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ISRO commissions world’s third-largest hypersonic wind tunnel

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) created history by commissioning the world’s third-largest hypersonic wind tunnel at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. 

In this regard, ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar commissioned two facilities – a 1-m Hypersonic Wind Tunnel and a 1-m Shock Tunnel.

Key Facts
  • These facilities are the third largest in terms of size and simulation capability in the world next only to the ones in the United States (US) and Russia.
  • They have been indigenously designed, developed and made in India with the support of Indian Industries.
  • Few critical technologies of these tunnels which are under embargo were also indigenously developed.
  • These facilities together are quite complex with 500 valves, 2 km of pipelines, 41 electric motors, 35 pumps, 320 instruments and 10 km of cables.
  • These tunnels have wide spectrum of simulation capabilities in terms of Mach number, Reynolds number and re-entry velocities.
  • Applications: These wind tunnels will be used to study the effects of air flowing past a solid object and in ISRO’s case, space vehicles.
  • These new facilities will help aerodynamic characterisation of advanced space transportation systems in a hypersonic environment.
  • Significance: Such facilities will provide adequate data for design and development of current and future space transportation systems in the country.
  • Commissioning of these facilities also symbolises the country’s capability in establishing such world-class facilities wherein technology from outside is restricted or not available.


NASA scientists found lost Chandrayaan-1 orbiting Moon

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have found India’s first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1 which was considered lost, is still orbiting the moon. They also have found NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

The ISRO lost communication with Chandrayaan-1 on August 29, 2009, almost a year after it was launched on October 22, 2008. The unmanned spacecraft is still circling some 200 km in the polar orbit around the moon

How these probes were discovered?

Both space probes were discovered using JPL’s new ground-based radar technique by sending out a powerful beam of microwaves towards the moon. The beams were produced using 70-metre antenna at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California. The radar echoes bounced back from lunar orbit were received by the 100-metre Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

Key facts
  • The LRO was easily discovered as scientists were working with the mission’s navigators had precise orbit data.
  • But finding of Chandrayaan-1, very small and cuboid in shape, about 1.5 metres in length on each side was little bit difficult as ISRO had last contact with it.
  • Even finding a derelict spacecraft at lunar distance that has not been tracked for years is tricky because the moon is riddled with
  • Mascons are regions with higher-than-average gravitational pull. It is believed that they may had dramatically affected spacecraft’s orbit over time, and even cause it to crashed into the moon. 

Chandrayaan 1 after its launch in October 2008 had operated for 312 days, as against the intended two years, but the mission achieved 95% of its planned objectives. It had sent more than 70,000 images of the lunar surface which provided breathtaking views of lunar mountains and craters, especially craters in the permanently shadowed areas of the Moon’s polar region.


ISRO successfully launches record 104 satellites in single mission

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) created history by successfully launching a record 104 satellites in single mission.

These satellites were launched on board of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C37, on its 39th mission from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.’

Key Facts 
  • Of the total 104 satellites, three were Indian and remaining 101 belonged to international customers.
  • India’s three satellites included earth-mapping Cartosat-2 satellite (main payload) and nanosatellites INS-1A and INS-1B.
  • Foreign Satellites: Of the 101 co-passenger satellites, 96 belong to US and remaining 5 from Israel, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, respectively.
  • Around 90 small satellites belonged to US-based company Planet Inc. They are named ‘Doves’ and their constellation will be used to image the earth at low cost.
  • Launch Process: In this mission, PSLV first launched the Cartosat-2 and then its 103 co-passengers (together weighing about 664 kg) into the polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO), about 520 km from the Earth.
  • Cartosat-2 Satellite: It was the primary payload of the mission. It is similar to the earlier four satellites in Cartosat-2 Series. It weighs 714 kg and has a mission life of five years.
  • It is earth observation satellite that will provide remote sensing services. Images sent by it will be useful for coastal land use and regulation, road network monitoring and creation of land use maps, among others.
  • INS-1A and INS-1B Satellites: They are nanosatellites. INS-1A was carrying Surface Bidirectional Reflectance Distribution Function Radiometer and INS-1B was carrying Earth Exosphere Lyman Alpha Analyser as payloads.
  • Launch Vehicle: For this mission, ISRO had used XL Variant of PSLV rocket standing 44.4 metres tall and weighing 320 tonnes.
  • It is most powerful rocket of ISRO and earlier was used in launching ambitious Chandrayaan and Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM).
  • Records Broken: This mission beat the previous record held by Russia, which in 2014 had catapulted 37 satellites in a single launch, using a modified inter-continental ballistic missile.
  • It also broke ISRO’s previous national record set in June 2016, after it had successfully launched 20 satellites, including 13 from the US in single mission.