by Brian Orlotti
|The Satish Dhawan Space Centre.|
The Indian Space and Research Organization’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) flight C20 is currently scheduled for a February 25th, 2013 liftoff from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India. The launch has suffered both recent (February 14th & February 18th) and long-term delays as outlined most recently in the January 14th, 2013 blog post "Robotic Refueling, Sapphire, NEOSst, CanX 3a, 3b and CASSIOPE on a Falcon 9," but now seems set to finally move forward
The flight C20 payload includes the Department of National Defence (DND) Surveillance of Space (Sapphire) satellite, the Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite (NEOSSat) and the CanX-3a BRIght-star Target Explorer (BRITE) and the CanX-3b (TUGsat1) micro-satellites. The Canadian satellites are a secondary payload, with space being shared with satellites from India, France, Denmark and the UK.
Sapphire will be Canada’s first operational military satellite. Loaded with optical sensors, its primary missions will be monitoring orbiting satellites and tracking space debris. Defence Research Development Canada (DRDC) proposed Sapphire in response to China’s 2007 test of an anti-satellite missile, which left much debris in low Earth orbit and served as a stark warning to other nations that their commercial and military space assets were vulnerable to attack.
|SAPPHIRE key elements. c/o E/O Portal.|
NEOSSAT will be the first space telescope designed specifically to search for near-Earth asteroids that could potentially collide with the Earth, such as what happened with the February 15th explosion of a meteorite over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. The suitcase-sized satellite will orbit approximately 800 kilometres above our planet, searching for near-Earth asteroids that would be difficult to spot using ground-based telescopes.
Aside from planetary defense, this data will be crucial for future government and private missions to nearby asteroids. NEOSSAT will spend half its time looking for these small objects and the other half monitoring space debris in Earth orbit that could collide with other satellites and cause major telecommunications outages. NEOSSAT was jointly developed by DRDC, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Microsat Systems Canada Inc. (MSCI) , Spectral Applied Research and COM DEV.
|CanX-3. c/o UTIAS SFL.|
|TUGSAT-1. c/o Gunters Space Page.|
Also aboard PSLV flight C20 are the Satellite with ARgos and ALtika (SARAL) co-operative altimetry technology mission between the ISRO and the French Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES), the Surrey Training Research and Nanosatellite Demonstrator 1 (STRaND1), a microsat demonstrator mission utilizing commercial off-the-shelf components from standard smartphones running on the Android open source operating system and the third of a series of Aalborg University Cubesat (AAU-Cubesat3), a student project from Aalborg University in Denmark (which also just happened to use UTIAS SFL facilities for testing)
With so many space assets squeezed aboard a single launcher, Canadian and international space-watchers will certainly have their fingers crossed as the watershed launch approaches.