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PSLV to be launched around April 10

T.S. Subramanian

CHENNAI: After a two-month delay, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C16) will be launched around April 10 to put Resourcesat-2 and two other satellites into orbit.

The PSLV-C16 was to have lifted off from Sriharikota in the first week of February, but the failure of the Geo-stationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F06) on December 25, 2010, and the S-band spectrum scam that hit the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) this year have cast a long shadow over it.

Though the four stages of the PSLV-C16 were fully integrated more than two weeks ago, the ISRO wants to play it safe after the GSLV-16 failure. Asked about the reason for the delay, an ISRO official said: “People are busy dealing with the fallout of the S-band scam and analysing the GSLV failure. The ISRO does not want another failure.”

ISRO officials said they did not want to take chances with the PSLV-C16 flight because several modules of the PSLV and the GSLV were similar. The GSLV's liquid engine stages and up-rated core solid engine stage are all derived from the PSLV, which has become the workhorse of the ISRO for putting into orbit remote-sensing satellites. The second stages of the GSLV and the PSLV, both powered by liquid propellants, are alike. Besides, the four liquid strap-on booster motors around the GSLV core first stage are derived from the PSLV's liquid stages. “We will therefore be extra careful. We cannot afford to lose face this time,” an ISRO rocket engineer said. Tests are under way on the PSLV's second liquid stage, because problems have surfaced there.

The PSLV-C16 will put into orbit three satellites: the ISRO's 1,200-kg Resourcesat-2; the 93-kg Youthsat, with a payload from Russia and two payloads from India; and the 103-kg X-Sat from Nangyang Technological University of Singapore. Resourcesat-2 is a continuation of Resourcesat-1, which was put into orbit on October 17, 2003. Resourcesat-1 is going strong, though it has lasted more than its mission life of five years. The images of the Resourcesat-2 will help in monitoring the health of crops, estimating crop yield, keeping a tab on deforestation and locating the groundwater. Youthsat is meant for studying the effects of the sun on the earth's upper atmosphere.

Two ISRO payloads in Youthsat are from the Space Physics Laboratory of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, the Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, and the ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore.

The X-Sat is a technology demonstrator with remote-sensing and communication payloads.

A standard PSLV version, which weighs 295 tonnes at lift-off and is 44 metres long, will put these satellites in orbit. The satellites will be mated with the rocket in April.

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