Two more successful launches this week! First off, yesterday India placed the Resourcesat 2A spacecraft into orbit aboard a PSLV XL rocket from Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Sriharikota Island. The satellite will fly on a polar orbit (inclination 98.7 degrees) to study resource utilization, soil contamination, water usage, and so forth across the Indian subcontinent.
Then this evening, a rare Delta IV Medium rocket (the “stick” configuration of the Delta IV, seldom used because although it is highly reliable, it is also highly *expensive*) placed the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) 8 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. WGS-8 will serve military customers, providing both targeted and full-disk communications beams in variety of frequency bands. It is the most capable military commsat launched by the USAF, capable of serving multiple bands simultaneously and even switching between them on the fly.
And here’s a rather different perspective on the launch — a deceptively peaceful one, shot by a drone over nearby Cocoa Beach. The audio is from the operator’s cellphone, so mostly records the sound of the ocean waves rolling in. You have to listen carefully to hear the distant warbling roar of the rocket.
India’s PSLV rocket placed the IRNSS-1E satellite into orbit today. This is the fifth of seven satellites that make up the initial capability constellation for India’s domestic satellite navigation system, the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System. It represents another step in the PSLV’s remarkable run of successful flights out of Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharkota, Andhra Pradesh.
IRNSS is one of several competitors to GPS that exist now, as it seems every country with a serious satellite program is aiming to launch their own. Russia has GLONASS, China has Beidou, Europe is building Galileo, and Japan also plans a similar system. Low-to-mid Earth Orbit is filling up quickly…..
The French SPOT-7 satellite launched aboard an Indian PSLV today:
PSLV is becoming increasingly relevant on the global commercial launch market, particularly for smaller payloads such as this. Indeed, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi remarked that PSLV’s most famous payload today, the Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter Mission, cost considerably less than the budget for Hollywood blockbuster “Gravity” — including the launch vehicle and mission costs. Space is getting closer all the time. 😉
It’s been a busy week for launches, despite the loss of the Eastern Range. Today, India successfully launched IRNSS-1B, the second element of their domestic satellite navigation constellation, aboard a PSLV rocket.
And the Eastern Range is working towards coming back online. Although the USAF still won’t give a date for when the radar will be available again, the successful launch of DMSP F-19 allows them to tentatively schedule their next Atlas V launch of NROL-67 from Cape Canaveral to April 10. Assuming that flies on time, the CRS-3 mission with Dragon to the ISS is penciled in for April 14. Dragon will be beaten to the station by a Progress capsule, though, scheduled to blast off from Baikonur Cosmodrome on the 9th.