India has successfully launched a new satellite, Megha-Tropiques, to study climatic and atmospheric changes in tropical regions.
Jointly produced by India and France, the one-ton satellite was one of four spacecraft placed into orbit on Oct. 12 by the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from the launch pad near Sriharikota at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in southern India. The PSLV stood 44 meters (145 ft.) tall and weighed 230 tons at launch.
“The PSLV-C18 has been a grand success. Very precisely, four satellites were injected in circular [orbits],” ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan says.
Megha-Tropiques will give meteorologists fresh insight into how water moves through the atmosphere to produce monsoons, Radhakrishnan says. “The mission marks the beginning of a new era of cooperation between India and France. It’s a truly global mission,” he adds.
G. Raju, project director for Megha-Tropiques at ISRO, says, “The whole world is looking at this mission. Many countries around the world are interested to share the data with us.”
Megha-Tropiques was built at a cost of around $100 million. India made the satellite platform and provided launch services; France provided its instruments.
According to ISRO, the Megha-Tropiques, with its circular orbit inclined 20 deg. to the equator, will enable climate research and assist scientists seeking to refine weather prediction models. It has day, night and all-weather viewing capabilities and will pass over India almost a dozen times every day, giving scientists a near-real-time assessment of the evolution of clouds. The satellite will provide scientific data on the contributions of the water cycle to the tropical atmosphere with information on condensed water in clouds, precipitation and evaporation.
The three small satellites that were ferried by the PSLV-C18 are: the 10.9-kg (24-lb.) SRMSAT built by the students of SRM University near Chennai; the 3-kg Jugnu remote-sensing satellite from the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur; and the 28.7-kg VesselSat from LuxSpace of Luxembourg, designed to help locate ships at sea.
The SRMSAT uses a grating spectrometer designed to monitor greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and water vapor in the atmosphere.
The Jugnu satellite is intended to prove the indigenously developed camera system for imaging Earth in the near-infrared region and test image-processing algorithms, as well as evaluate its GPS receiver for its use in satellite navigation.
VesselSat will be used to detect ships at sea from the signals they emit in the regions covered by the spacecraft. The satellite carries two signal receivers called Automatic Identification System for ships.
The launch is the latest in a series carried out by ISRO, which is establishing closer ties with a number of its international counterparts.
Data from Megha-Tropiques will be shared with meteorological organizations in Europe and the U.S. that gather weather satellite information.
This is the third successful rocket liftoff for ISRO this year. In April, the agency launched the remote-sensing satellite Resourcesat-2, along with two others. In July, the GSAT-12 communication satellite was placed in orbit.