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Science

India to get another ‘eye in the sky’ on May 22

The Indian Space Research Organisation plans to release the lander once it is in the Moon orbit and make a soft landing near the South Pole of the moon on September 6.

India is set to get another ‘eye in the sky’ as Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will launch its latest radar imaging satellite (Risat-2BR1) from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on May 22. 

Risat-2BR1 is much more advanced than the previous Risat-series satellite. “Its launch is due on May 22. Though the new satellite looks same as the old one from outside, its configuration is different from the earlier one launched. The new satellite, therefore, has enhanced surveillance and imaging capabilities,” a source in Isro told TOI. Risat’s X-band synethic aperture radar (SAR) possesses day-night as well as all-weather monitoring capability. The radar can even penetrate clouds and zoom up to a resolution of 1 metre (means it can distinguish between two objects separated by 1 m distance).

“The Risat satellite can take images of a building or an object on the earth at least 2 to 3 times a day,” the source said. Therefore, it can help keep an eye on the activities of jihadi terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and infiltrators at terror launchpads along the LoC.

The new imaging satellite will boost all-weather surveillance capabilities of Indian security forces and will help detect any potential threat around the Indian borders. As the satellite can also track hostile ships at sea, it can be used to keep a hawk-eye on Chinese naval vessels in the Indian Ocean and Pakistani warships in the Arabian Sea. The images from old Risat-series satellites were earlier used to plan the surgical strike in 2016 and the air strike on a Jaish camp in Pakistan’s Balakot this year. Risat also enhanced Isro’s capability for disaster management applications.

After the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008, Risat-2 satellite programme took priority over Risat-1 because of the advanced radar system, manufactured in Israel, and was launched in April 20, 2009 to boost surveillance capabilities of security forces. From 536km altitude, the satellite monitors Indian borders 24×7 and helps security agencies keep an eye on infiltrators.

The synethic aperture radar uses the motion of the radar antenna over a target region to provide finer spatial resolution than conventional beam-scanning radars. The distance the SAR satellite travels over a target in the time taken for the radar pulses to return to the antenna creates the large synthetic antenna aperture. Typically, the larger the aperture, the higher the image resolution will be, regardless of whether the aperture is physical (a large antenna) or synthetic (a moving antenna) – this allows SAR to create high-resolution images with comparatively small physical antennas. 

by Surendra Singh | TNN

India’s Second Visit To Moon Likely To Begin In July, Says Space Agency

The space agency has announced that India’s second visit to the Moon under the Chandrayaan-2 mission will most likely be launched between July 9-16 this year.

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) second mission to the Moon entails an orbiter, a lander and moon rover. The expected soft landing on the moon is likely to take place on September 6, 2019. India’s moon rover has been named “Pragyan” or “Knowledge”, since India hopes to understand the geology of Earth’s closest celestial neighbour through a series of unique experiments.

The Rs. 800-crore mission will be launched using the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III (GSLV Mk III) from Sriharikota.

According to a statement by ISRO, Chandrayaan-2 has three modules — Orbiter, Lander (Vikram) and Rover (Pragyan). The Orbiter and Lander modules will be interfaced mechanically and stacked together as an integrated module and accommodated inside the GSLV MK-III launch vehicle.

The Rover is housed inside the Lander. After a launch into the earth-bound orbit by GSLV MK-III, the integrated module will reach the Moon’s orbit using Orbiter propulsion module. The Lander will then separate from the Orbiter and soft land at the predetermined site close to lunar South Pole. After this, the Rover will roll out to carry out scientific experiments.

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The second mission to the Moon entails an orbiter, a lander and moon rover.

Instruments have also also mounted on the Lander and Orbiter for scientific experiments.

India’s maiden mission to the Moon took place in 2008 under the Chandryaan-1 mission which also involved hard landing the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) on the lunar surface on November 14, 2008.

Chandrayaan-1 gave the first ever signatures of the presence of water molecules on the lunar surface.

The second mission was first delayed because a joint collaboration between India and Russia on the lander unit failed to take off after the Russian lander developed problems. India then had to develop the entire lander module on its own which it named the “Vikram” — after Vikram A Sarabhai, also known as the father of the Indian space programme.

Later, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk-II saw two failures in 2010. The ISRO then found out that the re-configured lander “Vikram” had become too heavy to be lofted using the GSLV Mk-II. When the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk-III, also known as the “Bahubaali” became available, the agency decided to use the India’s heaviest launcher for the Chandrayaan-2 mission.

The space agency plans to release the lander once it is in the Moon orbit and make a soft landing near the South Pole of the Moon. No other nation has landed on the near side of the South Pole of the Moon yet.

If India succeeds to make a soft landing on the Moon, it will become the forth country after Russia, USA and China to have achieved this feat.

International

ISRO assets played key role in Kerala flood rescue operation

National Disaster Response Force personnel patrolling in the Periyar after the water level rose in the river.   | Photo Credit: H_Vibhu

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s satellites and Doppler radars played a key role in weather monitoring and forecast, and provided critical inputs for various agencies involved in the rescue of stranded citizens during the floods in Kerala last month.

Pointing out that most of the districts in Kerala — mainly Iddukki, Patthanmthitta, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Palakkad — had received more than expected rainfall with a deviation of more than 164% in August, the space agency said it had monitored the whole event through its various satellites, helping the prediction and safety measures.

In just the first 20 days of the month, Kerala had received the highest rainfall for the entire month in 87 years, with Idukki district breaking a 111-year record for the highest rainfall for the month, as per the India Meteorological Department’s records. This rainfall had triggered floods in several parts of the State and caused widespread havoc, according to the agency.

Weather monitoring

ISRO not only extended support through its space-based sensors, but ground-based sensors as well. Two of its radars — one C-Band Polarimetric Doppler Weather Radar (DWR) at TERLS, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvanthapuram and one S-Band DWR at Kochi — were continuously monitoring the weather on 24X7 basis up to 500 km radius.

The data was transferred to IMD, Meteorological and Oceanographic Data Archival Centre (MOSDAC), and Space Application Centre (SAC) for further data analysis and centralised weather monitoring. The information was made available in near real time for the public through the MOSDAC and IMD websites.

According to a press release by the ISRO, the radars had helped in long range weather surveillance, forecast and nowcast of the weather and rainfall activity in Kerala. The National Disaster Management Authority and Kerala State Disaster Management authority were continuously monitoring the data received by the radar and images were continuously updated on the IMD website for making decisions on various activities.

The DWR system provides quantitative information in digital form — the intensity and mean velocity of cyclones along with rainfall rate and accumulation. It improves the understanding and forecasting of thunderstorm, hailstorms, tidal wave height, wind turbulence and shear as well as the probable intensity of rain in and around the region, the press note said.

The data, it said, had helped civic bodies in evacuation and rescue of stranded citizens during the floods. (Source: The Hindu)

Sc. & Tech.

With human space flight, India to push frontiers

ISRO chief says most of the critical technologies are ready

Gaganyaan, the human space flight Programme green-flagged and set for 2022 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is highly doable, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation K. Sivan said here soon after it was announced on Wednesday.

V.R. Lalithambika, a specialist in advanced launcher technologies, will helm the project as Director of the Human Space Flight Project.

The mission is estimated at ₹9000 crore. Most of the critical technologies and hardware required for the project are ready or have been demonstrated by its centres. ISRO would now stitch them up into a complete project and present a comprehensive project report to get a formal approval of the government, Dr. Sivan said. “We have tested the necessary critical technologies required for the Human Space Flight Programme (HSP) and are confident of achieving it as stated by the Prime Minister,” he said.

“We will now speed up the paper work and submit a project report for formal approval. We may immediately need around ₹ 2,000 crore for enhancing infrastructure and technologies at two or three centres and we will be asking for this amount,” he told The Hindu.

With human space flight, India to push frontiers

Describing it more as a national mission than ISRO’s alone, Dr. Sivan, who is Secretary, Department of Space, said it would be the pride of India. It would raise scientific and technological temper across the country and inspire youngsters. “We are excited by this announcement. It is a gift to the nation and we feel proud. It actually energises us across our centres. We do not feel intimidated or tense. We have seen many challenges in our work,” Dr. Sivan said.

When it achieves the mission, India would be the fourth nation to circle Earth after the Soviets, the Americans and the Chinese. In 1984, India’s first astronaut Wing Commander (retd.) Rakesh Sharma orbited Earth as part of a Soviet mission.

A 15-year-old space dream coming true

ISRO revealed the first germ of an HSP in November 2004 and got incremental funds for supporting projects over the next few years. It could not go ahead mainly because the GSLV MarkIII vehicle was not ready until last year. ISRO has also met most of its regular needs. Dr. Sivan said, “In the last few years, we did a lot of groundwork as part of R&D at our centres. We have developed most of the critical technologies needed for a human mission. We demonstrated the flight of a crew module and its re-entry in 2014. On July 5 this year, we conducted an experiment for emergency escape of astronauts called the Pad Abort Test. It will be repeated at higher distances. The rest of the technologies are getting ready and will be realised in time.”

Before his elevation in January this year, Dr Sivan was the Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre that handled most of the HSP activities.

The most critical elements of the human mission are the Environment Control and Life Support Systems that make the crew capsule liveable and the flight safe for the astronauts. Food and hygiene are other aspects. These technologies are getting ready while space suits are being developed at ISRO, he said.

Facilities are being added or upgraded at a few centres that work on the HSP. The spacecraft will be monitored 24/7 from the ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Centre in Peenya. A new dedicated control centre for HSP would be set up at ISTRAC. It must be tracked globally through ISRO stations or of other countries.

The launchpad at the Sriharikota spaceport, the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, would be enhanced for the human mission. The Space Applications Centre which makes electronic devices and instruments for ISRO missions will also get refurbished.

While formal agreements are not yet in place, ISRO will collaborate with the Indian Air Force and its Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Bengaluru, to train astronauts. Various defence labs will be tapped for crew support systems.

Much of the work related to ramping up of infrastructure and supply of hardware would be outsourced to industry in a major way and academia would be involved.

Madhumathi D.S