India Puts Italian Satellite Into Orbit
Bangalore (AFP) India, April 23, 2007
India's space agency placed an Italian satellite in orbit Monday, bolstering the South Asian nation's efforts to win a slice of the billion-dollar global launch market.
The India-made Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) put the Agile astronomical satellite into its intended orbit about 550 kilometres (325 miles) above the earth 20 minutes after blast-off.
It was India's first commercial space mission and the rocket's 11th flight. "It's a historic moment for the entire space community: an Italian satellite being placed in precise orbit by a totally Indian-built vehicle," Indian Space Research Organisation chief G. Madhavan Nair said on state-run TV.
"We have proven the reliability of the PSLV, its cost-effectiveness and given on-time delivery," he added from Sriharikota spaceport, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Chennai in southern India.
Leaving behind a massive trail of orange and white smoke, the rocket blasted off on schedule at 3:30 pm local time (1000 GMT).
"I'm really proud to be here today," Giovanni Bignani, the head of the Italian space agency, said on Indian television.
"This marks a new era of cooperation between Italy and India," he added, while praising the professionalism of Indian space scientists.
The 352-kilogramme (774-pound) Italian astronomical satellite will be used to gather information about the origins of the universe.
India wants to compete with the United States, Russia, China, the Ukraine and the European Space Agency in offering commercial satellite launch services, a market worth up to 2.5 billion dollars a year.
For Monday's launch, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which runs India's space programme, is charging 11 million dollars, the Press Trust of India has reported. Space agency officials have confirmed the fee is close to that figure.
"The launch itself is a matter of minutes but years of work have gone into it," K.R. Sridhara Murthi, of the Indian Department of space, said, adding about 1,000 technical personnel had been involved in pre-launch preparations.
India started its space programme in 1963, and has since developed and put its own satellites into space. It has also designed and built launch rockets to reduce its dependence on overseas space agencies but has only recently begun exploring commercial spin-offs.
It carried out the first successful launch of a domestic satellite, which weighed 35 kilogrammes, by a home-built rocket in 1980.
The PSLV, which has previously launched eight remote-sensing and one amateur radio satellite, is capable of placing 1,500-kilogramme satellites into orbit.
The rocket had been modified to launch the much smaller Agile, together with which it carried a space module to test aviation and electronics systems.
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PSLV-C8 mission was unique in many respects. In this mission, PSLV was flown, for the first time, without the six strap-on motors of the first stage. Also, for the first time, PSLV launched a satellite into an equatorial circular orbit of 550 km. PSLV-C8 was the first major commercial launch the contract for which was won against stiff international competition.
Along with the Italian satellite, AGILE, an Advanced Avionics Module (AAM), weighing 185 kg, to test advanced launch vehicle avionics systems like mission computers, navigation and telemetry systems, was also flown on PSLV-C8. All the operational flights of PSLV so far have been successful and thus PSLV has emerged as the workhorse launch vehicle of ISRO.
After the final count down, PSLV-C8 lifted off from the Second Launch Pad (SLP) at SDSC SHAR at 3:30 pm with the ignition of the core first stage. The important flight events included the separation of the first stage, ignition of the second stage, separation of the payload fairing at about 116 km altitude after the vehicle had cleared the dense atmosphere, second stage separation, third stage ignition and third stage separation, fourth stage ignition and fourth stage cut-off. AGILE was placed in orbit 1370.7 sec after lift off.
With a much lighter payload and the low inclination of the orbit in which AGILE was to be placed, PSLV-C8 was configured, for the first time, without the six solid propellant strap-on motors of the first stage. Also, the propellant in the fourth stage had been reduced by about 400 kg compared to the previous PSLV flight. The core-alone PSLV-C8 had a lift-off mass of 230 tonne.
PSLV has emerged as the workhorse launch vehicle of ISRO with ten consecutively successful flights so far. Since its first successful launch in 1994, PSLV has launched eight Indian remote sensing satellites, an amateur radio satellite, HAMSAT, a recoverable space capsule, SRE-1, and six small satellites for foreign customers into 550-800 km high polar Sun Synchronous Orbits (SSO). Besides, it has launched India's exclusive meteorological satellite, Kalpana-1, into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO). PSLV will also be used to launch India's first spacecraft mission to moon, Chandrayaan-1, during 2008.
In its standard configuration, the 44 m tall PSLV has a lift-off mass of 295 tonne. It is a four-stage launch vehicle with the first and the third stages as well as the six strap-ons surrounding the first stage using HTPB based solid propellant. PSLV's first stage is one of the largest solid propellant boosters in the world. Its second and fourth stages use liquid propellants. PSLV's bulbous payload fairing has a diameter of 3.2 metre. The vehicle has S-band telemetry and C-band transponder systems for monitoring its health and flight status respectively. It also has sophisticated auxiliary systems like stage and payload fairing separation systems.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Indian Space Program Goes Commercial
Bangalore, India (AFP) April 21, 2007
India will launch an Italian satellite via a home-built rocket this week, seeking entry into an exclusive club of nations that have put their space programmes to commercial use.
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