The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) made its first launch of 2021 in a big way on Sunday. It successfully blasted into space the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C51, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, SHAR, Sriharkota, carrying 19 payloads: Brazil's 637-kg Amazonia-1 (its primary passenger) plus 18 co-passenger satellites.
One of these satellites also carried an e-copy of the Bhagavad Gita, saved on an SD-card, as well as a picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi engraved on its panel.
Launched at 10.24 am, this was the first commercial mission of NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), Isro’s commercial arm.
After a flight of about 17 minutes, the vehicle injected Amazonia-1 into its intended orbit, and in the succeeding 1 hour 38 minutes, all the 18 co-passenger satellites were successfully separated from the PSLV in a predetermined sequence.
Amazonia-1 is the optical earth observation satellite of the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE). This satellite will provide remote sensing data to users for monitoring deforestation in the Amazon region and analysis of diversified agriculture across the Brazilian territory.
The 18 co-passenger satellites included four from IN-SPACe and 14 commercial satellites from NSIL (one from India and 13 from the US).
Of the four satellites from IN-SPACe, three were UNITYsats designed and built jointly by the Jeppiaar Institute of Technology (Sriperumbudur), G H Raisoni College of Engineering (Nagpur) and Sri Shakthi Institute of Engineering and Technology (Coimbatore). The fourth one was the Satish Dhawan Sat (SDSAT) from Chennai-based Space Kidz India, which works towards promoting space science among students. The SDSAT will study space radiation, among other things. Besides Modi’s name and picture on the top panel, the satellite also carried the names of Isro Chairman K Sivan and scientific secretary R Umamaheswaran on the bottom panel. In all, there were 25,000 names etched on its panels.
Lauding the efforts of the teams that built the satellites, Sivan said these satellites were the result of the new space reforms announced by the Indian government where Isro promoted and handheld the teams. “I’m very sure this mission will enthuse other academic institutions and industries to build satellites,” he said.
About the launch of Amazonia-1, he said, “India and ISRO feel extremely proud and honoured to launch the first satellite designed, integrated and operated by Brazil.” Marcos Cesar Pontes, Brazil’s minister of science, technology and innovation, said, “Amazonia-1 is an important mission for Brazil, which also marks the beginning of a new era for satellite development in the country.”