Chandrayaan-2 Launch Brings Relief In Control Room After Lift- Off

The Chandrayaan-2 launch scheduled on July 15 was halted due to some technical snag while there were some myrmurs surfacing whether the launch will take place or not.

ISRO scientists were running out of time due to the nature of the snag and short launch window.

But Isro chairman K Sivan never had any doubts. Son of a farmer, Sivan is familiar with rocket technology, having headed the Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, for several years. Some even call him the ‘Rocket Man’.

Soon after the glitch was detected, he set up a small high-level committee to look into the nature of the snag and requested the entire team to work hard to fix the problem soon. Not only the snag was fixed within a day but all corrective measures were taken immediately while the rocket was still on the launchpad.

After taking all safety measures, Isro quickly announced the new launch date (July 22) as the launch window was lapsing on July 31 and the next possible launch window would have been in September.

On Monday afternoon, Isro scientists were an anxious lot till both fuel tanks of the cryo upper stage were filled with liquid hydrogen and oxygen. Once the rocket lifted off and released the lunarcraft into the geo-transfer orbit after around 17 minutes, the Chandrayaan-2 team, led by project director Muthayya Vanitha and mission director Ritu Karidhal, heaved a sigh of relief.

The post-launch speech of Sivan showed that the snag had been the centrepoint of all his worries in the last seven days.

Communication Satellite GSAT- 31 Successfully Launched By India

GSAT- 31, a 2,536 kg Indian communication satellite was successfully launched by European launch services provider- Arianespace’s rocket from French Guiana early on Wednesday. The satellite is aimed at providing continuity to operational services on certain inorbit satellites. 

Blasting off from Ariane Launch Complex at Kourou, a French territory located in northeastern coast of South America at 2.31 am (IST), the Ariane-5 vehicle injected GSAT-31 into the orbit in a flawless flight lasting about 42 minutes.

“It gives me great pleasure on the successful launch of GSAT-31 spacecraft on board Ariane-5,” Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) Director S. Pandian said at Kourou soon after the launch.

“Congratulation to Arianespace on the successful launch and precise injection of satellite into the orbit,” he added.

The GSAT-31 is a “high power” communication satellite with Ku-band, and it is going to serve and replace some of the satellites that are going to expire soon, he said further.

The Ariane-5 vehicle (Flight VA247) also carried Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1/Hellas Sat 4 along with GSAT-31.

GSAT-31 separated from the Ariane-5 in an elliptical Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 250 km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 35,850 km, inclined at an angle of 3.0 degree to the equator, ISRO said in a release after the launch.

After separation from Ariane-5, the two solar arrays of GSAT-31 were automatically deployed in quick succession and ISRO’s Master Control Facility at Hassan in Karnataka took over the command and control of GSAT-31 and found its health parameters normal, it said.

In the days ahead, scientists will undertake phase-wise orbit-raising manoeuvres to place the satellite in Geostationary Orbit (36,000 km above the equator) using its on-board propulsion system.

During the final stages of its orbit raising operations, the antenna reflector of GSAT-31 will be deployed, and following this, the satellite will be put in its final orbital configuration, the space agency said, adding that the satellite will be operational after the successful completion of all in-orbit tests.

Weighing about 2,536 kg, the Indian satellite, GSAT-31, will provide continuity to operational services on some of the in-orbit satellites.

India’s 40th communication satellite

The satellite derives its heritage from ISROs earlier INSAT/GSAT satellite series, the space agency said, adding that it will provide communication services to Indian mainland and islands.

GSAT-31 is the country’s 40th communication satellite which is configured on ISRO’s enhanced ‘I-2K Bus’, utilising the maximum “bus capabilities” of this type.

This satellite will augment the Ku-band transponder capacity in Geostationary Orbit, ISRO said.

With a mission life of around 15 years, GSAT-31 will be used for supporting VSAT networks, Television uplinks, Digital Satellite News Gathering, DTH-television services, cellular backhaul connectivity and many such applications.

It will also provide wide beam coverage to facilitate communication over large oceanic region, comprising large parts of Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean, using a wide band transponder.

According to ISRO, two Ku-band beacon down link signals are transmitted by the satellite for ground tracking purpose.

“GSAT-31 has a unique configuration of providing flexible frequency segments and flexible coverage,” ISRO chairman K. Sivan said.

“GSAT-31 will provide DTH Television Services, connectivity to VSATs for ATM, Stock-exchange, Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) and e-governance applications. The satellite will also be used for bulk data transfer for a host of emerging telecommunication applications,” he said in a release.

Riding in Ariane-5’s upper position, HS-4/SGS-1 was released first in the flight sequence, with its separation occurring about 27 minutes after liftoff.

Comprising two payloads, Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1/Hellas Sat 4, also called HS- 4/SGS-1, is a geostationary condosat for KACST (King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology Saudi Arabia) and Hellas Sat (Greece Cyprus).

HS- 4/SGS-1 will provide telecommunication capabilities, including television, Internet, telephone and secure communications in the Middle East, South Africa and Europe, Arianespace said on its website.

GSAT-30 is another geostationary satellite to be lofted soon by Arianespace for ISRO.

“Soon we will be getting back to French Guiana some time in June, July to launch GSAT-30,” Mr. Pandian said. .

A Big Victory to India; ISRO’s GSAT-11 Satellite “Big Bird ” Launched Propitiously

The heaviest of the satellites developed by ISRO, GSAT-11 satellite also called the “Big Bird ” invaded the sky fortuitously from South America’s French Port of Kourou at 2:07 am. The satellite will be a key factor in the digitalization process as it will provide the satellite-based internet to the remote areas where the cable-based internet is unreachable.

Weighing 5,854 kg, “Big Bird ” is the heaviest Indian-made equipment that the agency put into its orbit.

This launch was the second attempt after ISRO’s first bid failed in May earlier this year and was placed into space on its 102 nd flight, the Ariane 5 rocket. According to ISRO, the satellite is healthy after the launch.

“GSAT-11 is the next generation high throughput communication satellite that will play a vital role in providing broadband services across the country. It will also provide a platform to demonstrate new generation applications,” Dr K Sivan, ISRO chief said.

The “Big Bird” has cost about Rs. 600 crore. The ariane-5 heavyweight rocket was hired from Arianespace by ISRO. The satellite is expected to have a life span of 15 years.

The satellite internet, which the GSAT-11 will help to provide, will aid in giving internet connectivity in flights in India.

The GSAT-11 is equivalent to the combined power of almost all communications satellites sent into orbit by India. A communications specialist told NDTV that the satellite is like a constellation of 30 classical orbiting satellites.

India has hired the French Ariane-5 rocket as it can heavy payload into orbit. India’s own geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle MK iii or GSLV MK iii can haul satellites that weighs upto 4 tons.

Along with its three siblings, GSAT-19, GSAT-29 and GSAT-20, the satellite will be a “game changer for providing internet access and data communications for India and will aid the digital India program. Dr Sivan adds.

ISRO to Launch a Satellite to Venus in 2023

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to send a mission to Venus, and it’s inviting other countries to send a ride-along partner. The space agency is preparing for what will be India’s first mission to the planet, sometime in 2023.

After 18 months of planning, ISRO has invited international proposals for scientific payloads on the rocket that will launch an orbiter to Venus. The orbiter itself will have 12 instruments, including a thermal camera, mass spectrometer and cloud monitoring camera. The spacecraft will be able to carry about 100 kg, and will have 500W of power, according to ISRO.

The Venus mission will launched into a steeply inclined orbit around the planet, allowing it to get closer over several months. In an elliptical orbit, it’ll eventually be 60,000 km away from Venus at the farthest end, and just 500 km away at the closest, similar to the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) of 2013. The mission will focus on studying the surface of the planet, its atmospheric chemistry, and the effect on it from solar radiation.

After the Chandrayaan launch to the Moon in 2008, and the Mangalyaan launch to Mars in 2013, this will be ISRO’s third exploratory mission beyond Earth. Or more likely fourth, once the Chandrayaan-2 takes off early 2019.

More importantly though, if ISRO manages to launch a mission to Venus for anywhere as cheap a price tag as the Mars Orbiter Mission, it’ll cement the Indian space agency’s reputation as the most frugal in the world. Obviously, that’s enticing for other countries looking to launch single satellites without having to build their own rockets.

ISRO: AstroSat Discovers Ultraviolet Wings on the Butterfly Nebula

Indian astrophysicists have discovered large ultraviolet lobes and jets, hurled out from a dying star, using data from AstroSat, the space observatory launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 2015. The discovery has been featured as the AstroSat Picture of the Month (APOM) for October.

Kameswara Rao of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics and his collaborators used the Ultra-Violet Imaging Telescope (UVIT) on board AstroSat to study a planetary nebula called NGC 6302, popularly called the Butterfly Nebula. A planetary nebula is formed when a star like our Sun – or a few times heavier – is in its dying days. The term, a misnomer now, was coined by astronomers in the 19th century since the nebula looked like planets through their telescopes.

“When hydrogen and helium fuel that kept the star shining gets exhausted, the star expands in size and becomes a red giant star,” Rao explained. “Such stars shed most of their outer layers which expands outwards, and the inner core, made of carbon and oxygen, shrinks further and becomes hotter. This hot core shines brightly in the ultraviolet, and ionises the expanding gas. This glowing ionised gas is what is seen as a planetary nebula.”

Sriram Krishna, a student of Rao, spent many hours analysing the data from the Butterfly Nebula. “Its central star is one of the hottest that we know, at 220,000 degrees celsius. The name itself comes from the shape of the two lobes of expanding gas that look like the wings of a butterfly,” he said.

One might expect a planetary nebula to be spherical, but it actually exhibits a range of complicated structures. “We used the UVIT on AstroSat to make four images of the nebula, each in different ultraviolet ‘colours’, or filters. The image made with the filter centred at 160.8 nm, called F169M, had a surprise in store for us,” said Sriram.

Astronomers have studied the two lobes of the nebula for many years through visible light images. They expect that the more energetic ultraviolet light would be emitted closer to the central star, where the hot stellar wind hits the slowly expanding gas. “However, we discovered that the lobes imaged with the F169M filter in ultraviolet were about three times larger than the size of the lobes imaged in visible light,” according to Sriram. After careful analysis, their study concluded that this ultraviolet emission must be due to cold molecular hydrogen gas outside the visible lobes, which had gone undetected so far.

“Our discovery points to an unseen companion star in an orbit with the central star,” said Firoza Sutaria, one of the coauthors. In addition, researchers also discovered two faint jets blasting out from the centre at almost right angles to the new ultraviolet lobes.

The team led by Rao recently discovered a large ultraviolet halo in yet another planetary nebula using AstroSat, and will be looking at more such objects in the future. They hope that such discoveries may provide the answer to the age-old puzzle of the missing mass problem in planetary nebulae.

This discovery was made possible because of the uniqueness of UVIT. “Of all the ultraviolet telescopes in space, UVIT is special in its ability to image a large field of view with a very high resolution, or detail”, said V. Girish of ISRO.

“This ability, coupled with a novel image analysis software that we had developed, led us to this discovery”, explained Jayant Murthy, a coauthor of the paper and director of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics.

These results were accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics on October 3, 2018.

The AstroSat Picture of the Month series, or APOM, is a year-old initiative of the Public Outreach and Education Committee of the Astronomical Society and the AstroSat Training and Outreach Team. The aim of APOM is to share the excitement of AstroSat science as well as the beauty of the universe with everyone. All APOMs are archived here.

Chandrayaan 2 Pegged to Penetrate Sky in 2019

Chandrayaan 1’s- Indian Space Research Organization’s first planetary probe to the moon, launched on 22 October 2008, successor Chandrayaan 2 is slated to lift off in January next year.

The former probe collected a lot of significant data over its mission to orbit and study the moon’s chemistry, geology and mineral make-up for close to a year.

Among its many findings were direct evidence of water on the moon. Data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper on Chandrayaan-1 was crucial to findings direct evidence that the moon does, in fact, have water on its surface. These deposits were found as water-ice concentrated near the polar regions of the moon.

The discovery that made headlines world-over was the first “direct evidence” of water in the moon’s atmosphere just above the Moon’s surface, collected by the Chandra’s Altitudinal Composition (CHACE) instrument as the probe descended on the moon.

These discoveries were largely made because the probe’s instruments were designed to detect even traces of water — in the form of hydroxyl ions (OH) as opposed to the more familiar form of the water molecule (H20). This indicated that solar radiation quickly pulverizes water into hydrogen ions, which escape the atmosphere, and hydroxyl ions, which linger as traces of water.

Following in Chandrayaan-1’s heels is the Rs 800-crore Chandrayaan-2 unmanned mission, scheduled for a 3 January, 2019 launch.

This comes nearly ten years after ISRO’s first mission to the moon, but carries a rover and a lander unlike Chandrayaan-1 did.

The 3,890-kg Chandrayaan-2 probe will be launched onboard the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk-3. The Lander will soft-land on the lunar surface and unload the Rover to study and take measurements from the surface as the orbiter continues to circle the natural sattelite.

The lander and rover on Chandrayaan-2 will touchdown at an site 600 kilometers from the lunar South pole. If successful, this would be the first time any moon mission landed so far from the equator, a report in Science said.

The rover — weighing just 25 kilograms and roughly the size of a briefcase — will carry two instruments that will study the lunar surface’s elemental composition — a Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) and an Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).

The probe also has a instrument to measure the moon’s plasma — a layer of charged molecules above the moon’s surface that could explain why lunar regolith, the dusty material covering the moon’s surface, floats above the surface for extended periods of time. Chandrayaan-2 will also carry a seismometer to record quakes on the moon, taking over from Apollo 11’s efforts to study the phenomenon.

The mission will also provide a map of the moon’s topology, which could add many new findings to existing data due to its unique choice of landing site.

The hopes and challenges riding along the mission. The launch of Chandrayaan-2 was initialled pegged for the second-half of 2018.

The plans for the probe to descend soon after it breaches the orbit were modified into a more round-about approach where the probe would go around the Moon before touching down.

Based on the new landing-profile, it the mission has further changes and new problems, with mission engineers working overtime to keep with the looming January, 2019 deadline.

With all the scientific mission riding on Chandrayaan-2, a successful landing near the south pole in itself would be a remarkable feat for ISRO as well as space exploration worldover, experts have said.

“One of NASA’s main priorities is to go [to the south pole] on a sample return mission,” James Greenwood, a cosmochemist at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut said to Science.

“So this could help us also later, down-the-road, as they give us more information as to what’s there.”

Chandrayaan 2- First Mission in World Near the South Pole; Likely to be Launched in January 2019

After the successful launch of the 31 satellites by PSLV C-42 on Sunday, ISRO is now planning to launch the second lunar mission-Chandrayaan 2, in January 2019.

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in its 44th consecutive success launch, placed two UK satellites NovaSAR and S1-4 in Earth’s orbit. Elated over this success of ISRO mission, Mr. K. Sivan, Chairman of ISRO said “Within the next six months, 10 satellite missions and eight launch vehicle missions would be launched – one every two weeks.”

On Sunday evening, the ISRO successfully launched PSLV C-42 into orbit carrying two international satellites — Nova SAR and S1-4 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

The two earth observation satellites have been developed by Surrey Satellite Technologies Limited (SSTL), the United Kingdom under a commercial arrangement with Antrix Corporation Limited, Department of Space.

Both the British satellites that weigh around 889 kilograms, were launched into a 583 km Sun Synchronous Orbit.

NovaSAR is an S-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite intended for forest mapping, land use, ice cover monitoring, flood and disaster monitoring. S1-4 is a high-resolution Optical Earth Observation Satellite, used for surveying resources, environment monitoring, urban management and for disaster monitoring.

Launch Of Chandrayaan-2 Postponed By ISRO

There will be a further delay in the launch of India’s second mission to the moon Chandrayaan-2 and it may be no sooner than January, according to a top official. The postponement of the ambitious mission from October comes in the wake of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) facing two setbacks in less than a year.

The launch of the mission was first planned in April. Earlier this year, the ISRO had launched GSAT-6A, a military communication satellite, but lost communication with it. Following this, the ISRO also recalled the launch of GSAT-11 from from Kourou, French Guiana, for additional technical checks.

Last September, the PSLV- C39 mission, carrying the IRNSS-1H navigation satellite, failed after the heat shield refused to open and release the satellite. The ISRO is treading a cautious path after these two setbacks as Chandrayaan-2 is one of the crucial launches for the space agency, particularly after Chandrayaan-1 and Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission). It is also ISRO’s first mission to land on any celestial body.

“We don’t want to take any risk,” said the official, requesting anonymity. The official added that there are certain windows during which the mission could be launched. The next launch window is likely to be in January.

Repeated attempts to solicit a response from ISRO Chairman K Sivan were not successful. In April, Sivan informed the government about the postponement of the launch to October-November. A national-level committee to review Chandrayaan-2 recommended some additional tests before the mission could take off.

Chandrayaan-2 will be ISRO’s first time attempt to land a rover on the Moon. The rover of India’s second lunar mission, costing nearly Rs. 800 crore, will be made to land near the yet-unexplored south pole.



‘PAT’To Launch Today By ‘ISRO’

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has scheduled a ‘pad abort test’ of an experimental space crew capsule as an important cog of its plan to send Indians to space one day.

The launch pad abort test, or PAT, involves aborting a space capsule at launch to save the inmates. It is slated for 7 a.m. at ISRO’s Sriharikota launch venue, the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), in coastal A.P.

ISRO describes PAT as the first milestone in qualifying its crew escape system in an emergency. The test is also one of the many main and supporting technologies that the space agency is developing ahead of its ambitious Human Space Flight Programme (HSP).

According to information put together from multiple sources, a roughly 3,770-kg trial crew module, aided by four solid-fuelled rockets built around it, will be flown up to a distance of 2.4 km. On firing, the module will be jettisoned and demonstrate a safe descent with the help of parachutes — all this in around three minutes.

A two-hour band from 6 a.m. has been slotted for the test, according to information on the website of ISRO’s Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad. SAC has provided devices that enable satellite communication and navigation of this flight. ISRO Chairman K.Sivan has been overseeing the preparations at the SDSC for the past two days.