India on Monday achieved another space milestone when it successfully launched multiple satellites from one rocket into two different orbits.
Monday’s mission was the longest for the polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV C-35) that lifted off from Sriharikota at 9.12am carrying eight satellites -- three from India, including the weather satellite SCATSAT-1, three from Algeria, and one each from Canada and the US.
The 371-kg SCATSAT-1, launched within 17 minutes of takeoff, will study oceans and help in weather forecasting, including cyclone detection.
“SCATSAT-1 has been successfully injected in orbit,” the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said.
The remaining seven were be put into orbit around two hours later.
“Our space scientists keep scripting history. Their innovative zeal has touched the lives of 125 crore Indians and made India proud worldwide,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
Moment of immense joy & pride for India. Congratulations to @isro on successful launch of PSLV-C35/SCATSAT-1 & 7 co-passenger satellites.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 26, 2016
Our space scientists keep scripting history. Their innovative zeal has touched the lives of 125 crore Indians & made India proud worldwide.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 26, 2016
Two of the Indian satellites are student-made. Pratham, a 10-kg satellite developed by students of Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, will study the electron count in space which will help improve the accuracy of the Global Positioning System in India, and also predict tsunamis.
The 5.25-kg PISAT made by students of Bengaluru’s PES University will take pictures of earth.
The PSLV has launched 39 remote-sensing satellites for Isro, including the Mars mission of 2013-14.
With a reputation for frugal space mission, India is positioning itself as a destination for cost-effective satellite launch missions as the market gets crowded.
In May, India successfully tested its first reusable satellite launch vehicle that is being seen as the unanimous solution towards achieving low-cost, reliable and on-demand space access.
Pratham, the cube satellite
Designed to fit within a 30-cm cube, the 10kg Pratham (first in Hindi) will measure total electron count in the ionosphere that can improve the accuracy of the Global Positioning System in India, and also predict tsunamis.
Ionosphere is the layer above the earth’s upper atmosphere comprising electrons and electrically charged atoms and molecules stretching from 50km to more than 1,000km.
“All the signals that are sent by satellites towards earth interact with a layer of electrons (negatively charged particles) in the atmosphere. This interaction changes the behaviour of these signals, and introduces certain errors in the GPS readings,” said Jhonny Jha, former project manager, Pratham.
Knowing the TEC will help predict changes in GPS readings due to such interactions and make necessary corrections to improve GPS readings.
“In the case of a tsunami, the earthquake responsible for the tsunami often emits high intensity gravity waves that change the electron count drastically. So when someone tries to measure TEC, the readings will be high which can act as a warning for coastal areas for an impending tsunami,” said Jha.
Conceptualised in 2008, Pratham has been worked on by students across IIT-B engineering departments and spread over seven batches. The project cost Rs 1.5 crore.
To share information, IIT-B has helped set up ground stations to track the satellite at engineering colleges such as the Atharva College of Engineering, Malad. The institute has also collaborated with universities overseas such as the University College London and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (Institute of Earth Physics of Paris).