India's Big Leap In Space
(Source: Indian Press Information Bureau; issued May 13, 2003)
India has taken one more big leap in space. May 8, 2003 was a date with a milestone: a 1,800 kilogram satellite was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, and in one thousand seconds after 4.58 p.m. the communications satellite was in orbit.

It is stationed at 36,000 km above the earth. This is a significant move in crossing new frontiers of science with India’s own capabilities. As the satellite separated from the launch vehicle, the mission had succeeded and the scientists led by the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Dr K.Kasturirangan, were jubilant. Their tense days and weeks and months of preparation had been rewarded with success. This was their 13th success in 24 years since August 1979.

In these years, the first mission was partially successful and three subsequent efforts were abortive. But an 80 per cent success rate is something to be proud of. In the past nine years all the nine missions crossed every hurdle to come up with flying colours. The latest satellite is expected to boost the broadband needed for the growing communications needs of the country and speed them up as well as facilitate broadcasting to a greater extent.

This is part of the 25 year space vision which has already been unveiled. Having achieved self-sufficiency in the fabrication of satellites, India is now nearing full self-reliance in launching capabilities. Exclusive satellites for different services is the primary objective of the vision.

The Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, complimented the scientists and announced in Parliament in the middle of his speech during a debate: Just a few minutes ago, the experimental communications satellite, GSAT 2, was injected precisely into its planned geo-synchronous transfer orbit. This is a matter of great pride for all Indians. I am sure the House would join me in congratulating all the personnel of the Indian Space Research Organisation and its associated research laboratories and industrial units for reaching yet another landmark in space".

An Indian cryogenic engine is undergoing successful trials at the Liquid Propulsion Centre in Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu and would be ready in two years. With this India would attain full self-sufficiency in launching heavy satellites like the IRS with its own time-tested PSLV. Edusat, the exclusive satellite for enhancing literacy, is proposed to be launched in two years to boost the ambitious distance education programme. Insat 3A and Insat 3E are to be launched soon. Nine satellites and six launch vehicle missions are proposed in the next two years. Insat 3B and 3C are already in orbit. Insat 3D is in an advanced stage of development and work on Insat 4 series is now under way. Metsat, meant for exclusive meteorological services, has been flight-tested and is due to be launched in the current year.

Experts have described the GSLV launch as a "textbook precision" work. It was watched by a large number of people from the terraces of the Sriharikota facility and for them it was a fantastic sight, an unmanned entry into space, raising new hopes of Indians’ journeys into space in the near future. The 49 metre long three stage vehicle weighing 414 tons lifted off with a loud roar. But soon afterwards the satellite separated from the launch vehicle. For Dr Kasturirangan and his team it was a "proud technological achievement". The ISRO Chairman said the next step would be to launch a 2,000 kg satellite with GSLV capability. The present launch was done with the Russian-made cryogenic engines but by the end of the decade or earlier an Indian cryo engine would be ready.

Five more satellites are due to be launched in the years to come. The cryo stage is an important key in the whole process and it separated "beautifully and it hit the bull’s eye". This has given the Indian apace scientists a lot of confidence for the new work in hand. Ground monitoring stations in Canada and Italy, besides Beijing, are picking up signals from the satellite.

The complete telemetry and tracking of the GSLV from lift off to satellite injection was supported by four Indian ground stations, besides down range stations at Port Blair, Brunei and Biak in Indonesia. The master control facility at Hassan in Karnataka is now monitoring the satellite. The first GSLV D1, launched in April 2001, was 1540 kg in weight and the latest one is 260 kg heavier. The new one seeks to revalidate the different systems of the vehicle.

Improvements made since the first launch vehicle are a step forward in the operation of the GSLV systems. Measuring 9.55 metres in length in its final orbit configuration, GSAT 2 carries four C band transponders and two Ku band transponders and a mobile satellite service (MSS) payload operating in S band. All these will partially meet India’s growing communication and TV needs and promote self-sufficiency up to a point and be put to commercial use.

About 150 public and private sector industries were engaged in building most of the components and hardware of the GSLV. Even though the cryogenic upper stage was supplied by Russia, the complex electronics systems that control the functioning of the satellite were developed by ISRO. The master control facility at Hassan is carrying out manoeuvres to place the satellite in its space slot besides testing the systems on board. The satellite continues to function normally.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, says that we have proved to the world that India is second to none in technology. The day is not far when "we will be launching our INSATs with GSLV from Sriharikota." How has all this been achieved? The scientists say that this has been done by "enhanced propellant loading in core and solid motor; high pressure engine in liquid propellant strap-ons in the second stage; and by optimising structural elements". They will monitor radiation doses in the satellite with a sensitive transistor, besides studying solar flare emissions by using semiconductor devices as well as environment in the vicinity of the spacecraft. Several aspects of equatorial electrodynamics will be investigated.

India is already into space commercialisation in a small way with the launch of Belgian, German and Korean satellites in the polar orbit with PSLV. Altogether it has put five foreign satellites in the orbit and a sixth one from Singapore is expected to be launched soon.


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