A success for the launch of Astrosat, the first Indian space telescope

Astrosat blasting off atop a PSLV-XL rocket (Photo courtesy ISRO. All rights reserved)
Astrosat blasting off atop a PSLV-XL rocket (Photo courtesy ISRO. All rights reserved)

A few hours ago the Astrosat space observatory was launched on a PSLV-XL rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in the flight listed as PSLV-C30 by ISRO, the Indian space agency. After about 22 minutes Astrosat regularly separated from the rocket’s upper stage to enter an orbit close to the equator at an altitude of about 650 kilometers (about 400 miles). Along with it six satellites were launched for customers of different nations: the Indonesian Lapan-A2 microsatellite, the Canadian NLS-14 (EV9) microsatellite and four USA LEMUR nanosatellites.

Astrosat is the first Indian space observatory. It’s not the first astronomical satellite built in India because already in 1996 IXAE (Indian X-ray Astronomy Experiment) was launched but in 2004 ISRO approved the new much more ambitious project. It involved a large number of national research institutions to design and build the astronomical instruments of this space observatory. In some cases there was also a collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency and the British University of Leicester but most of the work was done in India.

Astrosat’s five instruments can make observations at visible light, ultraviolet and high and low energy X-rayr. Consequently, it can carry out simultaneously observations of a space object at different wavelengths. Most space telescopes are specialized in observations at limited frequency ranges, Astrosat is designed for studies of various kinds, also coordinated with other space and ground-based observatories.

The scientific objectives of the Astrosat mission in a planned duration of five years are: to understand the high energy processes in binary systems with neutron stars and black holes, estimate the magnetic fields of neutron stars, study the regions where stars are born and high-energy processes in star systems beyond our galaxy, detect new X-ray sources and carry out a limited deep-filed survey of the universe at ultraviolets.

The Astrosat space observatory’s launch comes shortly after the first anniversary of the MOM, also known as Mangalyaan, space probe entering Mars orbit. Again, India joins a small group considering that so far space telescopes were launched by the USA, European Union nations and Japan.

Astrosat also serves to increase ISRO’s reputation showing its skills in building satellites and space probes can make important scientific missions with a low budget. In this case, the cost is estimated to be the equivalent of just over $27 million (Rs 180 crore). India confirms it’s a major nation in the field of space missions with all the advances, including economic ones, that will come from that.

Inspection of the Astrosat space observatory before its launch (Photo courtesy ISRO. All rights reserved)
Inspection of the Astrosat space observatory before its launch (Photo courtesy ISRO. All rights reserved)

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