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ASTROSAT to be launched in mid-2010

ASTROSAT to be launched in mid-2010

Mumbai: India’s Astronomy satellite, which would facilitate the study of astrophysical objects ranging from nearby solar system elements to distant stars, is likely to be launched in mid-2010.

Scientists from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) have completed the developmental phase of complex science payloads and have begun integrating them before delivery of the 1,650 kg satellite ASTROSAT.

“The big challenge was that of design of a satellite attitude control system that will enable accurate control of the pointing of the instruments towards a specific direction in the sky," scientists from TIFR told PTI.

ASTROSAT project is a collaborative effort of a number of research institutions, including the Mumbai-based TIFR.

The challenges in the design of payloads and Attitude Control System have been overcome and in a recent review committee meeting, it was decided that the delivery of the payload to ISRO satellite Centre will begin from the middle of this year and continue till early next year to enable the launch of ASTROSAT in 2010 using ISRO workhorse PSLV.

The Astrosat will be in an equatorial orbit with inclination of about 8 degrees or less. Two star trackers and gyros will be used for the pointing control of the satellite.

The ASTROSAT satellite will cost about Rs200 crore and will have a lifespan of at least five years.

Out of the five science payloads for this multi-wavelength satellite observatory, three X-ray instruments are developed by TIFR.

The Ultra-Violet Imaging Instrument has been developed jointly by Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore and Inter-university centre for astronomy and astrophysics, Pune with the involvement of TIFR.

The photon counting detectors of this instrument have been developed jointly by the Indian team and the Canadian Space Agency as a science collaboration. The fifth instrument namely X-ray Sky Monitor is being made by ISRO Satellite Centre and is in advanced stages of fabrication and assembly.

The X-ray CCD used in X-ray imaging telescope is not readily available and very expensive to procure. Hence instead of buying the costly X-ray CCD for ‘Astrosat´, the Indian side has opted for a scientific collaboration with the British University of Leicester.

A team of engineers from TIFR went to the University of Leicester’s Space Research Centre in UK in February 2009 to monitor the progress of the collaborative works.

The X-ray CCD camera was designed by the University of Leicester, which is also part of the ambitious project and the manufacture of the hardware components and electronics was undertaken by TIFR.

In a few months time, when the Leicester built CCD camera is assembled and integrated with the TIFR built electronics, it will be tested to space qualified standards and shipped back to India for integration into the spacecraft.

Astrosat will carry five instruments to observe objects such as black holes, neutron stars, and active galaxies at a number of different wavelengths simultaneously, from the visible and ultraviolet band to energetic X-rays.

The scientist said that, with the confidence developed by the scientific community in the making of payloads for the large mission ASTROSAT, discussions are taking place for the development and launch of smaller size satellites for astronomy and other areas of science in the near future.

Its other objectives included broadband spectroscopic studies of galaxy clusters and stellar coronae, studies of periodic and non-periodic variability of x-ray sources, monitoring intensity of known sources and detecting outbursts and luminosity variations, the scientists said.

The satellite is capable of gathering 420 gigabits of data every day that can be down loaded in 10 to 11 orbits visible at Tracking and Data receiving center of ISRO in Bangalore.

Other institutes involved in the project are Raman Research Institute, Bangalore, India Space Research Organisation, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, Inter-University Center for Astrophysics, Pune, Bhabha Atomic Reserch Centre, Mumbai, S.N Bose National Centre for Basic Science, Kolkata, Canadian Space Agency.

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