In the first successful launch in about a year, the Indian Space Research Organisation sent EOS-04, an all-weather earth observation satellite, and two other satellites into space on a PSLV rocket on Monday morning.
The launch starts a busy calendar for the Indian space agency, which has lined up as many as 19 launches this year, after two years of lull caused by the Covid19 pandemic. Monday’s launch was the first successful one after the flight of PSLV-C51 on February 28 last year that had carried a Brazilian satellite, Amazonia-1, and 18 other smaller payloads to space.
An attempt to launch EOS-03, another earth observation satellite in August last year, on a GSLV rocket had ended in a failure.
The PSLV-C52 rocket, carrying EOS-04 and two other satellites, lifted off at 5.59 am from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on Monday morning. The EOS-04, which is a radar imaging satellite meant to provide high quality images of the land under all weather conditions, was deposited in the intended sun synchronous polar orbit 18 minutes later.
One of the other satellites, called INSPIREsat-1, was built by the Thiruvananthapuram-based Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology in collaboration with the University of Colorado in the United States. Students from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and National Central University of Taiwan have also contributed to this satellite. This satellite would study the dynamics of the upper atmosphere. It also carries an X-ray spectrometer for studying solar flares.
This is the first time Taiwan’s scientists have participated in an international team launching a satellite from India. While they are associated with a university, and the Taiwanese authorities are not directly involved, it is a new area of engagement with the people of Taiwan. Before this, ISRO had launched satellites from 34 countries but never from Taiwan. Though India maintains One-China policy, this is seen as part of New Delhi’s approach to engage with Taiwan on non-political areas, especially in economic sectors.
The other satellite, INS-2TD, is a technology demonstrator for the first India-Bhutan joint satellite that is scheduled to be launched next month. The two countries had signed a space agreement last year, and its first outcome would be the launch of BhutanSat, or INS-2B, on a PSLV rocket in March. INS-2TD that flew on Monday has a thermal imaging camera meant for earth observation purposes like assessment of land and water surface temperature, and identification of forest and tree cover.
ISRO’s schedule has been hit badly by the Covid19 pandemic. Before Monday, ISRO has had just three successful launches in the last two years, two in 2020 and one last year.