Nanosat payload cushions Indias Rs 230-crore Oceansat-2 caper

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Sep 24 2009, 04:28am hrs
Its a having-the-cake-and-eating-it-too feat for Isro(Indian Space Research Organisation) as it rears back for PSLV C-14 launch carrying the 960-kg payload Oceansat 2 on Wednesday. Old timers recall that Oceansat 1, drafted for five-year lifespan when launched in 1999, has outlived a whopping 10 years and is still going robust in its ocean-watching vigil.

Why then, go for the second version at Rs 230-crore investment "We are pulling no punches--the Oceansat 1 could sleep off any moment and it needs replacement well in time. It has served well and its data is keenly followed by Indian fishermen," Isro chairman G Madhavan Nair told FE. The Indian space agency is taking no chances after the untimely end of Chandrayan-I. The launch is scheduled at Sri Hari Kotta at 11.55 am, but this could be delayed.

The Oceansat-2 satellite also looks to identify potential fishing zones and coastal studies but it can also keep a sleuth eye on the naval movements and defence activities in the region. The data will be transfered to the Department of Oceanography, Isro said.

The satellite costs work up to Rs 160 crore, but the launch vehicle is built on a Rs 70-crore budget. Some of the commissioned payloads could part-pay the costs, though Isro sources declined to reveal how much. "The confidentiality caveat in the Antrix Corporation's Indo-Italian co-operation pact and other understandings doesnot allow revealing the launch fees," was all the agency would disclose.

Besides the indigenous Oceansat-2, six European nanosatellites are also part of the payload. Of these, four are cubesats (usually payload of camera units)--first, the Beesat built by Technical University, Berlin; second, the UWE-2 built by the University of Wuerzburg, Germany; third, ITU-pSat from the Istanbul Technical University, Turkey; forth SwissCube-1 built by the Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne, Switzerland. The others are two Rubinsats (small German satellites). Wednesday's launch would also take a payload of an Ocean Colour Monitor and a Ku-band pencil beam Scatterometer, along with a Radio Occultation Sounder for Atmospheric Studies (ROSA), developed by Italian Space Agency.It will also have its own nine-band OCM (ocean colour monitor), with upgraded spectral bandwidth.

The on-board scatterometer is sensitive in noting the surface wind on the sea and is useful for sea state forecasting. For maritime navigation, the wave height disturbance too comes handy, Nair said. The earlier version could read only the colour of the ocean, while the new device is more versatile.

The final 51-hour countdown for the launch began at 9.00 am on Monday. This has been "on dot in progress," an Isro spokesman at Sriharikotta said.

At No 16 in India's remote-sensing satellite fleet, Oceansat-2 is shaped like a cuboid, with two solar panels, looking like ears. It will step into exactly the same orbit as its longetivity-blessed predecessor Oceansat-1, that is 720 km above earth.