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India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-20 blasts off, carrying Indo-French satellite Saral from the Satish Dhawan space centre at Sriharikota, yesterday.
Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh: An Indian rocket yesterday successfully placed in orbit seven satellites — the Indo-French satellite Saral, the world’s first smart phone-operated nano satellite, a space telescope satellite and four other foreign satellites — in copybook style.
A little after 6pm, the rocket — Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C20 (PSLV-C20) standing 44.4 metres tall and weighing around 230 tonnes — hurtled towards the skies ferrying the seven satellites, together weighing 668.5 kg.
President Pranab Mukherjee witnessed the first of the 10 space missions planned by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) during 2013 and also the country’s 102nd space mission.
The other dignitaries who witnessed the successful launch were Andhra Pradesh Governor E S L Narasimhan, Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V Narayanasamy.
With a rich orange flame at its tail and a plume of white fume, the rocket ascended towards the evening skies amidst the resounding cheers of ISRO scientists and a media team assembled at the launch centre. Space scientists at ISRO’s new rocket mission control room were glued to their computer screens watching the rocket escaping the earth’s gravitational pull.
At around 18 minutes into the flight, PSLV-C20 spat out the SARAL satellite. The following four minutes saw the rocket ejecting six satellites in their intended polar orbit. Immediately on the successfully ejection of the seven satellites, scientists at the mission control centre were visibly relieved and started clapping happily.
Mukherjee congratulated the scientists. “Delighted to witness the remarkable launch of the PSLV. I congratulate ISRO for successfully executing the mission,” he said. He said India’s capability was recognised by the world and stressed the need to apply technology in various aspects of life touching the commonman, adding that innovation and drive towards self-reliance was the need of the hour in increasing India’s capability.
Mukherjee also said the people were looking forward to the launch of the heavier rocket - the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III — which will be a huge step forward to place India amongst the top few space-faring nations. The president said socially relevant uses of technology that meet the country’s development goals are imperative to address the demands of population. Our endeavour must be to lower the cost of access to space through greater innovation and drive towards technology refinement.
“ISRO enjoys tremendous trust amongst our countrymen. This faith and confidence puts the onus back on the organisation to raise the bar of its performance, scale greater heights and explore newer frontiers. For India to occupy its rightful place in the comity of nations, we must promote innovation and technological advancement. ISRO should be in the forefront of such a movement,” the president said.
Exuding happiness at the successful mission ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan thanked Mukherjee for his presence.
The successful launch of the satellites takes ISRO’s tally of launching foreign satellites to 35. ISRO started putting into space third-party satellites for a fee in 1999 on its PSLV-C2 rocket.
Since then India has been successful in launching medium-weight satellites for overseas agencies. Initially ISRO started carrying third-party satellites atop PSLV rockets as co-passengers of its own remote sensing/earth observation satellites.
In 2007, ISRO for the first time launched an Italian satellite —Agile — as a standalone for a fee.
India began its space journey in 1975 with the launch of Aryabhatta using a Russian rocket and till date, it has completed 102 space missions.
Interestingly, the PSLV carried seven satellites for second time after having done so in September 2009. However, the highest number of satellites put into orbit in one go by the PSLV rocket — 10 — was in April 2008.