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|May 13, 1999||
M D Riti in Bangalore
Around May 26 the Indian Space Research Organisation will ignite its PSLV-C2 rocket and propel India into a league of nations that has the capability to commercially launch satellites for others.
"These (satellites) will go on the PSLV-C2 (rocket) that will also carry our own Oceansat, which belongs to the IRS class of satellites."
The next phase of both commercialisation and launching independence for India will come perhaps with the dawn of the 21st Century.
ISRO then hopes to finally operationalise its last class of superior launch vehicle, the 'Geo-Stationery Launch Vehicle', or the GSLV.
The politically controversial 'cryogenic' engines power the GSLV.
If all goes well with ISRO's own launches this year from Sriharikota launch pad, then India will probably have a more reciprocal relationship with foreign space agencies like Arianespace.
Until now, ISRO has been using the services of Arianespace to launch its INSAT class of satellites.
Dr Kasturirangan points out that even before India's first commercial launch, "ISRO has already signed a contract with Arianespace for the French agency to use ISRO's 'polar satellite launch vehicle' (PSLV) to send up small satellites when they are unable to launch them through their own vehicles like Ariane 4."
"This will be the first time they have hired an outside agency for their launches," Dr Kasturirangan beams.
In the meantime, ISRO is making headlines for completely different reasons, transponder failures.
This is because India's communication and business systems are completely dependent on the ISRO's constellation of satellites.
Obviously, the country's space department is always geared to cover such failures within hours, as was done recently when a transponder of ageing INSAT-2B failed.
The temporary shutting down of stock exchanges was disastrous, but unavoidable, agrees an ISRO spokesperson but points out that the satellite is already nearing the end of its days and will soon be replaced by the next generation INSAT-3B.
"Actually, INSAT-2A and 2B were meant primarily to be experimental satellites," says S Krishnamurthy, public relations director of ISRO.
"However, their transponders worked so well that we have been using them heavily," he explains. INSAT-2A's life span is, in fact, over.
Dr K Kasturirangan told Rediff some months ago that INSAT-2A and INSAT-2D would now be phased out. However, INSAT-2A has just gone into an inclined orbit, but many of its transponders are still operational and the space department has been leasing them out to minor commercial and research users.
Meanwhile, the load of the failed transponder on INSAT-2B has been taken over by other transponders on the same satellite and some from INSAT-2C.
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