The textbook launch of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) this week added another feather to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO’s) cap. The successful launch lofted into the orbit the remote sensing satellite Cartosat-2B and four other satellites, after a perfect lift-off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. Cartosat-2B is mainly intended to augment remote sensing data services to the users of multiple spot scene imagery with 0.8 metre spatial resolution and 9.6 km swath in the panchromatic. Cartosat-2 and 2A, two Indian remote sensing satellites in orbit, are currently providing such services. A set of four satellites including Studsat built by students of seven engineering colleges in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Alsat from Algeria, AISSAT I of Canada and TISAT of Switzerland accompanied Cartosat 2 on its trip to orbit. Cartosat-2B becomes the tenth to join the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellite system, making the IRS the world’s largest civilian earth observation constellation used for various developmental applications. IRS family includes IRS-P4 (Oceansat-1); the experimental TES, Resourcesat-1; Cartosat-1; Cartosat-2; Cartosat-2A, IMS-1, radar imaging satellite RISAT-2 and Oceansat-2. Cartosat-2B is the 16th consecutive successful flight for the launch vehicle—PSLV—the last being in September 2009. Moreover, PSLV-C9 had placed 10 satellites in orbit on April 28, 2008, namely Cartosat-2A, Indian Mini Satellite-1, and eight nano satellites from abroad. Space scientists from across the world showered encomiums on ISRO for launching several satellites with one vehicle. For, it is not an easy task; it requires great attention and should be launched with a sequence ensuring no collision. No wonder, the famous Chandrayaan-I was carried out successfully by PSLV.
It is to be noted that ISRO was not impeded by a major setback on April 15 when the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D3) failed and fell into the Bay of Bengal. GSLV-D3 was launched using an Indian-designed and built cryogenic engine for the first time. But ISRO without losing heart came back with a bang—Cartosat-2B is the latest in the Indian remote sensing satellite series and the 16th in this series. Besides launching 16 Indian satellites successfully, the PSLV has also launched 22 foreign satellites during 1994-2009 into polar sun synchronous, geosynchronous transfer, highly elliptical and low earth orbits and has repeatedly proved its reliability and versatility. The PSLV has four stages using solid and liquid propulsion systems alternately. The first stage is one of the largest solid-fuel rocket boosters. The second stage employs the Vikas engine and carries liquid propellant. The third stage uses 7 tonnes of HTPB-based solid propellant. The fourth and the terminal stage of PSLV has a twin engine configuration using liquid propellant. One important modification in the latest flight compared to the previous ones of PSLV is the use of dual launch adopter to carry two large satellites. Soon after injection into the orbit and separation from the PSLV C-15 fourth stage, the two solar panels of Cartosat 2B automatically deployed. No surprise, PSLV is called “reliable horse” for creating records one after other. According to sources, now scientists in ISRO are working on PSLV-HP, standing for ‘high performance’. It will have improved strap-ons motors, and the payload capability will be raised to 2000 kg. The HP version will be used to launch a constellation of seven navigation satellites by 2012. In recent times, ISRO has worked very hard to prove India’s space science capabilities. The government must support the organisation’s scientific community and give the research fraternity the autonomy they deserve. We can proudly say that ISRO is country’s pride and neighbours’ (read enemies’) envy for its constant achievements.