Communications established with payload on stabilized PSLV upper stage

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TAMPA, Fla. — Indian startup Digantara said July 6 its space weather monitoring payload ROBI is operational onboard a spent upper stage of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. 

The company said the experimental payload has successfully sent data from PSLV’s Orbital Experimental Platform (POEM), which launched June 30 as part of the rocket’s primary mission to deploy three satellites for Singapore in low Earth orbit.

It is the first time the PSLV’s fourth stage has been stabilized in LEO with a dedicated Navigation Guidance and Control system following its primary mission, according to India’s ISRO space agency.

POEM has solar panels, control thrusters and other equipment to act as a hosted payload bus post-launch.

The platform is carrying six payloads in total, including a satellite deployment system developed by Indian startup Dhruva Space.

Dhruva Space said its Satellite Orbital Deployer has already achieved space-qualification from the mission.

Digantara’s ROBI, or robust integrating proton fluence meter, aims to test space weather measurement and analysis capabilities for the startup’s future space situational awareness platform.

Digantara plans to deploy a satellite early next year to demonstrate how light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors — combined with space weather data — would enable it to track space objects with greater precision than other systems in sunlight and eclipse phases.

Shreyas Mirji, Digantara’s head of business and strategy, said the startup has established communications with ROBI, “and have started receiving the first batch of datasets and assessments are currently underway.”

Digantara and Dhruva Space recently became the first private companies in India to secure approval from the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe), an autonomous government agency, for their space activities.

India announced the creation of IN-SPACe in June 2020 to promote, permit and oversee non-government space-based activities in the country.

Operating under India’s Department of Space, IN-SPACe regulates private space companies in the country and their use of facilities owned by the Indian government.

Mirji described IN-SPACe’s first authorizations as “truly the pivotal point for private space activities in India.”

He said India’s space ecosystem “is undergoing massive change” as the country’s government recognizes the role it must play in building a resilient economy.

“This has gone well beyond promises with stakeholder consultation towards drafting India’s first comprehensive Space Activity Bill that will be tabled shortly before the parliament,” he said. 

The dedicated space legislation aims to provide clarity for private companies, which the government hopes will encourage more investors and activity in the country’s space industry.

The largest satellite on PSLV’s June 30 mission was the 365-kilogram DS-EO, a high-resolution Earth observation spacecraft for Singapore.

The mission also carried NeuSAR, Singapore’s first synthetic aperture radar observation satellite, and the SCOOB 1 solar-monitoring cubesat developed by Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.