SRIHARIHOTA: India has become only the fourth country after the US, Russia and Japan, to have an eye scanning the exotic depths of the universe as of this morning. The ASTROSAT, the Indian Space Research Organisation's multi-wavelength space observatory, has been successfully placed in orbit - 22 minutes and 32 seconds after the PSLV-C30 lifted off from the first launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at precisely 10 AM.
Along the way, the PSLV-C30 mission has also enabled the space agency to cross the half century mark in the number of foreign satellites it has launched. Six satellites, four from the US, one from Indonesia and one from Canada, had piggybacked alongside the Rs 178 crore ASTROSAT.
India's first entry into the highly technical space observatory field has been in the offing for more than a decade - approval for the ASTROSAT was acquired way back in 2004. ASTROSAT's capabilities, in comparison with its older contemporaries already in space, cannot be shrugged off. Granted, the ASTROSAT is still a minnow compared to the father of all space observatories - the Hubble. ISRO's space telescope weighed a mere 1513 kg at liftoff. The Hubble, on the other hand, is the largest satellite launched for scientific purposes ever - at a whopping 11,110 kg. It's primary optical mirror will be 30 cm compared to the Hubble's 240 cm. No, the ASTROSAT is no Hubble, but within its mission parameters, it mounts a very impressive toolkit.
ASTROSAT's instrumentation is designed to sweep the universe across the ultraviolet and X-ray wavelengths. Its mission brief will be to study the mysterious workings of black holes, neutron stars, quasars, white dwarfs and pulsars. Simply, the ASTROSAT will be exploring the more exotic mysteries of a universe that remains an enigma.
To give the observatory the whoomp it requires to carry out its mission, it carries five critical payloads, built by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Raman Research Institute. It also has two payloads with sensors from the Canadian Space Agency and the University of Leicester, UK. In total, the ASTROSAT boasts four X-ray payloads, a UV telescope and a charge particle monitor.
The ASTROSAT's value to Indian science and ISRO's own research lies in the data it collects. The space agency has been unequivocal in stating that access to data collected by the ASTROSAT will be available to all major astronomy Institutions and some Universities in India. ISRO's Chairman A S Kiran Kumar had said earlier that access to observation and increasing the scientific base was one of the major reasons ISRO collaborated with universities. "They can do research and put out papers from the scientific data we produce from our satellites," he had said.
The other milestone reached by ISRO with this mission is also one that cements its presence in a field that it has striven to prove itself in - as a commercial launch provider. With the successful launch of today's six satellite load, ISRO has crossed the half century mark in the number of foreign satellites launched, bringing the current number to 51. The PSLV-C30 mission placed the LAPAN-A2 - 76 kg (Indonesian) and NLS-14 (Ev9) - 14 kg (Canadian) satellites in space. The four identical LEMUR Satellites - 28 kg cumulatively, inserted by the mission are also the first US satellites to be launched by the ISRO.
What it carried:
* ASTROSAT - 1513 kg
* LAPAN-A2 - 76 kg (Indonesian)
* NLS-14 (Ev9) - 14 kg (Canadian)
* 4 identical LEMUR Satellites - 28 kg cumulatively (US)
* The mission will put into orbit India's first space observatory, the multi-wavlength ASTROSAT
* ISRO will cross the half century mark in number of foreign satellites inserted into orbit. Current number stands at 45.
* It will ferry the first American (US) satellites to be out into orbit by ISRO.
ASTROSAT: India's eye on deep space Project
Cost: Rs 178-crore
Mission Brief: To enable a more detailed understanding of our universe.
Capabilities: ASTROSAT will observe universe in the optical, Ultraviolet, low and high energy X-ray regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.
ASTROSAT: Mission Brief
* Collect data to understand high energy processes in binary star systems containing neutron stars and black holes.
* Estimate magnetic fields of neutron stars.
* Study star birth regions and high energy processes in star systems lying beyond our galaxy.
* Detect new, briefly bright X-ray sources in the sky.
* Perform a limited deep field survey of the Universe in the Ultraviolet region.
ASTROSAT's utility belt: (Toolkit)
* Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UVIT): Capable of observing the sky in the Visible, Near Ultraviolet and Far Ultraviolet spectrums.
* Large Area X-ray Proportional Counter (LAXPC): To study variations in the emission of X-rays from sources like X-ray binaries, Active Galactic Nuclei and other cosmic sources.
* Soft X-ray Telescope (SXT): To study how X-ray spectrum of the 0.3-8 keV range coming from distant celestial bodies varies with time.
* Cadmium Zinc Telluride Imager (CZTI): Extends capability of the satellite to sense X-rays of high energy in 10-100 keV range.
* Scanning Sky Monitor(SSM): to detect bright X-ray sources in binary stars + detect and locate sources of bright shirt term X-ray bursts.