Just a day after the US space agency, NASA, launched its mission – the Parker Solar Probe rocket – to send a satellite closer to the Sun, the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced that it would launch two space missions every month.
Speaking at a media conference in southern Indian city of Bangalore on August 13, Chairman of the Organisation K Sivan said that a total of 31 launches would take place in the next 16 months. “The space agency has a tight schedule ahead, as we are targeting nine launches over the next five months and 22 missions from February to December in 2019, aiming at two per month,” he added.
The ISRO chief informed the press that the Indian space agency identified 50 satellites which would be launched in the next three years. Commenting on the ISRO’s next mission, Sivan stressed that they would launch two commercial satellites onboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-42 rocket from Britain next month. Later in October, a GSAT-29 onboard Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk 3 D2 will be launched mainly to facilitate Internet to rural India. And on November 30, the agency will launch GSAT-11 onboard Arianespace space agency’s rocket from French Guiana on the north Atlantic coast.
Sivan further revealed that the ISRO would attempt India’s second lunar mission – Chandrayaan-2 – on January 3, a decade after its first mission in 2008. He claimed that the advanced satellites, to be launched by the ISRO in the coming years, could not only perform earth observation, but also conduct ocean mapping. “We have also scheduled the launch of GSAT-20 in August 2019, which along with the three other satellites, will help in expanding 100Gbps (Giga bytes per second) of Internet connectivity to rural India,” said the ISRO chief.
In a rare first, the ISRO will conduct a test flight of its new rocket – Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) – in May-June 2019. According to Sivan, a SSLV will cost just one-tenth of that of a PSLV and the vehicle, with a length of 34m, can be used to launch smaller satellites. “It will be an on-demand launcher, requiring minimum infrastructure, and can be readied for launch within 72 hours, as against a PSLV rocket which requires 45-60 days before the launch,” insisted the senior scientist. He further said that the ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix would start producing the SSLV (once designed by mid-2019) in 2020.
Furthermore, the ISRO plans to test the reusability of a rocket by testing the landing capacity. Sivan explained that the ISRO might outsource the manufacturing of PSLV rockets to Indian industry in an attempt to step up its launching capacity. “The maiden flight of the rocket made by Indian industry will be in 2019-20,” he told the media.
It is to be noted that the ISRO created a world record by launching 104 satellites from six countries, including India, in one go from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on February 15, 2017. In about 18 minutes, all the 104 satellites were released into space, each travelling at the speed of over 27,000km per hour – 40 times the speed of an average passenger airline.
In 2013-14, the ISRO helped India become the first country to enter Mars orbit on its first attempt. The Indian space agency launched the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), commonly known as Mangalayaan, into Earth orbit on November 5, 2013. The MOM entered Mars orbit on September 24, 2014, as the mission was completed at a record low cost of USD 74 million.
PM Modi speaks at 72nd Independence Day celebrations
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that India would launch its first manned space mission by 2022. Delivering his last Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort in New Delhi ahead of next year’s General Election, the PM stressed: “India is proud of our scientists, who are excelling in their research and are at the forefront of innovation. In the year 2022 or, if possible, before, India will unfurl the tricolour in space.”
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