Saturday, May 07, 2005

PSLV-C6 puts two satellites into polar orbit

Another perfect launch by ISRO

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C6, rose majestically from the spaceport at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. It injected two satellites, CARTOSAT-1 and HAMSAT, precisely into their orbits. The lift-off was at 10.15 a.m., four minutes ahead of schedule, on May 5. PSLV-C6 put the 1,560-kg CARTOSAT-1 into orbit at a height of 627 km, 1,058 seconds after lift-off. A minute later, it slotted the micro-satellite HAMSAT, weighing 43 kg, into a similar orbit.

As the vehicle shot off like an arrow from the newly built second launch pad (SLP) at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, a deep rumble filled the island. It was a spectacular sight — the vehicle took a parabolic path on flame and smoke, and the first of its four stages peeled away 112 seconds after ignition.

A special in many ways

The flight was special in several ways. This is the first launch from the world-class SLP. The lift-off was smooth, validating the pad's nascent systems. ``We never felt that it was taking place from the second launch pad. It was precise,'' exulted B.N. Suresh, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram. Secondly, the rocket stood on the launch pad for five days from April 30, exposed to rain, thunder, and lightning. But the rain-proof and lightning-proof vehicle stood the test well, demonstrating what a dependable workhorse it is for the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Thirdly, this was the eighth successful PSLV flight in a row. Fourthly, CARTOSAT-1, at 1,560 kg, is the heaviest remote-sensing satellite to be orbited by a PSLV. In its first successful attempt in 1994, it deployed a satellite weighing 904 kg.

The mission was witnessed by a special visitor, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. He watched the flight from the glass-partitioned VIP cabin at the Mission Control Centre (MCC), the nerve-centre of the launch activities. Mr. Kalam, a rocket engineer, was the project director of ISRO's first two SLV-3 flights from Sriharikota in August 1979 and July 1980. As applause filled the air when the two satellites went into orbit, the President beamed, strode briskly into the MCC proper, and hugged G. Madhavan Nair, Chairman of ISRO.

In a brief speech, he congratulated the ISRO engineers and scientists at the MCC on their ``excellent performance,'' adding, ``I am proud of you and the country is proud of you.'' He reminisced about his ISRO days and the first successful flight of the SLV-3 on July 18, 1980. ``I was on the other side'' of the MCC that day, he recalled. That flight put a 40-kg Rohini satellite into orbit. President Kalam noted that 25 years after the event, PSLV-C6 was able to put either a 1,600-kg satellite into a polar sun-synchronous orbit or a 4,000-kg satellite into a low-earth orbit at a height of 300 km to 400 km.

The ISRO Chairman noted that the vehicle traced ``a fantastically accurate trajectory.'' He added that ``we were working against all odds.'' P.S. Goel, Director of the ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore, which built both satellites, said CARTOSAT-1's solar panels had deployed and its health was good. While imagery from CARTOSAT-1 would be used for making maps, planning towns and so on, HAMSAT's transponders would be used for radio communication during emergencies such as cyclones, floods, and tsunamis.

Copyright © 2005, The Hindu.


President at home

``It was like a family get-together. It was almost like the old days. The President was very nostalgic." This was how ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair described President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's visit to Sriharikota to witness the PSLV-C6 launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

Sriharikota has an emotional attachment for Mr. Kalam, project director of ISRO's first SLV-3 flight on August 10, 1979, and the next flight SLV-3 on July 18, 1980, which was "a fantastic success."

During his two-day stay at Sriharikota, the President narrated this story to his friends from the SLV-3 days. ISRO had organised an exhibition featuring, among other things, scale models of SLV-3, ASLV (Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle) and PSLV. A school girl looked at SLV-3, the smallest of the models, and asked Mr. Kalam, ``Uncle, did you make it?'' To his ``Yes,'' she responded, ``Why did you make such a small rocket?' The practised raconteur's story was greeted with laughter.

It was like a family get-together but he "virtually took a mission readiness review" as well. There were presentations and discussions on the preparedness of the various sub-systems. The President was nostalgic, especially about his SLV-3 days. He recounted how the SLV-3 had deployed a 40-kg Rohini satellite in July 1980 and how ISRO had "evolved" now to deploying satellites 100 times that size. "He was trying to project how India should really become a leader in space technology, space transportation and planetary exploration," reported Mr. Nair.

Mr. Kalam was happy to meet "Pant saab" - Nilambar Pant, who was Director of SHAR during the SLV-3 flights in 1979 and 1980, then Director of ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore and subsequently ISRO Vice-Chairman. There was ribbing about how it would take a few hours even to get a cup of tea at SHAR in the early 1970s but now, dinners and lunches were organised for hundreds of people in a few hours. Most of the facilities in the old days were under an asbestos-roofed shed.

M. Nagarathinam, an expert cook, popularly known as `Murugan' at the ISRO guest house in Chennai, went to SHAR to prepare a meal featuring especially "vatha kozhambu" relished by the President. "Mr. Kalam is a pure vegetarian and he likes avial, vatha kozhambu, and mor kozhambu," is SHAR intelligence. At the SHAR guest house, he stayed in the room he occupied in 2003 when he came to Sriharikota to acquaint himself with the preparations for the launch of RESOURCESAT.

Copyright © 2005, The Hindu.

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