ASTROSAT, India’s First Astronomical Satellite Launched

A satellite launch vehicle carrying ASTROSAT, India’s first astronomy observatory to study distant celestial objects, was launched from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh today, Sep 28, 20.

PSLV Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-30 lifted off from the launch pad at the rocket port of Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, around 80 km from Chennai, at 10 am IST, Sep 28. Minutes later, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) declared that its 30th successful Launch for the PSLV series,  and that they have successfully launched ASTROSAT into the orbit.

PSLV-XL rocket lifted off with India’s first space-borne astronomical observatory along with one Canadian and one Indonesian satellite in orbit, as well as four American nano-satellites, a first.

The time of launch coincides with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley and on the same day as a planned visit to President Barack Obama. As The Guardiannoted, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission entered orbit around Mars just days before Modi’s visit to the US in September 2014.

With its successful launch, India becomes the first country in the developing world to have its own telescope in space and joins a select club of US, European Union and Japan to have such a capability. China is still working on its first space telescope called the ‘Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope’.

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The turbo-charged ‘mini Hubble Telescope’ will be used to study black holes and analyse how stars and galaxies are actually born and how they ultimately die.

This flight of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is historic as, for the first time, American satellites are being launched by India. Till recently, the US had kept ISRO under sanctions and was denied the critical cryogenic engine technology which pushed back India’s foray into deep space by two decades.

The four small LEMUR satellites are being launched for a San Francisco-based company.

The 1,515-kilogram satellite has been assembled at the ISRO’s Satellite Centre in Bengaluru. It took the agency Rs. 178 crore and 10 years to make it. The idea was conceived more than 20 years ago.

Top Indian institutions like Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai, Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) in Bengaluru, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) in Pune and the Raman Research Institute (RRI) of Bengaluru were involved in its development.

With its successful launch, ISRO asserts, India will be the only country to have multi-wavelength space-based observatory capable of monitoring intensity variations in a broad range of cosmic sources.

According to ISRO, the satellite will have concurrent wide spectral coverage over visible, ultra-violet, soft X-ray and hard X-ray regions of the spectrum.

“Black holes, neutron stars, pulsars, white dwarfs, quasars, and active galactic nuclei are just some of the cosmic objects that the ASTROSAT will observe,” said Dr John Hutchings of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Canada, who was a part of the mission.

The five instruments and one passive monitor on board ASTROSAT will all have switched on by December 13, 2015, 45 days from when ASTROSAT enters orbit. The switch-on sequence goes like:

  • Charged Particle Monitor – September 29
  • Scanning Sky Monitor – October 6
  • Cadmium-Zinc-Telluride Imager – October 6
  • Large Area X-ray Proportional Counter – October 20
  • Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope – December 10
  • Soft X-ray Telescope – December 13
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