Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was present at the spaceport at Sriharikota and congratulated ISRO scientists for the successful launch.
He said that while this was the 100th mission carried out by ISRO, the year also happens to be the 50th year of India’s space programme.
The PM recalled his stint as a member of the Space Commission when he had the “honour” of working alongside the then ISRO Chairman Satish Dhawan whose contribution has been acknowledged by ISRO by naming the space centre at Sriharikota after him.
At 9.53 am, which was two minutes behind the scheduled time, ISRO’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C21 (PSLV-C21), 44m tall and weighing around 230 tonnes, hurtled itself towards the skies with the two satellites – SPOT 6, a 720-kg French earth observation satellite, and Proiteres, a 15-kg Japanese micro-satellite.
With a rich orange flame at its tail, PSLV-C21 ascended amid cheers of ISRO scientists and the media team assembled at the launch centre.
Scientists at ISRO’s new mission control room anxiously watched their computer screens as the rocket escaped the earth’s gravitational pull.
At around 18 minutes into the flight, the rocket delivered SPOT 6 into its intended polar orbit at an altitude of 655 km. A few seconds later, it was the turn of Proiteres.
This was what the mission was all about and scientists at mission control were visibly relieved and started clapping at the successful ejection of the two satellites.
Manmohan Singh, who also complimented EADS Astrium of France and Osaka Institute of Technology of Japan for the successful launch of their satellites, asserted that the fund spent on the space programme was money well spent.
SPOT 6 is the heaviest foreign satellite to be carried by a PSLV since 1999 when ISRO started launching satellites of foreign agencies. Proiteres will study the powered flight of a small satellite by an electric thruster and observe Japan’s Kansai district with a high-resolution camera.
On the two-minute delay in the rocket’s lift-off, ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan said it was to avoid possible collision with space debris. He said ISRO would set up a Multi-Object Tracking Radar (MOTR) to track space debris and time its rocket launches accordingly.
Till date, ISRO has successfully launched 27 foreign satellites with its PSLV rockets and today’s mission took the tally to 29.