Astrosat, the $50 million astronomy satellite that India will put in polar circular orbit in 2013, will study the universe at multi-wavelengths for the first time, a senior space agency official said. “The Astrosat mission will study for the first time the cosmic sources of the vast universe at optical, ultraviolet and X-ray wavebands simultaneously,” state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientific secretary V. Koteshwar Rao told IANS here. The 1.6-tonne satellite will be launched from the Sriharikota spaceport off the Bay of Bengal coast in Andhra Pradesh, about 90km northeast of Chennai, onboard a 300-tonne rocket with five scientific instruments to study at multiple wavelengths. The instruments include a soft X-ray telescope, an ultraviolet imaging telescope, an imager and a sky scanning monitor.
satellite.. (Image credit: Getty Images)
“Unlike astronomical satellites of other countries, Astrosat will study visible to high-energy X-ray emissions from celestial objects on a single platform, take the highest angular resolution imaging in ultraviolet and measure short-term variation of X-ray emissions,” Rao said at a space summit here, about 150 km from Karnataka capital Bangalore. A five-year delay has escalated the mission cost to Rs.270 crore (nearly $50 million), including the satellite to Rs.180 crore and the rocket Rs.90 crore. A wavelength is a unit of measurement indicating the distance between the peak of one wave and the next. As forms of electromagnetic radiation, they make unique patterns in shapes and lengths as they travel through space.
“Most astronomical objects emit radiation spanning the electromagnetic spectrum from long wavelength radio waves to very short wavelength gamma rays. Simultaneous observation of the multi-wavelengths will enable us to understand the physical processes behind the phenomenon,” Rao pointed out.
Orbiting at 650 km from the earth with a five-year lifespan, the satellite will conduct major investigations across visible, UV, soft and hard X-ray bands to find out the source of radiation, study magnetic fields on neutron stars, search for sources of black holes and scan the farthest regions of the universe. The spacecraft has already been designed and built to integrate the instruments (payload) at ISRO's satellite centre in Bangalore.
The space agency has roped in other state-run and private organisations such as the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Raman Research Institute, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and its Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad. The Canadian Space Agency and Britain's University of Leicester are also collaborating with the astro project. The space agency's telemetry tracking and command network in Bangalore will provide the ground support for all the phases of the astro mission, while its deep space network at Byalalu, about 40 km from Bangalore, will collect the voluminous data from the instruments.