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Indian Rocket Launches Four Satellites into Orbit

Indian Rocket Launches Four Satellites into Orbit
An Indian rocket carrying a 550 kilogram (1,210 pound) Space Capsule Recovery Experiment, or SRE-1, designed to test re-entry technology that could be used in a future manned space mission, takes off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, around 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of Chennai, India, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007 (Local Time). (Image credit: AP Photo/M.Lakshman.)

An Indian rocketsuccessfully orbited a cache of four satellitesWednesday in the first space launch of the year.

Liftoff of the PolarSatellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) was at 0353 GMT (10:53 p.m. EST Tuesday) fromthe Satish Dhawan Space Center on India's east coast [image].The four-stage rocket and its payloads arrived in orbit about 16 minutes afterlaunch, and deployment of the satellites was completed about four minuteslater.

The booster was shooting fora Sun-synchronous orbit about 395 miles(635 kilometers) high, according to the Indian Space Research Organization(ISRO).

The 145-foot (44-meter) tallrocket was the first PSLV to use a dual payload adapter to launch two primarypayloads on the same mission. The Cartosat 2 Earth-observation satellite rode atopthe apparatus, while a recoverable capsule was housed below [image].

Cartosat 2 joins six otherspacecraft currently operating in India's remote sensing satellite fleet, andis the 12th member of the program throughout its history. The 1,500-pound (680-kilogram)craft is a direct follow-on to the larger Cartosat1 satellite, which was launched in 2005.

Data obtained by Cartosat 2during its 5-year mission will aid officials in mapping and land managementacross India. The satellite carries a black-and-white camera with a resolutionof better than one meter, according to ISRO officials.

The high resolution cameramarks an improvement over Cartosat 1, which could only resolve objects as smallas about eight feet (2.5 meters) in black-and-white images. Cartosat 2's camerawill take pictures in swaths approximately six miles (9.6 kilometers) wide,while Cartosat 1's camera produces imagery covering much larger areas almost 20miles wide.

Cartosat 2 can also bepointed up to 45 degrees along and across its ground track as it flies aboveEarth, allowing it to gather different views of imagery targets.

Also released from therocket's upper stage was the Space Capsule Recovery Experiment, a 1,200-pound (544-kilogram)cone-like craft that is India's first recoverable satellite [image].

The capsule, also known asSRE, will spend between 13 and 30 days in orbit conducting materials scienceand biotechnology experiments within a small laboratory inside the spacecraft.

After the experiments arecomplete, the craft will fire on-board thrusters to slow its velocity and dropinto the atmosphere to a parachuted landing in the Bay of Bengal about 100miles (160 kilometers) offshore from the Indian east coast.

The capsule includes aninflatable flotation system to keep the craft afloat until recovery forcesarrive. Teams from ISRO and the Indian Coast Guard will take part in recoveryoperations, said an ISRO spokesperson.

Indian space officials hopea successful mission for the capsule will lead to the development of arecoverable platform for scientific experiments in microgravity.

Two secondary payloads werealso launched Wednesday for international organizations [image].

LAPAN Tubsat is amicrosatellite jointly managed by the Indonesian space agency and the TechnicalUniversity of Berlin. The 123-pound spacecraft features a pair of medium andlow resolution video cameras to be used for surveillance and remote sensing.

A small 13-pound (5.8-kilogram)craft called Pehuensat 1 was built by students in Argentina. The satellite alsoincludes an amateur radio payload to broadcast telemetry data and voice messagesin English, Spanish and Hindi.

The next launch of the PSLVwill loft Italy's AGILE astrophysics observatory later this year. India alsoplans a launch of the larger Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) inJuly with INSAT 4CR, a communications satellite to replace the spacecraft lostin the GSLV'sfailure on its most recent mission in July 2006, according to an ISROspokesperson.

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