ISRO launches ‘Gaganyaan year’ with XPoSat, India’s eye in deep space

New Delhi | Updated: January 2, 2024 03:29 IST

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) marked the beginning of the new year with a triumphant launch of its first X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat), aimed at studying X-ray polarisation and celestial sources such as black holes and neutron stars. The launch took place from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on Monday morning, where ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C58, successfully placed the XPoSat into a precise circular orbit of 650 km after a 21-minute flight.

The XPoSat is a pioneering mission and only the world’s second of its kind, following NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) launched in 2021. Comprising two crucial payloads, the Indian X-ray Polarimeter (POLIX) and X-ray Spectroscopy and Timing (XSPECT), the XPoSat was constructed by the Raman Research Institute and UR Rao Satellite Centre, both located in Bengaluru.

ISRO Chairman S Somanath expressed his satisfaction with the mission’s success, stating, “On 1st January 2024, yet another successful mission of the PSLV has been accomplished. PSLV C58 has placed the primary satellite XPoSat in the desired orbit.”

The deviation from the targeted orbit was minimal, with a mere 3 km discrepancy and an inclination of 0.001 degree. Somanath highlighted that the solar panel of the satellite had also been successfully deployed.

ISRO envisions 2024 as the ‘Gaganyaan year,’ referring to India’s ambitious human spaceflight program. Somanath revealed plans for two additional test flights following the previous TV-D1 mission, leading up to the unmanned mission of the Gaganyaan program. The space agency is set to undertake a series of launches this year, including PSLV, GSLV, and its new SSLV launches.

Union Minister of State for the Department of Space, Dr Jitendra Singh, expressed his pride in ISRO’s continuous success, emphasizing the personal intervention and patronage from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Following the injection of XPoSat into its orbit, the fourth stage of the launch vehicle was fired twice to bring it down to a 350-km orbit, where it will serve as a platform for experiments. ISRO’s decision to lower the orbit was a responsible move to reduce the stage’s life in orbit and minimize space debris.

This marks the third instance that ISRO has utilized the PSLV Orbital Experimental Module (POEM) platform to demonstrate technologies in space. Notably, the Women Engineered Satellite (WESAT), developed by LBS Institute of Technology for Women, is among the experiments conducted on the platform.

XPoSat, India’s third space-based observatory, follows the recently launched solar mission Aditya-L1 and AstroSat launched in 2015. The study of X-ray astronomical polarization promises insights into the processes behind celestial emissions, complementing other methods of studying astronomical phenomena.

As ISRO continues to make strides in space exploration, the successful launch of XPoSat sets the stage for a year filled with anticipated space missions and advancements.

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