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Satellite launch into select club

Sriharikota, June 30: The Indian Space Research Organisation has begun the countdown to July 10, its “red-letter day”.

At 4 pm this day, the Sriharikota range will witness the launch of the 2.2-tonne Insat-4c satellite. The placing of the satellite in its designated orbital slot means direct-to-home television for Indian viewers.

Although July 10 has been fixed as the launch date, a window between July 10 and July 15 has been kept open to accommodate delays.

Right now at the Sriharikota range, a 49-metre-tall geosynchronous launch vehicle (GSLV) with four strap-on boosters is standing ready at the gigantic vehicle integration complex.

Next week, a giant crane will lift the Insat-4c and gently place it atop the GSLV, which will then roll down to the newly designed second launch pad, a two-hour journey on rails, a km away from the vehicle integration complex.

“It will be a red-letter day for Indian Space Research Organisation as it will mark India’s heaviest launch so far and catapult it to join a handful of nations capable of commercial launches and reduce our dependence on foreign powers,” said M. Annamalai, the director of the Sriharikota range.

Although the costs are not being discussed, a considerable amount ' at least 30-35 per cent ' has been saved compared with launches done outside the country (by Ariane 5 in Kourou, French Guyana).

Also, all the expansion activity on at Sriharikota is bound to leapfrog the spaceport, situated on a 175-sq-km island flanked by the backwaters of the Bay of Bengal and the Pulicat lake, to a commercial launch centre. Indonesia, Italy, Chile, Poland, Singapore and a few other countries have already shown interest in launching their satellites on the GSLV and the polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV).

Sriharikota is connected to the mainland with only one road from the shores of the Pulicat lake.

The facilities that are coming up here are a motor production plant, solid stage assembly building, mobile launch pedestal, cryogenic support building, control rooms, optical tracking systems, two tracking radars and a wind profiler to help gather meteorological data during launches.

The second launch pad, from where the Insat-4c will take off, is an indigenously designed facility capable of launching up to eight-tonne class satellites.

The spaceport, now renamed Satish Dhawan Space Centre Sriharikota Range, is adding more facilities to support Isro’s GSLV Mk III programme that will place satellites heavier than Insat-4c into space.

Isro is also planning at least four launches a year, two each on the GSLV and PSLV.

With two launch pads now, Isro can hope to create parallel assemblies and arm itself for shorter launch durations.

Each launch pad is surrounded by four lightning towers. Scientists here are worried about only thunderstorms and lightning, two factors that can affect launches. “Even in driving rain, we can launch, but you will not get any pictures,” one scientist joked.

Sriharikota is also best positioned for an eastern launch that most space powers look for. The launches here are towards the Bay of Bengal. It is an advantage to have water surrounding the launch pad, in case a disaster occurs.

The launches from here take a shorter route to the Polar, Leo or Geo orbits, where the satellites eventually settle.

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