India’s first flight into the world of commercial space launches was accomplished without much ado when the PSLV-C8 launched the Italian Space Agency’s AGILE satellite in a flawless operation.
The four-stage 'core only' 44 metre launcher blasted off into a clear summer sky from the Satish Dawan Space Centre here at 3.30 pm on Monday and after 22 minutes injected AGILE into a 550 km circular orbit. "It was a precise textbook launch which has once again proved the reliability, cost effectiveness and on time delivery of our space launch system," said a thrilled ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair.
The deal won against tough international competition – "complex and competitive atmosphere” as Nair described it - would firmly position India as a frontrunner in the field of successful satellite launches at affordable costs.
Equally thrilled was Giovanni Bignami, President of Italian Space Agency, who praised the ISRO scientists for carrying out the launch with "remarkable calm and professionalism." "This is the beginning of a new stage of collaboration (between us) and Indiahas made an important mark in the space business," he observed hinting that the Italians would be back for more launches.
Since Monday’s payload was much less that 1,000 kg carrying capability of PSLV the Italian satellite – designed to study gamma and X-Ray and the impact of gravity on the universe - weighed only 352 kgs and ISRO’s Advanced Avionics Module (AAM) to test advanced avionics, computers and navigation and telemetry weighed another 185 kgs the launcher blasted off without its customary powerful six strap on motors.
The AAM with a next generation computer and specially designed integrated circuit,, three navigation systems including one assisted by GPS would provide much needed inputs for future launches including the GSLV-Mark III.
Today’s flight marked the 10 consecutive successful flight for the PSLV proving that the launcher has indeed settled down as ISRO’s dependable workhorse. This augurs well for the country’s moon mission in 2008, which will be riding on the proven strength of the PSLV and also for the country’s future commercial launches.
Though ISRO had launched small scientific satellites of other countries in the past - six to be exact – for a small fee today’s exercise marked its first commercial launch.