ISRO successfully launched a GSLV-Mark II rocket carrying an advanced weather satellite-INSAT3DR to a geostationary transfer orbit around earth, from Sriharikota.
It is advanced meteorological or weather observation satellite built by India to provide variety of inputs essential for accurate weather forecasting. It is equipped with three payloads- multi spectral imager, sounder and weather data relay transponder. INSAT 3DR also carries a satellite aided search and rescue transponder that picks up and relays alert signals originating from distressed beacons of maritime, aviation and land based users.
The INSAT-3DR joins KALPANA-1 and INSAT-3D meteorological satellites currently orbiting in space.
- India’s capability in meteorological satellites has been good since 1980s. INSAT 3DR is advanced version of earlier weather satellites which will replace the earlier data by a fresh set of data thus making it more accurate.
- The atmospheric infrared sounder prepares a vertical profile of temperature and moisture, thus creating a 3-D spatial distribution of these weather data. Such a picture helps in a much-improved analysis of weather phenomena and results in better forecasts.
- India is an agricultural economy and thus good amount of agricultural inputs are required based on satellite technology for agricultural purposes.
- Sea-surface temperature is also measured by these satellites. It is essentially required by the fishing industry because these sorts of temperature inputs allow them to know the better areas in the sea for catching fish. More accurate information will help India’s strong fishing industry.
- It can recce of weather during low visibility period and during night. In night time, fog and very slow clouds usually come over the horizon and satellites systems are not able to monitor these as they did not have that sort of sensor capability. INSAT 3DR has higher sensors which allow them to monitor fog and low visibility.
Need of INSAT 3DR
Original satellite INSAT-3D launched in 2013 has a ten year life and has completed about three years. But some reduction in efficiency is expected after it reaches its half-life. Since it is the mainstay of India’s space-based capabilities, it is important to have an additional satellite in place, not only to add to the information but also to ensure that there is no disruption in services if something happens to the original satellite. INSAT-3DR would be India’s fallback satellite.
The next satellite in this series, INSAT-3DS, is also being prepared and is expected to be launched in about two years’ time.
History of India’s launch services
India started launching satellites by using its indigenously developed launching system since 1980. Rohini satellite launched during 1980 by SLV-3 rocket was the first time India successfully launched a rocket out in space with indigenous system. Subsequently, India developed two launch systems- PSLV and ASLV.
ASLV was used for specific launches however PSLV over the years as emerged as India’s one of the most reliable workhorse. However, PSLV has certain amount of limitation as far as launch mass is concerned. It can take 2 tons or lesser tons of satellite into space.
Hence, there was a need to develop a launcher which will allow ISRO to launch heavier satellites. Thus, India started with its GSLV programme.
Today, ISRO has achieved to place a weather satellite that weighs 2211kgs, which has made ISRO capable and in league of elite nations who have the capacity to launch heavier satellites.
The operational aviation of India’s heavier rocket GSLV Mark II opens up more launch service revenue opportunities. The GSLV will operate in a different satellite launch segment. Now ISRO is looking at various avenues to earn foreign exchange using this rocket.
Right now ISRO has operationalised mark II which allows satellites of 2-2.5 ton but the ambition is to carry 4+ ton satellites because India’s all communication satellites are more than 4 tons which have been launched by French agency Arianespace. Thus, the development of GSLV Mark III is the future goal. When India will develop GSLV Mark III, it is assumed that the cost of launching will be halved of what ISRO is currently paying.
This was 10th flight of India’s GSLV F05 carrying INSAT 3DR which has again demonstrated India’s space capabilities. It is the first operational flight carrying an indigenously developed cryogenic upper stage (CUS).
Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS)
PSLV launch vehicle has 4 stages- 1st stage has solid propellant, 2nd stage has liquid propellant, 3rd is solid stage and 4th is again liquid stage. But by using only solid and liquid propellants, India was not in a position to create more amount of thrust which is required to launch a heavier satellite. This is the reason GSLV was developed where the first stage is solid followed by liquid stage and 3rd stage is a cryogenic stage.
The cryogenic stage allows the operators to launch heavier satellites with more thrust. ISRO’s INSAT 3DR will be placed 36000 km above earth surface. Hence, such heavy satellites to be place at such height require a heavy thrust generation which is possible with cryogenic engine.
Political history of cryogenic engine
Cryogenic technology: It is a low temperature physics which uses oxygen and hydrogen. These gases liquefy at minus 180 to 250 degree Celsius temperature. It is a very crucial technology to master.
In early 1990s, the Russian agencies offered this technology to India. However in those days, India was under the sanctions regime and missile technology control regime (MTCR) never allowed the Russians to transfer this technology to India. So President of Russia Boris Yeltsin was put under political pressure by USA and the technology was refused to India. India was offered final cryogenic engines for 6-7 missions. Out of this, 50% failures which India has faced, certain failures are because of Russian engine.
Hence, it decided to indigenously develop cryogenic engine. India took slightly more time to master the technology but now it appears that India has mastered the technology as last two launches were by indigenously built cryogenic engines.
How are the launches carried out?
There are many labs of ISRO which work on certain aspects of particular technology. Subsequently, all these labs join hands together and finally a satellite is put in place. Along with ISRO labs, there are few private industries which are also associated with ISRO. They are also involved towards development of these technologies and satellites as they are also involved in manufacturing of component level thigs. Thus, there is a combination of public and private sector which essentially makes a possibility to launch a satellite.
Avenues in India for higher studies and research
Aerospace engineering is in a nascent stage in India. In India, ISRO is the only employer for such engineers. So the opportunities are currently limited but they are increasing as private industry is also motivated to enter this area.
Commercial launch market
ISRO is a research and development organisation and not a production organisation, but the lack of greater industry participation has resulted in it being unable to launch more satellites in a year using the GSLV. Unlike in the case of the PSLV where industry participation is around 80%, it is only about half in the case of the GSLV. Thus, efforts are underway with a target of two GSLV launches in a year by 2018-2019.
India has made significant progress with PSLV which has launched 74 satellites till now. With operationalising of GSLV tech, India can earn more revenue as India will earn positon to launch heavy satellites also.
GSLV Mark III is expected to be launched by end of 2016. Its success will make ISRO truly independent and also gain tremendously through cheaper launches.
GSLV will be used to send second mission to moon- Chandrayaan-2 and also to MARS mission. Chandrayaan-2 is complex mission than first one. First mission had only a satellite launch which was floating around the moon and taking observations, but the second mission has a proposal to launch rover and lander where the robotic system will be put on the moon surface to take observations. It will weigh more so it will require strong rocket and subsequently in 2020 when India will undertake mars mission, again GSLV rocket will be used.