Indian navigation system gets expansion with PSLV launch

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle launched at 1149 GMT (7:49 a.m. EDT) Saturday. Credit: ISRO
India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle launched at 1149 GMT (7:49 a.m. EDT) Saturday. Credit: ISRO

India’s indigenous space-based navigation network received its fourth satellite after a successful liftoff Saturday aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

The 146-foot-tall rocket blasted off at at 1149 GMT (7:49 a.m. EST) Saturday, or 5:19 p.m. local time at the Satish Dhawan Space Center on India’s east coast.

The launcher flew in the PSLV XL configuration powered by a solid-fueled first stage and six enlarged strap-on rocket motors to give the launcher an extra boost.

A hydrazine-burning Vikas second stage engine, a solid-fueled third stage, and a fourth stage kick engine consuming liquid propellants finished the job of placing the satellite in orbit to join the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System.

The four-stage rocket released the 3,142-pound (1,425-kilogram) satellite into an elliptical transfer orbit about 19 minutes after launch.

“After a flight of about 19 minutes 25 seconds, IRNSS 1D satellite was injected to an elliptical orbit of 282.52 km x 20,644 km (175 x 12,827 miles) … and successfully separated from the PSLV fourth stage,” the Indian Space Research Organization said in a statement posted on its website.

The orbit achieved by Saturday’s launch was within a few miles of prelaunch targets, ISRO said.

The PSLV was aiming for an orbit with a high point of 12,831 miles (20,650 kilometers), a low point of 176 miles (284 kilometers) and an inclination of 19.2 degrees.

The spacecraft launched Saturday is the fourth member of the IRNSS network, which will eventually consist of seven satellites in 2016 to broadcast position information to military and civilian users across India and extending up to 900 miles from the nation’s borders.

Designed for a 10-year lifetime, the IRNSS 1D satellite will join navigation satellites launched in July 2013, April 2014 and October 2014. All three previously launched platforms are performing well, ISRO said.

IRNSS 1D extended its power-generating solar panels after the launch, according to ISRO.

The IRNSS 1D spacecraft seen before launch. Credit: ISRO
The IRNSS 1D spacecraft seen before launch. Credit: ISRO

Four maneuvers with the spacecraft’s on-board propulsion system will position the satellite in a circular orbit about 22,300 miles above Earth tilted at an angle of 30.5 degrees to the equator. Its orbit will oscillate north and south of the equator at 111.75 degrees east longitude.

When finished, the Indian navigation system will include three satellites in equatorial geostationary orbits and four spacecraft in inclined orbits that swing about 30 degrees north and south of the equator.

“In the coming months, the next satellite of this constellation, namely IRNSS 1E, is scheduled to be launched by PSLV,” ISRO said in a statement. “The entire IRNSS constellation of seven satellites is planned to be completed by 2016.”

India’s satellite navigation network works like the U.S. military’s Global Positioning System, using multiple spacecraft to triangulate a user’s position on Earth by measuring the time it takes to transmit and receive radio signals between space and the ground.

But the Indian satellite constellation is focused on South Asia and neighboring waters.

Indian officials say the independent navigation service will aid marine traffic, emergency response officials, vehicle tracking applications, mobile communications, mapping, and civilian drivers.

India joins the United States, Russia, China, Europe and Japan in fielding their own space-based navigation systems for global or regional coverage.

Saturday’s PSLV flight marked the third launch of the week to deliver satellites into orbit for the world’s navigation systems. A GPS satellite lifted off Wednesday from Cape Canaveral on a Delta 4 rocket, and a Soyuz launcher sent up two new Galileo satellites for Europe’s navigation fleet Friday.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.