A Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C20) put the Indo-French SARAL and six other satellites in their precise orbits on February 25, 2013. The launch, carried out from the Sriharikota spaceport, was the 22nd consecutive successful PSLV mission by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Throughout the entire duration of its flight, the PSLV-C20 stuck to its predetermined path. The four stages of the rocket ignited and jettisoned on time. After 18 minutes of flight, the rocket’s fourth stage injected the 407-kg SARAL (which stands for “Satellite for Argos-3 and Altika”) into orbit at a height of 785 km. The other satellites to go into orbit one after another were SAPPHIRE, NEOSSAT, AAUSAT, BRITE, Uni-BRITE and STRand, all from abroad.
Two payloads of SARAL are from French space agency CNES, and a third payload, a solid state C-band transponder, is from the ISRO. SARAL is a unique satellite that will cater to the research community. It will help in oceanographic studies. It will study the ocean currents and sea surface heights. While Argos will collect the data, Altika will measure the height of the sea surface. Argos will provide scientists with a tool to enhance their understanding of environment. SARAL will help researchers study the development of climate. It has some other practical applications in continental ice studies, coastal erosion, protection of biodiversity, study of marine animals’ migration, etc. The 148-kg SAPPHIRE and the 82-kg NEOSSAT are both from Canada. SAPPHIRE will look at space debris and other satellites in orbit.
NEOSSAT (Near Earth Object Surveillance Satellite) will track asteroids, satellites and space debris. BRITE and UniBRITE (both weighing 14 kg) are from Austria. The 3-kg AAUSAT, put together by Denmark’s Aalborg University, is designed to receive, automatic identification systems signals from ships sailing in the Arctic region. STRand, weighing 6.5 kg, is from the UK and it will evaluate the performance of mobile phone electronics in space environment.