India launches seven satellites in 20 minutes

NEW DELHI, September 23: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) today put in orbit seven satellites, including its 16th remote-sensing satellite Oceansat-2, within a span of 20 minutes. This is its first successful mission after the abrupt end of the ambitious Chandrayaan-I project last month.

At the end of the 51-hour countdown, the 44.4-metre tall, 230-tonne Indian rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) freed itself from the launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, and lifted itself up, lugging the 960-kg Oceansat-2 and the six small European satellites, weighing a total of 20 kg.

The four-stage PSLV-C14 blasted off from the first launch pad at the spaceport with ignition of the core first stage and put the satellites in orbit one after another.

Scientists cheered as the ISRO’s workhorse PSLV soared majestically into clear skies at 11.51 am from the spaceport on the east coast, about 100 km north of Chennai. The launch watched by Vice President Hamid Ansari, among others.

Oceansat-2 will identify potential fishing zones, sea state forecasting and coastal zone studies, besides providing inputs on weather forecasting and climate studies.

Ansari and senior scientist MGK Menon, who were present in the mission centre, congratulated ISRO scientists soon after the successful launch.

Besides two German Rubin nano satellites, other Oceansat-2 co-passengers are four cubesats: Beesat, built by Technical University Berlin, UWE-2 (University of Wuerzburg Germany), ITU-pSat (Istanbul Technical University Turkey) and SwissCube-1 (Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne, Switzerland). They were launched under a commercial agreement.

Addressing scientists at the venue, ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair, described it as "a perfect and precise launch." He said, "The launch has once again proved our capability. It is an example of fine teamwork and the maturity of PSLV launch vehicle has been proved."

An in-orbit replacement to Oceansat-1, which was used to study physical and biological aspects of oceanography, Oceansat-2 will have a mission life of five years but last even longer. Oceansat-1 has completed 10 years of space odyssey.

The nano satellites are educational spacecraft from European Universities intended to test new technologies.

Oceansat-2 was injected into space first, and the remaining were placed in orbit one after another, officials said.

The eight band Ocean Colour Monitor carried by Oceansat-2 images a swath (strip of land or ocean) of 1,420 km with a resolution of 360 metres and works in the visible and near infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The Scatterometer covers a swath of 1,400 km, and operates continuously.

In copybook style, the rocket first flung out Oceansat-2 at an altitude of 720 km above the earth in a sun-synchronous orbit (SSO), followed by the four nano satellites — also called Cubesats, each weighing one kg. The remaining two, each weighing eight kg, were attached to the rocket’s fourth stage.

Soon after the satellites were put into orbit, ISRO satellite tracking centres started monitoring them.

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