India’s Successful Space Odysseys Continue

India’s space forays continue with successful launches. The latest being the launch of the Microsat R and the KalamSat. Indian Space Research Organization’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C44 lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh late Thursday, carrying India’s military satellite Microsat-R and students’ payload ‘KalamSat’.

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) workhorse Polar rocket blasted off from the first launch-pad at 11.37 pm at the end of a 28-hour countdown and soared into the clear and starry night sky, in the first mission for ISRO in 2019.

In its 46th flight, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C44) would place the 740-kg primary satellite Microsat-R, an imaging satellite meant for military purposes, in a 274-km polar sun synchronous orbit about 14 minutes after the lift-off, the ISRO said.

The stage four of the rocket with the KalamSat, a 10-CM size cube and weighing 1.2 kg, would be moved to a higher circular orbit so as to establish an orbital platform for carrying out experiments using the tiny payload. KalamSat is said to be the lightest satellite of India.

KalamSAT is a Femto Satellite. The term Femto satellite is usually applied to artificial satellites with a wet mass below 100 g (3.5 oz). Some designs of Femto satellites require a larger “mother” satellite for communication with ground controllers. Three prototype “chip satellites” were launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on Space Shuttle Endeavour on its final mission in May 2011. They were attached to the ISS external platform Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE-8) for testing.

The KalamSat is named after former Indian President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and was built by an Indian High school student team from the state of Tamil Nadu. It is led by Rifath Sharook, an 18-year-old from the Tamil Nadu town of Pallapatti. The high school team participated in work-shops and education programmes by ‘Idoodle’ ‘Learning.Inc’ and NASA. As selected student competitors, the team won an opportunity to design experiments to be launched into space on a NASA rocket. Kalam SAT was launched by NASA along with several other experiments on Terrier Orion sounding rocket on 22 June 2017 from Wallops Island flight facility in Virginia.

ISRO Chairman K.Sivan has said the PS4-Kalamsat experiment would be short-lived. It would start about 1.5 hours from take-off and last about 14 hours until Friday midday. Microsat-R and its payload come assembled from a handful of laboratories of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and are meant for military uses. The satellite was “assembled outside” and ISRO only “interfaced it” with its own systems and the launch vehicle, just as the organization treats any customer satellite.

This year ISRO would also be busy with the Chandrayaan-2, India’s second moon mission which is slated for launch. ISRO would also be flying its new Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) rocket.   Another important mission would be the launch of the two-satellite Indian Data Relay Satellite System (IDRSS), of which one will be launched in 2019. It will maintain continuous communication with India’s remote sensing/earth observation satellites and with the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III (GSLV Mk-III) that is planned to carry three Indian astronauts to space in 2022.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Independence Day speech on 15th august 2018 had announced that by 2022, when India completes 75 years of independence, ‘an Indian would go to space with a tricolour [Indian flag] in their hands’. The pragmatic leadership of Prime Minister Modi and his commitment to take Indian Space mission to greater heights is noteworthy. Indian space scientists are not only leading critical space missions slated for the near future but also making a mark in areas such as space design. Some of the brightest ideas for new and miniature satellite designs (CubeSats) in recent years have emerged from India.

Script: Padam Singh, Air: News Analyst