Tag Archives: Satish Dhawan Space Centre

India’s PSLV breaks a record!!!

India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, which has become quite the commercial workhorse in the last few years, just obliterated the record for most satellites placed into orbit with a single launch, placing an incredible 104 satellites into orbit.  The primary payload was Cartosat 2D, a large environmental mapping satellite.  After it was released, two Indian nanosatellites were ejected to test out new sensors.  And then came the real marathon — 101 satellites being deployed from 25 Dutch-built “QuadPack” launchers, while the PSLV’s upper stage maintained a very precise and stable orientation as the remaining satellites were ejected two at a time.  If that’s not amazing enough, here’s another tidbit for you: the QuadPacks were only added to the launch manifest in the past six months!  They’re built by a company called Innovative Solutions in Space, which aims to reduce the time and other barriers to getting a payload into orbit by arranging “rideshare” deals on other spacecraft.  This was most definitely the biggest rideshare they’ve arranged so far.  Among the 101 were eight Lemur weather nanosats from Spire Global of San Francisco, BGUSat from Ben Gurion University and Israel Aerospace Industries, the experimental Piezo Electric Assisted Smart Satellite Structure (PEASS) from the Netherlands, DIDO from SpacePharma in Switzerland, Al-Farabi 1 from students in Kazakhstan, Nayif 1 from students in the United Arab Emirates, and a whopping 88 Dove satellites for Planet, a San Fransisco satellite imaging company that has been arranging various “flocks” of its Dove satellites.  This is by far the largest flock yet.

So, what does a launch of 104 satellites look like?  Well, disappointingly, from the ground it looks like any other, since all the interesting stuff happens after its above the atmosphere.  But that still means it looks pretty cool.  😉

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India’s PSLV completes its most technically challenging mission to date

India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, a remarkably reliable rocket, has just completed its most technically challenging launch to date, placing ScatSat 1 (an Indian weather satellite), Pathfinder 1 (a prototype commercial imaging satellite from American company BlackSky), AlSat 1B and AlSat 2B (a pair of Algerian Earth imaging satellites), an Algerian CubeSat, a Canadian CubeSat called CanX-7, and a pair of Indian student-built satellites called PRATHAM and PISAT.  The complex deployment pattern required the PSLV’s fourth stage to relight twice, a first for the vehicle and a major step in positioning it to continue competing in the international launch market.  This capability is critical for multi-payload deployments, an increasingly popular method of getting one’s payload into orbit more cheaply, especially as small satellites become far more capable.

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More Stuff Going Up and Down: GSLV with Insat 3DR, and Soyuz TMA-20M lands

This was a busy week for spaceflight.  In addition to the ongoing SpaceX investigation and the OSIRIS-REx launch, there was also a launch from India and a landing in Kazakhastan.

First off, the successful return of Aleksey Ovchinin, Oleg Skripochka, and Jeffrey Williams aboard Soyuz TMA-20M earlier this week:

You may remember them as the crew that had this awesome mission patch:
Soyuz-TMA-20M-Mission-Patch

And then from Sriharikota, India’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre, an all-domestic GSLV rocket blasted off, delivering the Insat 3DR weather satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit.  The GSLV has had a difficult path, as various components are replaced or added or removed or changed and with an unfortunately high rate of failures.  So this launch was particularly important for ISRO, which seeks to become a viable international competitor in the commercial launch market.  Their rockets are cheaper even than Falcon 9, and GSLV’s increased performance over the highly reliable PSLV is critical in order to capture valuable geosynchronous business.  (GSLV actually stands for Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle.)  What’s more, ISRO will be depending on GLSV to place their next Chandrayaan moon probe into lunar transfer orbit — and that one will be their most ambitious deep space probe yet, featuring orbiter, lander, and rover in one mission.  But until then, check out the Insat 3DR launch.  Notice one unique feature: the core stage is solid, while the strap-ons are hypergolic, so the plume is inverted from what you’d expect on an Atlas or Long March launch.  It’s an intriguing hybrid of a rocket — solid core, hypergolic strap-on boosters, and a cryogenic upper stage.  And perhaps it is finally coming into its own.

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India’s new spaceplane makes a successful test flight

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is pretty serious about building a credible space program.  After already positioning themselves favorably in the competitive international launch business, they’ve already accomplished the remarkable feat of placing a spacecraft in orbit around another planet — one of only a handful of nations to do so.  Now they’re working towards reusable spaceflight, and also manned spaceflight by setting out on one of the holy grails of human spaceflight: the reusable orbital spaceplane that takes off and lands on a runway.  No one has yet come particularly close; the Space Shuttle is by far the most successful spaceplane, but it launched as a two-stage rocket and was only partially reusable.  Venturestar sought to become a single-stage-to-orbit fully reusable rocketplane, but was cancelled.  X-37 is a fully reusable spaceplane, but cannot launch itself and requires an expendable booster to carry it to orbit.  (Or the Space Shuttle.  It was originally envisioned as fitting into a Shuttle’s payload bay.)

As the first major step on this rather long path, ISRO has built and launched a scale model spaceplane very similar in appearance to the X-37.  Called the Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator, it launched early today from Sriharikota’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre atop a solid-propellant ATV sounding rocket, an unusually heavy sounding rocket built by ISRO largely for projects such as this one.  It accelerated the automonous spaceplane to at least Mach 5, reaching a maximum altitude of 65 km and a downrange distance of 450 km before making what was apparently a surprisingly well controlled bellyflop into the Bay of Bengal.  (The test article was not intended to be recoverable, as it survival was considered dubious.  But it will have recoverable successors.)  It carried out tests of the heatshield technology, guidance, flight control, and navigation systems.  It did not reach the Karman Line and thus is not a true spaceflight, but it was not intended to be; this is a subscale test to validate the basic design before proceeding to higher energies.

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PSLV places the sixth Indian navigational satellite into orbit

India’s PSLV successfully placed the IRNSS-1F satellite into orbit today:

One more spacecraft is planned to complete the constellation.  IRNSS is India’s domestic satellite navigation system, intended to reduce their reliance on foreign constellations such as GPS and GLONASS.

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Rocket Launch Catchup: Long March 3B, Zenit 3, Proton, Soyuz TMA-19M, PSLV

It’s been a busy week in rocketry!

China

December 9, China placed the Chinasat 1C communications satellite into orbit during a spectacular nighttime launch of the Long March 3B from Xichang space center.

Russia

Russia, meanwhile, had a typically busy time, with three launches.  First off on December 11 was what could end up being the final Zenit launch if Russia doesn’t resolve its issues with Ukraine, as that’s where Zenit is made.  It placed the Elektro-L 2 weather satellite into orbit for the Russian government, launching from Baikonur Cosmodrome (with musical accompaniment in this video clip):

The very next day, they launched a Proton rocket carrying a Russian military communications satellite of undisclosed function, but which experts believe is the second element of the Garpun data relay constellation, which serves a role similar to NASA’s TDRSS constellation.  I could not find a video of the launch, but I did find this one showing rollout of the vehicle.

And then yesterday Baikonur hosted a third launch, and easily the most anticipated of the week: the Soyuz TMA-19M launch, which delivered Yuri Malenchenko (Russia), Timothy Kopra (USA), and Timothy Peake (United Kingdom) to the ISS.  Launch and rendezvous were flawless, but final docking ran into a hiccup and Malenchenko completed the docking manually.  Peake, who is making his first spaceflight, is the first British astronaut in space actually under the auspices of the British government (via its membership in ESA); previous British astronauts have had to emigrate to the US and join NASA first (Michael Foale), or buy Soyuz seats with private funds.

And if you have the latest version of Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer, you can see the view from a viewing location away from the pad in 360 video, courtesy of BBC News.  Makes you feel like you’re there!

India
Rounding out the week so far and cementing a very eastern hemisphere bias to the launch schedule is India, whose PSLV out of Satish Dhawan Space Center on Sriharikota Island successfully placed six Singaporean satellites into space at once, the largest being TeLEOS 1, an Earth observation satellite; the other five were small university-developed payloads.
Next Up:
Next are China’s Long March 2B, set to place the Dark Matter Particle Explorer into orbit tomorrow, a dual-payload Galileo launch by Soyuz, the Falcon 9 return-to-flight with Orbcomm payloads, a Progress launch, another Proton, and probably also the Gaofen 4 geosynchronous Earth observation satellite, before the year ends.

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India launches its first space observatory!

This is a major step forward for India’s space program, on the same level as their successful Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan) in terms of the advancement and commitment to scientific research that it demonstrates.  The spacecraft is called Astrosat, and it is equipped to observe in ultraviolet, medium x-ray, and hard x-ray, with gamma ray detectors to enable it to study the gamma ray bursts.

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