India’s first dedicated navigation satellite put in orbit

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India entered a new era in space applications in the wee hours of July 2, 2013 when the PSLV-C22 placed the IRNSS-1A, the country’s first dedicated navigation satellite, in orbit. The launch vehicle lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh at 11.41 p.m. on the night of July 1, 2013. It was the 23rd consecutive successful launch of the PSLV. It was a smooth launch, with the four stages of the 44-metre-tall rocket igniting and separating on time. About 20 minutes after the lift-off, the PSLV-C22 successfully injected the IRNSS-1A into its designated sub-geosynchronous transfer orbit that has a perigee (neatest point to the Earth) of 284 km and an apogee (farthest point from the Earth) “I 20,650 km.

The 1,425-kg IRNSS-1A is the latest technological marvel from the stable of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). It is the first satellite of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, which will, in due time, feature a total of seven such satellites. While India will be the foremost beneficiary of the services provided by IRNSS-1A, its benefits will also extend to a range of 1,500 km beyond the country’s boundary.

IRNSS-1A has a 10-year mission life. Its applications will range across terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation. Its services will also include disaster management, tracking of vehicles and assisting hikers and travellers besides visual-voice navigation tot drivers. The services it will provide can he classified into two types. The Standard Positioning Service or SPS (akin to the Global Positioning Service of GPS) will be available to all users. In contrast, the Restricted Service (RS), an encrypted service, will be accessible only to authorised users.

The satellite has two solar panels which feature ultra triple injunction solar cells. These cells can generate around 1,660 watts of electricity. Other salient features of IRNSS-1A include Sun and star sensors as also gyroscopes for orientation. The satellite also features Corner Cube Retro Reflectors for laser imaging. Besides, it has a highly accurate Rubidium atomic clock. The IRNSS system will become fully operational once the entire constellation of seven satellites of the system are in orbit by 2015. The system will have military applications. It will also provide help to civilian aircraft and ships, and other modes of transportation.