CHENNAI: The year 2008 was a golden year for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) with successes in both launch vehicle and spacecraft technologies.
Capping them was the impeccable launch of Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to the moon on October 22 from Sriharikota, and the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) hitting the moon’s surface on November 14. India joined Russia, the U.S, Japan and the European Space Agency in the elite club of those who have impacted a probe on the moon’s surface.
M. Annadurai, Project Director, Chandrayaan-1, said: “For Chandrayaan-1 team, this year has been a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. Definitely, when we look back, 2008 has been fulfilling and we have a sense of achievement.”
S. Satish, Director, Publications and Public Relations, ISRO, called the Chandrayaan-1 mission “a unique success because the tricolour reached the lunar surface in ISRO’s first attempt to send a spacecraft to the moon.” He described 2008 as “a landmark year for ISRO.”
On April 28, ISRO scored a perfect 10 when its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) put 10 satellites in orbit one after the other, a world record. They included two Indian satellites — Cartosat-2A and the Indian Mini Satellite (IMS-1), and eight nano satellites from abroad. It was a remarkable achievement because the PSLV core-alone version — without its customary six strap-on motors — did the job. Using a single rocket to launch multiple satellites is technologically challenging because the rocket’s last stage should eject them into the required orbits in a precisely timed sequence so that the satellites do not collide.
On January 21, in a secret launch from Sriharikota, another PSLV core-alone put Israel’s Tecsar satellite in orbit.
Antrix Corporation, ISRO’s commercial wing, made big money with the launch of the Tecsar and the nano satellites and also made inroads into the international market for satellites by building the W2M, which was put in orbit on December 21. The W2M, a communications satellite, was jointly built by ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore and EADS-Astrium of Europe for Eutelsat, the European communication satellite giant. “The Eutelsat was a demanding customer. We met its deadlines,” said Mr. Satish.
The ISRO crossed a significant milestone in building an indigenous cryogenic engine when the engine passed the flight-acceptance trial on December 18. This engine will power the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D3) flight in 2009.
Meanwhile, “everything is perfect with Chandrayaan-1” and all its 10 instruments “are working well,” said Mr. Annadurai.