India Successfuly Launches Ocean-Monitoring Satellite

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BANGALORE, India — India launched an ocean-monitoring satellite and six European nanosatellites Sept. 23 aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) that lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on India’s southeastern coast.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a statement, congratulated the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on the successful launch of Oceansat-2, which he said “will herald a new beginning in our understanding of the oceans.”

ISRO said in a press release that Oceansat-2 was placed into its intended 720-kilometer sun synchronous polar orbit. The roughly 1,000-kilogram satellite is the second in a series of ISRO remote sensing satellites dedicated to ocean research. It is intended to continue data collection that began with Oceansat-1, which launched in 1999 and is nearing the end of its operational life. A third satellite, Oceansat-3, is planned for launch in 2012.

ISRO spokesman S. Satish told Space News that Oceansat-2 will be used for the identification of potential fishing zones, ocean condition forecasting, coastal zone studies and providing inputs for weather forecasting and climate studies. It also will help track the movement of cyclones, predict the onset of monsoons and monitor coastal water pollution, he said.

Oceansat-2’s mission is expected to last five years.

The satellite carries two ocean-monitoring payloads. One of them, Ocean Colour Monitor-2, is a solid-state camera similar to the one India built for Oceansat-1. The eight-band multispectral camera’s visible and near infrared imagery will be available at a resolution of 360 meters for local area coverage and at 4 kilometers for global coverage, according to ISRO. The other ocean-monitoring payload is a Ku-band Pencil Beam scatterometer that can retrieve near surface wind vectors over the ocean, and provide accurate information on wind speed and direction, ISRO said. It covers a continuous swath of 1,400 kilometers for the inner beam and 1,840 kilometers for the outer beam.

Oceansat-2 also carries a GPS occultation receiver provided by the Italian space agency, ASI. Dubbed the Radio Occultation Sounder for the Atmosphere (ROSA), the instrument will be used to obtain atmospheric temperature and humidity profiles. It will also measure the electron density of the ionosphere.

Europe’s Eumetsat meteorological-satellite organization hopes to conclude an agreement with ISRO under which Eumetsat would download Oceansat-2 data, probably at a ground station in Norway or Sweden, for near-real-time distribution to Eumetsat member governments, Eumetsat Operations Director Mikael Rattenborg said Sept. 21.

Rattenborg said Eumetsat is especially interested in Oceansat-2’s Ku-band Pencil Beam scatterometer. He said ISRO and Eumetsat managers recently met to establish the outlines of such cooperation.

He said the ISRO-Eumetsat talks did not focus on ISRO’s future cooperation in geostationary-orbit meteorological satellite observations. India’s reluctance to make its geostationary weather satellite data available without restriction has been a point of contention between ISRO and the other nations contributing to the global World Weather Watch — the United States, Canada, Japan, China and Russia.

Darmstadt, Germany-based Eumetsat is expanding its mandate to include ocean observation on behalf of its members and for the 27-nation European Union as part of Europe’s Global Monitoring for Environment and Security Earth observation program.

The six nanosatellites that accompanied Oceansat-2 weighed a total of 20 kilograms and were developed by European companies and universities for the purpose of testing various technologies. They were launched under an agreement with Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO.

 

Peter B. de Selding contributed to this article from Europe.