Tag Archives: Sriharikota

PSLV delivers the fifth element in the IRNSS navigation constellation!

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…..

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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!


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, 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!

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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India’s PSLV boosts their next navigation satellite into orbit

The US has GPS, Russia has GLONASS, China has Beidou, Europe is building Galileo, and India is not eager to be left out of the party — they’re building their own navsat constellation, the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).  Yesterday they launched the fourth element of the constellation aboard a PSLV rocket in the XL configuration — six beefier solid rocket boosters strapped to the solid rocket first stage for some extra oomph below the hypergolic Vikas second stage, solid third stage, and hypergolic kick motor acting as a fourth stage.  It was a fully successful launch, and the spacecraft has been injected into the correct orbit.

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SPOT-7 launched this morning!

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.  😉


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India’s second navigation satellite is in orbit

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.

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Mars window opens; Mangalyaan ready for flight!

Mars windows only open once every couple of years, so if you wanna go to Mars, now is the time!


First on deck is Mangalyaan, India’s Mars Orbiter.  Click here for nearly-live updates from ISRO.  The spacecraft was mated to the rocket at Sriharikota a couple of weeks ago.  Over the weekend, spacecraft and upper stage were loaded with hypergolic propellants; today, the second stage was loaded.  Vehicle is active in preparation for the final eight hours of the countdown.  Actual liftoff (if weather cooperates and all goes well) is scheduled for the early afternoon in India, or 0908 GMT.  Weather can scrub any launch, but so far the forecast is good — some clouds, but not violating launch constraints for the PSLV rocket.

If you want to watch it live, go to the ISRO website; the webcast will start at 1400 hours IST, or 0830 GMT.  (That’s 2:30 AM Central Standard Time for us Minnesotans, so if you can’t sleep, there’s something cool to watch!)

It might seem strange that they have selected a relatively low-Isp propellant for the upper stage, but they actually have a good reason.  The PSLV is not one of the most powerful rockets in the world, and it cannot lift an upper stage large enough to pull Mangalyaan directly into the Hohmann Transfer Orbit to Mars.  It’s also why they are launching so much earlier than NASA’s 2013 Mars probe — since the upper stage can’t get them to Mars in one go, they’ll get there in several goes instead.  Mangalyaan will spend a month orbiting the Earth, gradually building up energy until it is able to break Earth’s orbit and transfer to Mars; this requires they leave earlier, and use a long-term storable propellant like monomethyl hydrazine.

It’s an ambitious mission — well, any mission to Mars is, by definition, ambitious.  With three active spacecraft orbiting the planet, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking Mars is routine now.  But it’s still a very difficult planet to get to, and it’s got a well-earned reputation as the Bermuda Triangle of the solar system.  The Indian Space Research Organization is only the fifth organization to make the attempt — and if it succeeds, will be the fourth to do so, after the US, USSR*, and ESA.  Japan’s JAXA made an attempt which unfortunately failed despite enormous persistence on the part of the team.

So cross your fingers, and wish India luck!


*Notably, no post-Soviet Russian mission has succeeded.  The spectacularly ambitious Phobos-Grunt attempted in the last Mars window unfortunately wound up in the ocean instead.  Going to Mars is *hard*, even for people who’ve done it so many times before, and success is a tiny sliver of the possible outcomes, surrounded on all sides by a huge number of opportunities for spectacular disaster.


SPACE.com: India’s First Mission to Mars Launching Tuesday

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