Communication Satellite Launched

Given ISRO’s track record so far, the nation would have a high degree of confidence in the organisation and its ability to achieve goals set for itself

Issue: 12 / 2020By Air Marshal B.K. Pandey (Retd)Photo(s): By ISRO
PSLV C-50 rocket, carrying the 42nd communication satellite designated as CMS-01, placed it in an elliptical geostationary transfer orbit (GTO)

In the afternoon of December 17 this year, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-50 carrying its 42nd communication satellite designated as CMS-01. This mission had been scheduled for December 7 this year, exactly a month after the successful launch of the PSLV C-49 that carried ISRO’s all-weather Earth Observation Satellite along with nine other satellites belonging to other nations. However, on account of the prevailing adverse weather conditions, the launch was postponed by ten days.

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-50 in its XL configuration with six solid strap-on motors carrying the communication satellite, lifted off from the Second Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) at Sriharikota. This was the 52nd flight of the PSLV, a highly successful workhorse designed and developed by ISRO and was the 77th launch vehicle mission from this location in Sriharikota.

The CMS-01 communication satellite will be the first in a new series of communication satellites designed and developed by ISRO after the INSAT and the GSAT series. The satellite that has an estimated mission life of over seven years, was launched to replace the GSAT-12 communication satellite that was launched and inserted into orbit by ISRO in 2011. The GSAT-12 has been in orbit for nine years and has already reached the end of its useful life.

The successful CMS-01 mission was the second one for the ISRO this year

After the burn of all four stages of a PSLV C-50 rocket, the CMS-01 has been placed in an elliptical geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). After four days in GTO, the Liquid Apogee Motor will be fired and with the required manoeuvres, the CMS-01 communication satellite will be inserted into a circular geosynchronous orbit at 36,000 km above the surface of the Earth. The CMS-01 will help expand the nation’s communication networks and enhance capabilities in the domain of e-learning, tele-medicine as well as in disaster management.

The successful CMS-01 mission was the second one for the ISRO this year, with most of the missions including big-ticket solar mission and first unmanned flight of the Gaganyaan mission that have been delayed on account of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Also, the success of the CMS-01 mission came at a time when there have been other successful missions in the world such as the launch on November 15 this year of SpaceX, a private sector venture in the United States, that was able to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) as also the successful recovery of the Chinese Chang’e 5 lunar capsule that departed from the surface of the Moon and has returned to Earth. The Chinese space vehicle landed in the Siziwang district of Inner Mongolia with fresh samples of rock and debris from the surface of the Moon.

The domain of space exploration in India began with the establishment of the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) in 1962 under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) by the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Vikram Sarabhai was appointed as the first Chairman of this new organisation. In fact, the credit for driving the Indian space programme has always been attributed to the vision of Vikram Sarabhai who is regarded as the “Father of the Indian Space Programme”.

With its headquarters in Bengaluru (then Bangalore), INCOSPAR was renamed as ISRO which became the primary agency in India under the control of the central government that was entrusted with the responsibility of handling tasks related to exploration of space as well as development of technologies related to space and its space-based applications. In the year 1972, the government set up a Space Commission and created the Department of Space (DOS). ISRO was then relocated to function under the DOS.

Credit for driving the Indian space programme has always been attributed to Vikram Sarabhai who is regarded as the “Father of the Indian Space Programme”

The very first satellite that was built by ISRO was named as “Aryabhata” after the first of the renowned major mathematician and astronomer of ancient India. However, as the recently established ISRO had not developed the capability to launch satellites, Aryabhata was launched successfully by the Soviet Union on April 19, 1975. Over the years, however, ISRO has developed phenomenal capabilities in space exploration and has launched satellites for varied applications. The list of satellites includes Communication Satellites, Earth Observation Satellites, Navigation Satellites, Experimental Satellites and space vehicles related to Space Science and Exploration.

In the regime of communication satellites, the Indian National Satellite (INSAT) system is one of the largest domestic communication satellite systems in Asia-Pacific region with nine operational communication satellites placed in Geo-stationary orbit. The INSAT system with more than 200 transponders in the C, Extended C and Ku-bands, provides services to telecommunications, television broadcasting, satellite news gathering, societal applications, weather forecasting, disaster warning as well as Search and Rescue operations. The first communication satellite that was launched by ISRO was the INSAT 1A. This satellite was launched on April 10, 1982 on board a Delta rocket. The commissioning of INSAT-1B in 1983, initiated a major revolution in India’s communications sector. Over the years, despite some failures, ISRO has sustained an impressive rate of growth. On February 15, 2017, ISRO set a new world record with the successful launch of the PSLV C-37 that inserted into orbit as many as 104 satellites in a single mission. This performance was far better than the world record set in 2014 by Russia in which the Russian space agency had launched as many as 37 satellites using a Dnepr rocket. ISRO has already undertaken successful unmanned mission to the Moon and has plans to send Indian astronauts into space in 2021 in a mission named as Gaganyaan.

Targets set by ISRO for space exploration in the future, are undoubtedly extremely challenging. Given ISRO’s track record so far, the nation would have a high degree of confidence in the organisation in its ability to achieve goals set for itself. For the present, with the successful launch on December 17 this year, ISRO certainly has added a new feather in its cap!