India Business
India's first commercial satellite launch successful
Apr 23, 2007 - 4:38:23 PM

Sriharikota, April 23 - In a quantum leap forward, India Monday successfully conducted its first launch of a commercial satellite when an indigenously built rocket put an Italian AGILE astronomical satellite into a 550-km equatorial orbit.

The white and magenta polar satellite launch vehicle PSLV-C8 lifted off into the clear blue sky from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here at 3.30 p.m.

Shortly thereafter, it placed the 352-kg AGILE into orbit to catapult India into an elite group of just six nations that have the capability to launch commercial satellites.

What was also significant about Monday's launch was that a European nation had picked the Indian Space Research Organisation - for the launch ahead of more experienced players like France and Russia that between them have launched over 800 space missions.

The US, China and Japan are the other nations with similar capabilities.

AGILE will conduct X-ray and Gamma-ray astronomical tests in an effort to decode the secrets of the universe. This is a first for not only Italy but also for India, which has hitherto only launched weather or remote sensing satellites.

India's prehistoric mathematical astronomers had mapped space as early as 7 BC without the aid of telescopes, rockets and space vehicles. While most of these texts are yet to be juxtaposed with the modern space idiom, it would be interesting to see as to how the Italian scientists fare with modern implements.

Besides AGILE, India's advanced avionic module -, the secondary payload weighing a mere 183 kg, was also placed in orbit. AAM consists of next generation mission computers, and navigation and telemetry systems.

For the launch, AGILE was mounted on top of the Dual Launch Adaptor - with the AAM nestling below it.

The launches were achieved with the aid of a single core motor on board the PSLV-C8. For the first time, in its 11th flight, the PSLV's normal system of six strap-on motors was not utilised.

Due to this downsizing of weight, the launch cost was Rs.680 million - - Rs.120 million lower than the normal price.

Another feature of the flight was that the propellant in the fourth stage was reduced by about 400 kg compared to previous PSLV launches and its lift-off mass was thus 230 tonnes.

Since its first successful flight in 1994, the PSLV has launched eight Indian remote sensing satellites, an amateur radio satellite HAMSAT, a recoverable space capsule SRE-1 and six small satellites for foreign customers into 550-800 km high polar sun synchronous orbits -. Besides, it has launched India's exclusive meteorological satellite Kalpana-1 into a geo synchronous transfer orbit -.

The PSLV will also be used to launch India's first mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1, next year. The rocket's bulbous payload has a diameter of 3.2 metres. It has S-band telemetry and C-band transponder systems for monitoring its health and flight status respectively.

The PSLV was originally designed to place the 1,000-kg class of India's remote sensing satellites into a 900 km polar SSO. Since then, its payload capability has been successively enhanced.

The PSLV-C6 launched on May 2005 carried two payloads - the 1,560-kg CARTOSAT-1 and the 42-kg HAMSAT - into a 620 km SSO. The next flight, PSLV-C7, launched four payloads - the 680-kg CARTOSAT, the 550-kg space capsule recovery experiment -, the 56-kg LAPAN-TUBSAT of Indonesia and the 60-kg PEHUENSAT-1 of Argentina - into a 635-km high polar SSO.

Owned by the Italian Space Agency -, the design, development and fabrication of AGILE was led by Carlogavazzi Space, Milan, Italy, in association with several industries and research institutions.

Germany's Cosmos International arranged for its launch through India's Antrix Corporation.

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