Mixed bag for Indian space agency in 2010

December 30th, 2010 - 6:58 pm ICT by IANS  

ISRO By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, Dec 30 (IANS) It was a year of mixed fortunes for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 2010 with the positive developments overshadowing two failed rocket missions.On the positive side the space agency closed the year with one successful rocket launch, which tested successfully the third largest solid rocket booster in the world, the liquid core engine to be fitted in its rocket geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV Mark III). The ISRO-built HYLAS communication satellite for a European Company launched in 2010 is performing well.

The year also saw world’s major powers - Russia, US and France - showing keen interest in partnering with India in the space sector. French President Nicolas Sarkozy began his Indian trip first by visiting ISRO in Bangalore.

Further ISRO’s 2008 moon mission Chandrayaan took the world by surprise in 2010 when analysis of data obtained by the Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini-SAR) - an instrument onboard Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft - provided evidence of the presence of ice deposits near the moon’s north pole.

On the negative side, ISRO twice failed in its attempt to launch its heavier rocket GSLV and its INSAT-4B satellite failed 50 percent due to a power glitch.

ISRO began the year sending a series of sounding rockets to study the longest annular solar eclipse that was visible in the southern parts of the country Jan 15.

The space agency also successfully conducted the static tests of S-200 - the world’s third largest solid booster - and liquid core stage/engine (L110) to be used in the advanced version rocket GSLV Mark III - being developed to launch four-tonne communication satellites.

L110 is one of the heaviest earth storable liquid stages ever developed by ISRO. The GSLV-Mark III, which is currently under advanced stage of development uses two solid strap-on boosters (S200), L-110 liquid stage and a cryogenic upper stage C-25.

During 2010, ISRO successfully demonstrated its capability to carry out multiple satellite launches by putting into orbit five satellites in one go.

The agency using its rocket - polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) - slung India’s remote sensing satellite Cartosat-2B and four small satellites - one of which was built by students of seven engineering colleges in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

The imagery sent by Cartosat-2B can be used for preparing detailed forest type maps, tree volume estimation, village level crop inventory, town/village settlement mapping and planning for development, rural connectivity, canal alignment, coastal land form, mining monitoring and others.

Though the Cartosat-2B launch was successful, the PSLV rocket did give some anxious moments to ISRO as it found a marginal drop in the pressure in the second stage of the vehicle during mandatory checks.

The PSLV rocket has been the revenue earner for ISRO, launching third party satellites, and a failure would impact its reputation which in turn would affect a lucrative revenue stream.

The PSLV rocket enabled ISRO to cross a new milestone in launching third party satellites by slinging three foreign satellites into orbit, reaching a total of 25 satellite launches.

The major concern for ISRO during the year was its inability to come to grips with its heavier rocket GSLV and its sub systems.

On Dec 25, a GSLV rocket carrying advanced communications satellite GSAT-5P started disintegrating within 50 seconds after the lift off.

And in April, another GSLV rocket plunged into the sea as the ISRO-made cryogenic engine failed to perform.

According to ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan, the space agency offers PSLV rocket for commercial launches and not the GSLV.

He said PSLV enjoys a good track record of successful launches.

On the satellite front, ISRO’s performance of INSAT-4B was affected by 50 percent due to a power glitch.

In August, ISRO finalised the payloads for its second moon mission slated for 2013-14.

The year also saw Indian space programme getting a booster dose with its plan allocation for fiscal 2010-11 rocketing up by 58 percent over the previous year’s budget.

The budgetary allocation for the Department of Space shot up to Rs.5,000 crore for the next fiscal as compared to the revised estimates of Rs.3,172 crore for 2009-10.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at v.jagannathan@ians.in)

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