Bangalore, India, September 21, 2006 – Around this time, next year, India’s rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will carry a 100 kg capsule as an additional passenger into space. The capsule will unfurl a series of 16 nano satellites that weigh between one kg and five kg.
The University of Toronto, Canada, leads a team of academic institutions that would build these satellites, designed to conduct research on outer space, including micro-gravity experiments. It has contracted out the launch to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
“The proposal is exciting for us. We are in discussions with the university to know more about the research aspect of these satellites,” an ISRO official said. Nano satellites weigh less than 10 kg and multiple satellites work together as a network in space. In some cases, these formations of nano satellites are connected to a bigger satellite, called the mother, for communication purposes.
The PSLV rocket has piggybacked micro satellites that weigh up to 100 kg to space, but this would be India’s first experience in launching nano satellites. “We have several small satellites from universities in India and abroad that will be launched over the next few years,” the official said.
ISRO will loft a 50 kg Indonesian remote sensing satellite with Cartosat-2, the home-grown one-metre resolution remote sensing satellite, when the PSLV is launched next month. In the past, India’s rockets have carried several micro satellites weighing less than 60 kg, including the Korean KITSAT-3, German DLR-TUBSAT, BIRD of Germany and PROBA of Belgium, into their intended orbits. Among them was also the region’s first amateur radio satellite HAMSAT, dedicated to amateur radio enthusiasts.
India is also emerging as a launch pad for micro satellites of universities in foreign countries including Singapore, Argentina, Taiwan and several European nations. Besides Anusat, a 50-kg experimental satellite designed by Anna University students, the space agency has invited proposals to build four satellites for conducting research on the atmosphere and astronomy. “There are over 10 customers from outside who have lined up their satellites for launch from India,” ISRO officials said.