India’s first navigation satellite soars to success

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satSRIHARIKOTA, July 2;India’s first dedicated navigation satellite, the IRNSS-1A, developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation, was successfully put in orbit on Monday night.

The launch vehicle, PSLV-C22, bearing the 1,425-kg navigation satellite, blasted off the launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here at the scheduled lift-off time of 11.41 p.m.

As the PSLV-C22 tore into the night skies and set off four stages of ignition and separation, all the while gaining in altitude and velocity, down on earth, twitchy mission controllers at the command centre awaited the final confirmation of the mission’s success.

A round of applause greeted the successful kick-starting of the fourth stage of ignition, arguably the most critical component of the mission to place the satellite in the targeted orbit.

About 20 minutes after the lift-off, the PSLV-C22 completed its task of injecting the IRNSS-1A into a sub geosynchronous transfer orbit with a 284-km perigee (nearest point to the Earth) and 20,650 km apogee (farthest point from the Earth).

As the final act of the rocket separating from the satellite unfurled on the giant screen at the mission control room, the gathering of scientists and engineers broke into cheers and applause.

Once again, Team ISRO had pulled off with clockwork precision the roughly 65-hour countdown that began on June 29 and ended in the lift-off close to midnight on July 1.

ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan, who congratulated the team, said that with the successful launch, India had entered a new era in space applications.

P.J. Kurien, Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha, said it was a great moment for the nation.

Yash Pal, one of the doyens of India’s space programme, was also present.

The IRNSS-1A is the first of the proposed seven satellites in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System. Apart from India, its benefits would extend to a range of 1,500 km in the region.

With a mission life of 10 years, it will deliver applications ranging across terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, disaster management, tracking of vehicles, guiding hikers and travellers, and visual-voice navigation for drivers.

The PSLV-XL used for the launch does not directly transfer satellites into a geosynchronous orbit. Instead, it puts the satellite into an interim sub Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (sub-GTO), from where thrusters are used to push the satellite into geosynchronous orbit.

Once it has been injected into the preliminary orbit, solar panels of the satellite are automatically deployed and the Master Control Facility at Hassan, Karnataka, takes over the control of the satellite — from the initial orbit raising manoeuvres to the final placement in the circular geosynchronous orbit.

Some of the features of the IRNSS-1A are two solar panels with ultra triple junction solar cells that can generate about 1,660 watts of electrical power, Sun and star sensors as well as gyroscopes to provide orientation.

It also carries Corner Cube Retro Reflectors for laser imaging and is endowed with a highly accurate Rubidium atomic clock.

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