Sunday, September 16, 2018

Two British Earth-Observing Satellites Launched Atop India's PSLV Booster

PSLV-C42 mission launches from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on September 16, 2018. Photo Credit: ISRO.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched on Sunday, September 16, its flagship Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket carrying SSTL S1-4 and NovaSAR-1 - two British Earth observation satellites.

The mission, designated PSLV-C42 in ISRO’s numbering system, lifted off at 16:37 GMT (12:37 p.m. EDT), from the First Launch Pad (FLP) at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota.

Preparations for the mission started in mid-July when engineers began the process of integration of the PSLV launch vehicle. Countdown campaign for the launch was commenced 33 hours before the planned liftoff.

The PSLV rocket, in its core alone (CA) configuration, flew without its six strap-on motors. Shortly after blastoff, it began its short vertical ascent until it started heading in a southeasterly direction.

Within the first two minutes of the flight, the booster’s first stage was detached from the launch vehicle. Next, the rocket’s second stage assumed control over the mission, accelerating the vehicle for about two-and-a-half minutes until its separation at T+4:23 minutes. During this phase of the mission, the rocket’s protective payload fairing was jettisoned about three minutes and two seconds after liftoff.

PSLV’s third stage powered the launch vehicle for some three minutes and 45 seconds and was separated at T+8:09 minutes. Afterward, around 10 seconds later, the rocket’s fourth stage came to life, what marked the start of the mission’s conclusive phase.

The fourth stage continued the flight to deploy the duo of satellites at a polar Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of approximately 362 miles (583 kilometers), inclined 97.8 degrees. The separation of both spacecraft occurred 17 minutes and 44 seconds after launch.

“I am extremely happy that the PSLV-C42 precisely launched two of our customer satellites at 583 km orbit. This was unique night mission executed for the first time by us. The PSLV has proven yet again as a user-friendly vehicle in all aspects. The credit goes to the entire ISRO team and industries. This success will give added energy for industries to make PSLV by themselves. We are going to have 18 missions in the next six months, virtually one launch every two weeks,” ISRO Chairman K Sivan said during his post-launch speech.

Built by Surrey Satellite Technologies Limited (SSTL), SSTL S1-4 is a high-resolution optical Earth observation spacecraft. Weighting some 979 lbs. (444 kilograms), the satellite is based on the SSTL-300S1 platform. The spacecraft, operated by SSTL, is designed for surveying resources, environment monitoring, urban management and disaster monitoring.

NovaSAR-1, also manufactured by SSTL, is a high-resolution Earth observation satellite - a mission to demonstrate capabilities of a new low cost S-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) platform. With a mass of around 981 lbs. (445 kilograms), the satellite is designed for forestry mapping, land use and ice cover monitoring, flood and disaster monitoring and maritime missions. The UK Space Agency has invested in the development of NovaSAR-1 and will benefit from access to data from the spacecraft.

“The PSLV-C42 marks the latest technology and commercial collaboration between India and the UK with the launch of the combination of high resolution optical and radar (SAR) satellites from us,” said Martin Sweeting, Group Executive Chairman at SSTL.

The 144-foot (44-meter) tall PSLV is India’s flagship launcher. The booster is capable of lifting up to 3.25 metric tons to low-Earth orbit (LEO) and about 1.42 metric tons to a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).

With a mass of about 230 metric tons, PSLV-CA is the lightest version of the launcher. It has a capacity to launch only 1.1 metric tons to SSO. The maiden launch of PSLV-CA took place in April 2007.

Sunday’s mission marked India’s fourth launch in 2018, and 12th flight of PSLV-CA overall. ISRO’s next two orbital missions, involving PSLV and GSLV rockets are targeted for October, however the exact dates of the launches are yet to be announced.

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