On January 10, after three satellites and a recoverable space capsule blast into space, scientists of PSLV C-7 (polar satellite launch vehicle) will wait for the billows of white smoke to dissipate and then, sit on the edges of their seats for the next 12 days — waiting for the capsule to return after its space odyssey.
Once the 550-kg, bellshaped space capsule recovery experiment (SRE-1) safely splashes into the Bay of Bengal within a 140-km radius of Sriharikota, India will become the fifth country to acquire this exclusive space technology. This know-how — now only with the United States, Russia, European Union and China — helps cut down space expedition costs and is considered the first step towards India's plans to send a man into space.
"We are really excited. Our dry runs were smooth and perfect. This is our first full fledged attempt at satellite reentry technology," PSLV C-7 mission director N Narayana Murthy told a visiting team of journalists at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR).
A mission readiness test will be held on Saturday to avoid last-minute snags. The 44-m tall PSLV C-7, carrying the highest payload in the PSLV series, will blast off at 9.23 am on January 10. The launch is expected to be a major milestone for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and a step towards developing reusable space shuttles and sending manned missions to space.
But scientists are keeping their fingers crossed. Last year's GSLV (geo stationary launch vehicle) debacle is still fresh in their minds. "Safety measures are stringent this time," SHAR director M Annamali said.
The PSLV is carrying four payloads. The heaviest of the lot, Cartosat- 2 (680 kg), is meant to give scene-specific spot imagery with high spatial resolution. It will be used to prepare maps for planning towns and cities.