The year just gone by was an eventful year for the Indian Space programme with significant successes across all domains whether it was launch vehicle, satellite, applications or space exploration.
2016 saw an unprecedented total of seven launches, which were all successful, placing 34 satellites in their planned orbit safely and securely — eight of Indian Space Research Organisation [ISRO], 22 foreign satellites, and four student satellites. The year also witnessed the maiden test flights of a technology demonstrator for a reusable launch Vehicle [[RLV-TD] and another technology demonstrator for Scramjet engine.
The RLV-TD, which was launched May 23, attained a peak altitude of 65 km and glided back to its pre-defined landing spot over Bay Bengal without any mishap. It entered the atmosphere at a speed of around Mach 5 [five times the speed of sound]. During the flight, critical technologies such as autonomous navigation, guidance and control, reusable thermal protection system and re-entry mission management were successfully validated.
IndiaÃ¢ÂÂs first experimental mission on scramjet engine was conducted on August 2. Designed by ISRO, the engine uses Hydrogen as fuel and Oxygen from the atmosphere as the oxidiser. The test was conducted with a hypersonic flight at a speed of Mach 6. ISROÃ¢ÂÂs advanced technology vehicle, which is an advanced sounding rocket, was the solid rocket booster used for the testing at supersonic conditions. With this test, India has become the fourth country to demonstrate flight testing of scramjet engine. It is an important milestone in the development of engines for ISROÃ¢ÂÂs future space transport systems.
The year had begun with the completion of the task of setting up of the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System [IRNSS] consisting of a constellation of seven satellites. The agencyÃ¢ÂÂs workhorse, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles, placed the fifth, sixth and seventh satellites of the navigational system in three launches, on January 20, March 10 and April 28 in copybook style. With this, the space segment of IRNSS has been fully deployed. Apart from these, ISRO was successful in launching 20 satellites in a single mission.
On June 22, a PSLV launch vehicle soared into the sky with 20 satellites. The payload included two satellites from two academic institutions and 17 satellites of foreign customers from Canada, Germany, Indonesia and USA. The main payload was the fourth satellite in ISROÃ¢ÂÂs Cartosat 2 series. Weighing 727 kg, the satellite is designed to help further mapping capabilities in the country. ISRO also played a significant role in handling a series of fire incidents in the hill state of Uttarakhand during the last week of April. Satellite based temperature anomalies were used for detection of active fire locations. About 1,600 active forest fire locations were recorded between April 24 and May 4.
(The writer is a Delhi-based freelance journalist.)”