its workhorse PSLV-C16 rocket from Sriharikota.
In a textbook launch, ISRO’s trusted PSLV in its 18th flight hurled the three satellites into an 822-km polar sun synchronous orbit a little over 18 minutes after lift-off in clear skies from the first launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, 90 kms north of Chennai.
The 17th consecutive successful launch by the PSLV demonstrated India’s capabilities yet again in the lucrative global commercial launch market.
A beaming ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan described the mission as a ‘grand success’.”I am extremely happy to announce that the PSLV-C16 Resourcesat-2 mission is successful,” he told scientists at the Mission Control Centre as they broke into cheer after anxious moments, particularly in the backdrop of the two successive GSLV failures last year.
The homegrown GSLV F06 carrying communication satellite GSAT-5P exploded mid-air less than a minute after lift-off when the destruct command was issued as the rocket veered from its flight path in December.
GSLV-D3 mission carrying GSAT-4 also failed in April 2010.
Radhakrishnan said the launch of two foreign satellites showed international recognition of the PSLV’s reliability.
The 1,206 kg Resourcesat-2 with a space life of five years replaces Resourcesat-1 launched in 2003 and would provide data with enhanced multispectral and spatial coverage on natural resources through three cameras with enhanced imaging capabilities.
The Rs 140-crore satellite would help assess the health of crops, monitor deforestation and water levels in reservoirs and lakes and facilitate a variety of applications including disaster management.
It would also help in catering to the national and global data needs to address multiple aspects of natural resource inventory and monitoring in areas including agriculture, water resources, rural development and bio-resources.
Resourscesat-2 co-passenger Youthsat, weighing 92 kg, is a joint Indo-Russian nano satellite meant for stellar and atmospheric studies.
The launch of the third satellite, 106-kg X-sat, an image applications spacecraft built by Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, is the first by ISRO for the city-state.
In his post-launch media briefing, Radhakrishnan said Resourcesat-2 was a sophisticated satellite with three cameras which will give vital information on natural resources.He declined to divulge the launch fee paid for Singapore’s X-sat.
ISRO Satellite Centre Director T K Alex said Resourcesat-2 had been injected into the right orbit and the solar pannels deployed. “They are working extraordinarily well.”
ISRO was planning to switch on the cameras onboard the spacecraft on 28th April, he said, adding with 15 countries set to use the images of Resourcesat-2 it was a ‘global mission’.
Apart from the three cameras with high, medium and coarse resolutions, Resourcesat-2 also has two solid state recorders with a capacity of 200 GB each to store images which can be accessed by the ground stations later.
It also carries Automatic Identification System (AIS) from COMDEV, Canada, as an experimental payload for ship surveillance in VHF band to derive position, speed and other information about ships.
Earlier, as the countdown ended for the launch, a palpable sense of expectancy was writ large on the face of scientists at the Mission Control Centre as they monitored the rocket’s performance at each stage.
Silence gave way to a burst of applause as the mission was declared succesful with the rocket injecting all the three satellites into space as programmed.
Summing up the mood, Mission Director P Kunhikrishnan said, “It is a glad moment for the entire ISRO community… It’s a reassurance to the nation that the confidence in ISRO is fully justified.”