Spaceflight Insider

India’s PSLV rocket puts six Singapore satellites into orbit

The ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre ISRO photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Archive image. Photo Credit: ISRO

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched one of the agency’s PSLV boosters and, in so doing, placed six satellites for Singapore into orbit. Liftoff occurred at 7:30 a.m. EST (12:30 GMT) on Wednesday, Dec. 16, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota, India. The mission, designated PSLV-C29, was flawlessly conducted, with the satellites being placed into their intended orbit.

ISRO started countdown operations on Monday, Dec. 14. At that time, the launch vehicle was filled with propellant a few hours after the countdown commenced, with a series of checks being performed to ready the booster for ignition.

The PSLV rocket was used in its CA (core alone) configuration, which means it was launched without the use of solid strap-on motors. The vehicle used a “typical” PSLV flight profile to fulfill its mission objectives, climbing vertically for just a few seconds and then rolling toward a south-easterly direction.

“There was rainfall over the region … despite the weather conditions, the team has been able to pull off a perfect launch,” said SDSC director P. Kunhikrishnan.

Hoisting of PSLV-C29 second stage in the Mobile Service Tower.

Hoisting of the PSLV-C29 second stage in the Mobile Service Tower. Photo Credit: ISRO

The rocket’s first stage separated from the remainder of the booster about one minute and 51 seconds after lifting off. One minute later, the payload fairing was detached from the launch vehicle exposing the rocket’s payload.

The second stage was ignited, continuing the flight until it also separated at four minutes and 20 seconds into the mission.

The third stage then flew for five minutes and 23 seconds, delivering the payload into a suborbital trajectory and separated at T+9 minutes and 44 seconds.

The fleet of satellites was deployed 18–22 minutes into the flight. They were injected into a circular low-Earth orbit (LEO) at an altitude of 341 miles (550 km), inclined some 15 degrees to the equator.

The flight ended in testing restart and cutoff of the fourth stage, at approximately 67 and a half minutes after launch.

This was a historic mission for ISRO, as it was the first time the agency conducted these tests. It is hoped that this technique will allow the country to launch several satellites at different orbits. ISRO could use this capability during the space agency’s 2016 launch manifest.

“The restart and shut off of the fourth stage engine is done as a first step towards launching multiple satellites but in different orbits,” a senior ISRO official told IANS.

At the time of its restart, the fourth stage was at an altitude of 325.53 miles (523.9 km). The stage’s engine was active for about four seconds lifting it to an altitude of 325.6 miles (524 km) before the stage was cut-off again.

The rocket’s main passenger was the TeLEOS-1 satellite. Other payloads included smaller spacecraft – two micro-satellites (VELOX-CI, Kent Ridge-1) and three nanosatellites (VELOX-II, Athenoxat-1, Galassia).

TeLEOS-1, built by ST Electronics, is Singapore’s first commercial Earth observation satellite. Weighing 882 lbs. (400 kg), its dimensions are 6.23 by 6.56 by 5.25 feet (1.9 by 2 by 1.6 m). It features an electro-optical camera and four deployable fixed solar arrays. The satellite will be operated by the AgileSpace company. It is expected to be operational for five years.

TeLEOS-1 should deliver high-resolution imagery – 3.28 feet (1 m) panchromatic – for precise and high temporal change detection, mapping, and in-depth image analysis. The images will be collected with an average revisit time of 12 to 16 hours.

AgileSpace states that it will enable decision makers and users convenient access to high temporal imagery and geospatial solutions to respond to time-sensitive events, pertaining to homeland security, border control, maritime situation awareness, disaster monitoring and management around the equatorial belt.

VELOX-CI was built by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. It is a 271-lb (123 kg) experimental microsatellite mission designed to study tropical climates. It will be operated by NTU, using a special technique known as radio occultation and advanced algorithms. The spacecraft will be tasked with obtaining weather data such as upper atmospheric temperatures, humidity, and pressure, which are useful for long-term climate studies.

VELOX-CI features two deployable solar arrays and its technical payload consists of a GPS occultation experiment, experimental RF probe, and other experimental instruments.

The VELOX-II is a 28.6-lb (13 kg) six-unit CubeSat. It is a part of NTU’s Undergraduate Satellite Program, which provides an opportunity for engineering students to participate in a multidisciplinary, hands-on space project. It features two deployable fixed solar arrays and will be carrying experimental satellite-based communication hardware.

“If we have our own Singapore-made satellites, we can customize the technology, the sensors and instruments to meet our own needs. For instance, we can monitor haze. We can get the information anywhere, anytime,” said Low Kay Soon, Director of the Satellite Research Centre at NTU.

Kent Ridge-1 is a hyperspectral imaging microsatellite developed by the National University of Singapore (NUS) together with Berlin Space Technologies (BST), designed for Earth observation purposes. It weighs 172 lbs. (78 kg) and is based on BST’s LEOS-50 platform. It is scheduled to be operated by NUS for five years.

The Kent Ridge-1 spacecraft carries three payloads: two medium resolution hyperspectral imaging payloads based on the Fourier transform recovery (FTR) method (PPL1 and PPL2) developed by NUS, and one high-resolution video payload (SPL) developed at BST. These instruments will enable multitudes of new applications in the monitoring of land, water, and vegetation and will be useful to contribute towards the effort to prevent and manage such disasters in this region.

The Galassia two-unit CubeSat, developed by NUS, is designed for atmospheric research. It carries two payloads: one measures the total electron count in the ionosphere, and the other, named Small Photon-Entangling Quantum System (SPEQS), will generate and detect photon pairs. The satellite weighs some 7.5 lbs. (3.4 kg) and features solar cells.

A model of the TeLEOS-1 satellite.

A model of the TeLEOS-1 satellite. Photo Credit: AgileSpace.

Athenoxat-1 is a three-unit Earth-observing CubeSat developed by Microspace Rapid Pte Ltd. of Singapore to demonstrate the functionality of a night vision optical payload on a CubeSat-Class Nanosatellite. It features four deployable fixed solar arrays and solar cells.

“The satellites will be able to produce information at a much higher frequency. This will surely be very important when you use it for disaster monitoring in the region like Southeast Asia,” said Goh Cher Hiang, Project Director of the Satellite Program at NUS.

The four-stage PSLV booster is India’s most reliable launch vehicle. It has been in service for more than twenty years and has been used to launch various satellites for some of the country’s most historic missions, such as the Chandrayaan-1, Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), Space Capsule Recovery Experiment, and Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).

The rocket has been used to delivered more than 40 satellites to space for 19 countries. PSLV is capable of lofting up to 3.25 metric tons to LEO and about 1.42 metric tons to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).

The rocket uses an Earth-storable liquid-fueled rocket engine for its second stage, known as the Vikas engine, developed by the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre. The third stage of the PSLV is powered by a solid rocket motor that provides the upper stage’s high thrust after the atmospheric phase of the mission. The fourth stage is composed of two Earth-storable liquid-fueled engines.

The 144 ft. (44 meters) tall CA version of the PSLV, which was used in Wednesday’s launch, is an upgraded version of the rocket in its standard configuration. The vehicle, which has a mass of 230 metric tons at liftoff, does not include the six strap-on boosters used by the PSLV standard variant.

Wednesday’s mission was India’s fifth launch this year, and the 32nd PSLV launch overall. The country’s next flight is scheduled for January 2016 when a PSLV-XL rocket is scheduled to send the IRNSS-1E navigation satellite into space. Two further IRNSS launches are scheduled for early next year.

PSLV-C29 launch with TeLEOS-1.

PSLV-C29 launch with TeLEOS-1. Photo Credit: ISRO


Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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