Astrosat, India's Hubble, to be launched on September 28

India's observatory will be the fourth in space, after the Hubble, Russia's Spektr R and Suzaku of Japan

Raghu Krishnan Bengaluru
Astrosat, India's Hubble, to be launched on Sept 28

Astrosat, India’s first space observatory, is set to be launched on September 28. Dedicated to astronomy, the satellite is a miniature version of the Hubble, the US-European joint space observatory that has discovered new galaxies and improved understanding of the universe.

India’s observatory will be the fourth in space, after the Hubble, Russia’s Spektr R and Suzaku of Japan.

Astrosat, initially planned for 2005, has been delayed by a decade, as the scientific community struggled to build with precision the instruments needed for such operations.

The instruments, spreading across ultraviolet and X-ray wavelengths, will study black holes, neutron stars, quasars, white dwarfs and pulsars.

“Astrosat is special due to the choice of instruments to study in multi-wave lengths — UV rays, visible and X-rays — which even the Hubble doesn’t have,” A S Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), had said in a recent interview. “The instruments allow simultaneous observation of cosmic sources, an area in which other observatories currently have limitations.”

The diameter of Astrosat’s optical mirror is around 30 cm, compared with 2.4 m in the case of Hubble. It is expected the US space agency will launch the James Webb observatory, a successor to the Hubble, in 2018.

The Astrosat will carry instruments of various Indian research labs such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics  and the Raman Research Institute. In addition, two payloads have sensors from the Canadian Space Agency and the University of Leicester, UK.

Astrosat, India's Hubble, to be launched on September 28 Isro’s planetary exploratory group and the Indian Institute of Science have also contributed to the spacecraft, which carries four X-ray payloads, a UV telescope and a charge particle monitor.

“One of the reasons why we work with universities and tie up with institutions for these instruments is to increase the scientific base in the country,” said Kumar. “They can do research and put out papers from the scientific data we produce from our satellites.”

The Rs 178-crore Astrosat will be hurled into space by Isro’s workhorse rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, off the eastern coast. Six small satellites — four from the US and one each from Indonesia and Canada — will ride on the rocket, which will place these satellites in the Earth’s lower orbit.

The US satellites are the first from that country to be launched from India since the two countries signed a technology safeguards agreement in 2009.

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First Published: Sep 19 2015 | 11:13 PM IST

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