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Satellites in polar orbit after successful Indian launch

Posted: January 10, 2007

An Indian rocket successfully orbited a cache of four satellites Wednesday in the first space launch of the year.

Liftoff of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle was at 0353 GMT (10:53 p.m. EST Tuesday) from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on India's east coast. The four-stage rocket and its payloads arrived in orbit about 16 minutes after launch, and deployment of the satellites was completed about four minutes later.

The booster was shooting for a Sun-synchronous orbit about 395 miles high, according to the Indian Space Research Organization.

The 145-foot-tall rocket was the first PSLV to use a dual payload adapter to launch two primary payloads on the same mission. The Cartosat 2 Earth observation satellite rode atop the apparatus, while a recoverable capsule was housed below.

Cartosat 2 joins six other spacecraft currently operating in India's remote sensing satellite fleet, and is the 12th member of the program throughout its history. The 1,500-pound craft is a direct follow-on to the larger Cartosat 1 satellite, which was launched in 2005.

Data obtained by Cartosat 2 during its 5-year mission will aid officials in mapping and land management across India. The satellite carries a black-and-white camera with a resolution of better than one meter, according to ISRO officials.

The high resolution camera marks an improvement over Cartosat 1, which could only resolve objects as small as about two-and-a-half meters in black-and-white images. Cartosat 2's camera will take pictures in swaths approximately 6 miles wide, while Cartosat 1's camera produces imagery covering much larger areas almost 20 miles wide.

Cartosat 2 can also be pointed up to 45 degrees along and across its ground track as it flies above Earth, allowing it to gather different views of imagery targets.

Also released from the rocket's upper stage was the Space Capsule Recovery Experiment, a 1,200-pound cone-like craft that is India's first recoverable satellite.

The capsule, also known as SRE, will spend between 13 and 30 days in orbit conducting materials science and biotechnology experiments within a small laboratory inside the spacecraft.

After the experiments are complete, the craft will fire on-board thrusters to slow its velocity and drop into the atmosphere to a parachuted landing in the Bay of Bengal about 100 miles offshore from the Indian east coast.

The capsule includes an inflatable flotation system to keep the craft afloat until recovery forces arrive. Teams from ISRO and the Indian Coast Guard will take part in recovery operations, said an ISRO spokesperson.

Indian space officials hope a successful mission for the capsule will lead to the development of a recoverable platform for scientific experiments in microgravity.

Two secondary payloads were also launched Wednesday for international organizations.

LAPAN Tubsat is a microsatellite jointly managed by the Indonesian space agency and the Technical University of Berlin. The 123-pound spacecraft features a pair of medium and low resolution video cameras to be used for surveillance and remote sensing.

A small 13-pound craft called Pehuensat 1 was built by students in Argentina. The satellite also includes an amateur radio payload to broadcast telemetry data and voice messages in English, Spanish and Hindi.

The next launch of the PSLV will loft Italy's AGILE astrophysics observatory later this year. India also plans a launch of the larger Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle in July with INSAT 4CR, a communications satellite to replace the spacecraft lost in the GSLV's failure on its most recent mission in July 2006, according to an ISRO spokesperson.