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Private Earth imaging satellite, 6 others & BhutanSat to piggyback on Oceansat-3

The Times of India logo The Times of India 10-11-2022 Chethan Kumar
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BENGALURU: India’s privately built Earth observation satellite — startup Pixxel’s Anand — will be among the seven satellites Space PSU NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) will launch as ride-sharing payloads along with Isro’s Oceansat-3, which is tentatively scheduled to be launched on a PSLV-C54 on November 26.

Anand will be the first privately developed Earth observation satellite to be launched from India and second from the Pixxel stable. The firm had launched Shakuntala using a SpaceX rocket in April 2022. Aside from Anand, NSIL will launch two private communication satellites (Thybolt) for Dhruva Space and four other satellites (Astrocast) for US firm Spaceflight.

“All of them are through commercial contracts and together the seven satellites through NSIL will weigh around 50 kg. The four satellites for Spaceflight are being built by Swiss firm Astrocast,” an official said.

Bengaluru-based Pixxel, which was initially looking at launch services in Russia, decided to launch its first satellite on an Indian launch vehicle in December 2020. Following that Anand was scheduled to be launched on the PSLV-51 in February 2021 making it the firm’s first launch, but the firm withdrew the satellite owing to technical issues.

“Due to certain software issues that surfaced during the final satellite testing, we have decided not to proceed with our launch..” the firm had then said. It later launched Shakuntala. Sources in Isro said that the firm has now resolved all the technical issues and the satellite was ready for launch along with Oceansat-3 or Earth Observation Satellite-6 (EOS-6).

Hyderabad-based Dhruva, which space qualified its satellite orbital deployer (DSOD 1U) earlier this year, will launch two tech-demonstrator satellites — their Thybolt-1 and Thybolt-2.

Besides the NSIL payloads and Oceansat-3, the PSLV will also put into orbit BhutanSat — a satellite for Bhutan as part of New Delhi’s diplomacy. Former Isro chairman K Sivan had described it as India’s gift to Bhutan as part of the space diplomacy initiatives put in place by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We’re helping their personnel to build the nano satellite which will be used for imaging purposes,” he had told TOI earlier.

Oceansat-3, the main payload, is part of a series of satellites from Isro dedicated to oceanography and atmospheric studies. The first two satellites facilitate a range of applications including cyclone prediction, documentation of chlorophyll concentration, phytoplankton blooms, atmospheric aerosols, and so on.

The third in the series is expected to provide continuity and enhanced capabilities for sea surface temperature measurements among other things.

While union minister Jitendra Singh has announced the launch date to be November 26, a senior Isro official said: “The date has been decided but an official announcement on the same will be made a bit later. The launch preparations are ongoing at the first launch pad in Sriharikota.”

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