India’s IRNSS-1I – an advanced, exquisite and cutting-edge navigation satellite

India’s space agency ISRO on Thursday, 12 April 2018, launched an advanced, exquisite and cutting-edge navigation satellite IRNSS-1I from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh at 04:04 AM (IST).

It was deployed into orbit by the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) C-41 rocket. This success has come at the time when ISRO has lost and disoriented its last catapulted satellite GSAT-6A, which was launched on 29 March 2018 by GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle)-F08 rocket. ISRO lost contact with the same few days subsequent the launch and irrevocably gave up on it.

However, the new satellite, IRNSS-1I is highly efficacious and is exhibiting and executing its job well in the orbit. It will be a sister node of the NavIC Navigation Satellite Constellation once it starts its service in the orbit, as confirmed by the space agency. The main aim and impulse of the satellite constellation are to maturate and fabricate India’s own navigation system, same as the US’s Global Positioning System.

The NavIC satellite constellation provides rigorous and explicit positioning services to the subscribers in India as well as to the region stretching 1500 Kms around its boundary. NavIC is the acronym of “Navigation with Indian Constellation” which serves and succor dual purpose – military & commercial. It provides support in disaster management, aerial, marine & terrestrial navigations, voice & visual navigation for drivers & riders, fleet management, network timing, integration with smartphones, vehicle mapping etc.

IRNSS-1I is the 8th installment in the NavIC constellation. The same will reinstate and replenish the stature of IRNSS-1A whose three Rubidium atomic clocks have failed.

The satellite will circumduct and revolve around the Earth at the same rate at which the planet rotates, providing IRNSS-1I an uninterrupted view of a region at a time.The space agency in its official statement stated that – 19 minutes after launch, the satellite has made its way to an orbit that will eventually transfer craft to its final orbital destination. Subsequently, orbit maneuvers will be commenced from the MCF in the upcoming days, just to finally position the craft at 55 degrees east longitude, inclined 29 degrees towards the equator,” said the space agency.

This lift-off was the PSLV ‘s 43rd flight, till now it has successfully sent off 52 Indigenously made satellites & 237 client’s satellites from foreign countries.

Meanwhile, it’s been confirmed from ISRO that the exact position of the satellite GSAT-6A has been found, with the help of advanced tracking systems. The agency’s chairman further said that we are hoping that in a particular inclination, the satellite will capture the signals & will start communicating with the base station.

The planned launch of Falcon 9 with NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite

Life is full of new discoveries. The death or fall of one organization leads to a rebirth of another. This means nothing that finds its way on earth will easily die due to lack of a predecessor. In the same way, Kepler Space Telescope owned by NASA has accelerated the speed of discovery. This has made it clear that the galaxy is saturated with planets.

The fact that Kepler is running out of fuel and crippling would be a disappointment to many. However, the good news is, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is ready to succeed Kepler. TESS is actually on the other side waiting to in the wings waiting to fly. As astronomers are putting it, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is sitting in the nose shaft of a missile in Florida.

TESS is on Monday scheduled to launch aboard a rocket that is identified as SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This is one of many missions NASA has partnered on with Elon Musk Rocket Company. SpaceX has also used its Dragon cargo ships in resupplying the International Space Station.

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is tasked to monitor two hundred of the nearest stars by use of the same discovery system that enabled its predecessor Kepler to identify 2,600 confirmed exoplanets. It features four wide-field cameras that will come in handy when it comes to watching tell-tale dips in brightness which can be caused by a compassing planet transiting in front of a star.

TESS is essentially expected to provide a catalog like a phone book. This will be important because it will provide important information about all the best planets you would be interested in following up. This information was given by Sara Seager who is an astrophysics professor who is part of the leadership team of scientists working for TESS. He is also a driving force in the mission of searching for signs of life in other stars.

Once TESS has successfully found those worlds, they will use a more sophisticated telescope like James Webb Space Telescope which has been set to be launched in 2020. The sophisticated telescope will come in handy in looking for those marks of potential life.

According to Seager, TESS characterizes the very first opportunity of truly making progress in the area of trying to find marks of life on other planets. Tess has a great chance of finding a rocky planet, with the right temperature that is favorable for human habitation.

Intelsat-I: The satellite which revolutionized the development of global telecommunication

Daily we tune into our favorite radio channel, watch sitcoms on televisions or browse the internet on our smartphones. But what we don’t realize or are unaware of the simple fact that all these are made possible through the relay and amplification of radio telecommunication signals by a communication satellite.

Even though Sputnik launched by Russia on October 1957 marked the commencement of satellites being launched into space, Intelsat I or fondly called as The Early bird was the first commercial communications satellite which was placed in the geosynchronous satellite (GSO) on 6 April 1965. It was built by Space and Communications Group of Hughes Aircraft Company founded by billionaire Howard Hughes in 1932 (now known as Boeing Aircraft Company) for Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT) which activated it on 28 June. It was based on the prototype that Hughes had built for NASA intended to prove the feasibility of the idea of communications via synchronous-orbit satellite.

A geosynchronous orbit satellite is often confused with the geostationary satellite. A geosynchronous satellite has its orbit matched with the rotation of the Earth on its artificial axis lasting 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds. While a geosynchronous satellite appears to return to the initial point above the Earth at the end of each orbit, a geostationary satellite is placed above the equator and seems to be stationary in the sky.

The satellite provided the first live TV coverage of Gemini 6 spacecraft splashdown in December 1965. It was also the first one to handle television, telephone, and fax signals. The tiny early bird satellite having the dimension of 76 × 61cm and weighing just 34.5kg transmitted direct and almost instantaneous contact between Europe and North America. Intelsat has also been credited to broadcast the landmark first live television program-Our World which aired in June 1967. The program viewed by whopping 400 million viewers in 25 countries had artists and performers representing 19 countries. The two-and-a-half-hour-long special broadcast was concluded by the song All You Need is Love written especially for the event by John Lennon and performed by the legendary The Beatles.

Initially envisioned to service for only 18 months, Intelsat-1 remained in service for almost four years being deactivated in January 1969.  It was briefly activated in June of the same year to serve the Apollo 11. But it was deactivated in August 1969.  Although it remains deactivated in orbit even today, it was activated again in 1990 to celebrate its 25th anniversary.


Picture by Intelsat.

Software-based satellites: A new revolutionary genre of satellites

After setting several milestones in the space technology and research sector, China is set to launch its first software-based satellite called Tianzhi-1 in the second half of the year and will be conducting in-orbit experimental verification. It is intended to be majorly beneficial to the public and to serve the national defense system as well.

What are software-based satellites?

A software-based satellite takes advantage of the internet’s open source and can function similar to the Android operating system to research and develop software and hardware.  It can also provide services such as precise navigation, space monitor, environmental changes and timing services at any place on Earth. Such satellites can be viewed as a computer in space which is capable of collecting, storing, processing, computing and sending the required data back to the ground. Employing the services of these satellites, customers can use it to develop, test, and debug their software. For instance, take an environmental protection organization that needs to inspect water pollution level in some area. It can rent such a satellite which is capable of providing it with high-definition pictures of the area. By using the uploaded software, the organization can obtain the results and estimate the rate at which the pollution is spreading.

The usage of the satellite is open to general public use via their smartphone devices unlike, the traditional ones. Contrary to conventional satellites that have single functionality, software-defined satellites can meet a variety of demands coming from different customers, just by changing and updating the software to be used, which in turn can cut down the costs drastically. 

About Tianzhi-1

The CAS’ Bureau of Major R&D supported Tianzhi-1 project officially began in 2017. The main aim of the Chinese software-based satellite is to lay the foundation for a network and to enable testing of essential technologies required for the software-defined satellite system. It will be carrying a small computing platform which will enable it to process the data collected in orbit before sending them back to Earth for different users. Additionally, it will have four China’s homemade smartphones which have efficient calculative capabilities and is energy efficient. The satellite is also capable of automatic operations which can drastically reduce the pressure of the satellite control system situated on the ground. 

China plans to send one of such satellite every year to further enrich the system. The later additions to the software-based satellite constellation, Tianzhi-2 and Tianzhi-3 are already being developed.

IRNSS-1I – The crucial launch

Just within a few days of the launch of the indigenously built GSAT-6A, the elite space agency, ISRO is again gearing up to launch its another home built navigation satellite Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS). The latest launch of ISRO, GSAT-6A witnessed a major setback when scientists lost communication with it. But, ISRO appears to be undaunted and is now eyeing on its newest venture IRNSS-1I or Indian Regional Navigation System Satellite. IRNSS-1I will be put in motion en route the PSLV-C41 rocket from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on April 12, 2018, at 4:04 AM IST.

For the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C41, it will be its forty-third flight. It is the ISRO’s most conscientious & dexterous workhorse. The sendoff of IRNSS-1I is expected to happen in XL combination en route the PSLV rocket. This would the twentieth time that the XL combination of the PSLV will be used. The IRNSS-1i is the 8th installment of the ISRO’s prestigious NavIC navigation satellite constellation. It will be the replacement to the 1,425kg IRNSS-1H, which could not be launched successfully. Previous IRNSS satellites to tag on to the ISRO’s NavIc Navigation Satellite Constellation successfully are IRNSS-1A, IRNSS-1B, IRNSS-1C, IRNSS-1C, IRNSS-1D, IRNSS-1E, IRNSS-1F, IRNSS-1G.Their main motive is to develop India’s own navigation system just like the US’S GPS. Few of these IRNSS satellites are having geostationary orbit (GEO), while others have geosynchronous orbit (GSO).

ISRO launched the IRNSS-1H, on 31 August 2017 to tag on to the NavIC navigation Constellation. The launch of the PSLV-C39 ferrying the IRNSS-1H was typical, but the mission failed as the IRNSS-1H was not placed into the intended orbit properly. The rocket’s heat shield which was expected to separate within 3 minutes of take-off, failed to do so even after 20 minutes, thus the satellite was not ejected out. Scientists at ISRO pronounced the mission unsuccessful after about 19 minutes. So, IRNSS-1i is very crucial as it will take the place of IRNSS-1H.

IRNSS is an Indian Satellite-based positioning system for various crucial applications. As said by ISRO, IRNSS is a regional navigation satellite system developed & designed by India to provide accurate positioning services to subscribers in India as well as to the region stretching 1500 Kms from its borders.NavIC is the functional name for IRNSS. NavIC which stands for “Navigation with Indian Constellation” has a dual objective – military & commercial. It will provide support in disaster management, aerial, terrestrial & marine navigations, precise timing, voice & visual navigation for drivers & riders, fleet management, integration with smartphones, vehicle mapping, etc. ISRO is now making plans to extend the NavIC system from 8 to 11 satellites in future. India is also outlining a plan to develop global navigation project called GINS.

China to Launch Its First Software-Based Satellite 

The first software-based satellite of China will be released in the second half of 2018 that will significantly benefit the public and serve as a national defense of the country as well. The country is one of the many nations in the world that is emerging in creating satellites and this new launch will surely be a huge hit in the aerospace field. 

The software-based satellite that takes advantage of the open source of the internet can work in a similar manner to the Android Operating System to research and create its hardware and software. Consumers can make use of the platform to test, develop and debug software, in accordance with the article published on the website of Chinese Academy of Science (CAS). 

Referred as the Tianzhi-1, the satellite will be sent mainly to lay the foundation for a specific network and to test major technologies for the software-defined satellite network. According to Zhao Junso, a researcher at the CAS Institute of Software where the satellite was constructed, they are considering sending 1 satellite every year to develop the system. 

The operating system of the software-defined satellite is open to public usage and software-based. Compared to conventional satellites, the satellite could also be utilized in national security as well.

Supported by the Bureau of Major R & D Program of CAS, Tianzhi-1 Project officially started in 2017 and is anticipated to be launched in the second half of the year and will perform in-orbit experimental verification according to published on Saturday. 

Tianzhi-1 can process any data in orbit prior to sending it back to the Earth for various use and is capable of automatic operations that can also lessen the burden of the satellite control system on the Earth, added by Zhao. 

According to an expert at China Aviation News, Zhang Baoxin, compared to satellites having a single function, this software-defined satellite Tianzhi-1 can meet countless demands from different clients by updating and changing software that can extremely lessen the costs. 

The new satellite-based software will carry tiny cloud computing platforms that include four of the homemade smartphones of China that features strong calculation skills and is very energy efficient. The satellite is capable also of offering photos of Earth and space. Zhao added that Tianzhi-3 and Tinanzhi-2 are already being settled by their experts. Tianzhi-1 utilized an open source of the internet and is now ready for public use. 

Elon Musk’s SpaceX WiFi Is Coming and It Could be Next Year

Elon Musk takes a step further in his determination to settle on Mars and save the human race. His SpaceX WiFi is really happening and it could come on everyone’s smartphone next year. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently authorized SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company to launch Starlink.

This is a broadband satellite service that brings a massive change to the internet. It will change the way that everyone sees the internet in a completely new way. Currently, people get free WiFi through hotspots. Everybody knows how frustrating it is when a hotspot has zero bars and they end up paying for enormous data charges.

Some people have this concern but then some have problems with areas that a signal can’t reach at all. Right now, there are about 34.5 million Americans without broadband access in rural areas and some in cities. The goal of Starlink is to eliminate this problem by making the whole country into hotspots. It could be possible with Starlink, a constellation of low-orbit satellites with around 4,425 of them.

Starlink will have to deploy at least 800 of these satellites into orbit before the system’s take off. All these 4,425 satellites will beam a connection with Ka (12-18 GHz) and Ku (26.5-40 GHz) bands of radio frequencies down to Earth. This space WiFi is similar to that of an airplane Wi-Fi. The only difference is it is upgraded with fiber-level speeds without extra charge.

FCC has thoroughly reviewed and approved the constellation license for the project, which SpaceX greatly appreciates. This serves as a vital step in SpaceX’s goal of developing a next-generation satellite system. This will provide the planet with an affordable and reliable broadband service that can reach even those who do not have a connection yet.

Starlink will not only make internet possible to everyone who is out of its reach. At the same time, it will release the internet from the monopoly of only a few companies. Many people are optimistic about the future of internet that Elon Musk is determined to make a reality.

There has been no precedent for this project yet but one thing everyone knows is that Elon Musk always gives a full blast of any project he does. Whether Starlink will be a success, everyone can only make a guess until at least Space X sends the initial 800 satellites up into space.

French Eutelsat eyeing Thales Satellite after plans to abandon ViaSat

Eutelsat Communications SA in France has ordered a new satellite with a view of boosting its broadband as well as in-flight connectivity services. Their previous plan of investing in ViaSat-3 with ViaSat Inc has reportedly been abandoned.

Operational from 2012, the Konnect VHTS satellite is supposed to be made by Thales SA, which is a Paris-based aerospace and defense manufacturer. In other news, Eutelsat has also said to have signed a multiyear contract with Orange SA that is arguably the country`s biggest phone carrier. This is done with the idea of selling service to customers that most ground networks cannot reach to. Thales is said to have plans to work with buyers from the government.

The undisclosed cost of this project will be taken cared by Paris-based Eutelsat’s 420 million euro or 514 million dollars of their annual spending plan. This was initially held as the budget for the ViaSat project. Konnect VHTS, where VHTS stands for Very High Throughput Satellite, is super fast and is expected to deliver 500 gigabit per second Ka band. In the near future, the Very High Throughput Satellites will prove to be “fiber-like” in terms of speed as well as cost. This is the expectation cited by their Chief Executive Officer, Rodolphe Belmer. He also predicted that high-speed broadband will be one of the critical drivers of the company Eutelsat’s growth from the time of its purchase, that is, from 2020.

ViaSat also reacted to this news and issued an email statement stating that its capital plan was not dependent on Eutelsat’s participation and their change of plans had no direct impact on their existing contracts with the company. They further clarified that even though they had wanted to arrive at a mutually decided agreement on future funding, but since the participating parties in the negotiation did not get to agree over some of the fundamental principles of the company, they could not see the end to this agreement.

On Thurday, the California-based company’s stock shares saw a 4.9% decline, closing at $63.75 in New York. The same stock had been on a rise of 1.6 % prior to this very news. Eutelsat`s shares also saw a significant low, and fell by 1.8 %; closing at 16.63 euros in Paris on the following day of the news, that is, Friday.

All about the early bird, Intelsat-1 satellite

Intelsat 1 was the very first commercial satellite in global scale in our communications system. It was on this very month, April 6th to be precise, way back in 1965.

The Intelsat-1 was nicknamed as Early Bird since it was a pioneer in its field of invention. Placed in the geosynchronous orbit, it religiously followed the daily rotations of planet earth, but on an inclination slightly different to the latter.

Early Bird had facilitated constant chain of satellite communication between continents, that is, Europe and North America. Everything from faxes, television broadcasts to phone calls were transmitted by this dainty little satellite that weighed only 34.5kg with dimensions of 76 x 61 cm.

It was basically built for NASA by Hughes Aircraft Company. The original plan was to make use of the Early Bird only for eighteen months, but it stayed in service for four long years. Believe it or not, thi s deactivated baby still is present in the orbit above earth even today. It was brought back briefly to bring in its 25th anniversary in the year 1990.

Along with other satellites in the later years, those of the likes of Intelsat 2, Intelsat 3 and NASA ATS-1, Early Bird was also used to transmit the landmark television show ‘Our World’. This show was aired in 1967 and was the first live broadcast show that was transmitted everywhere around the world with the help of the above listed satellites. Four hundred million viewers from 25 different countries had tuned in to watch the broadcasted show. This had been the largest number of audience attention for any television show during that time frame.

Nineteen countries had participated with representatives of artists and performers in this show back then. The likes of Pablo Picasso were a part of this historic event. The show was a two and a half hours event that was sealed with The Beatles performance of ‘All You Need Is Love’.

This song was first presented to the public in this very event since it was especially written for this event by none other than John Lennon.

Intelsat-I was even used in the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 when their supporting Atlantic satellite had failed to function.

Post Intelsat-1 numerous launches were seen in the 1960s and 1970s. Intelsat-3 when launched supported fifteen hundred voice circuits of four different TV channels. Intelsat-4 had enabled four thousand voice circuits in its time. Such innovations of those times gave more power to world communication and help bring the world together through networking and connection. Ever since, the trend follows.

End of OA-5 mission

Orbital ATK Cygnus OA-5 SS Alan Pointdexter finished its mission in dense layers of atmosphere on November 27. It has spent in space 40 days since reaching orbit on atop of Antares 230 on October 17.

It was successful month in space for SS Alan Pointdexter. In spite of fact of delivering over 2300 kg of supplies for crew of International Space Station, Cygnus served as usual for getting rid off of all unwanted equipment and trash. After undocking from Unity nadir docking port and release from Canadarm2 grab on November 22, spacecraft entered into last phase of OA-5 mission – performing experiments and deploying Cubesat satellites using NanoRacks deployment device.

First phase of last mission of Cygnus was initialization of SAFFIRE-II experiment shortly after leaving International Space Station.  It is basically hermetically closed environment filled with flammable materials and oxygen; SAFFIRE-II in spite of its not spectacular look is important step in improving knowledge on dynamic and behaviour of flames in low gravity conditions. Improving our knowledge on physics of flames in low gravity will help in creating more safety space vehicles in future and develop new fire-extinguishing systems for currently used vehicles. This time experiment was focused on nine samples of different materials (with the following dimensions: 5 cm x 30 cm) ignited with steel wire using electricity; experiment was designed to test how low gravity conditions change flammability limits in Maximum Oxygen Concentration (21%, just as inside ISS). SAFFIRE-II was carried out in conditions simulating configuration described in NASA-STD-6001 Test 1. Just as its predecessor onboard of Cygnus OA-6 earlier this year, SAFFIRE-II was conducted after reaching safe distance from ISS to prevent any damage for the Station in case of potential failure of steel container containing flammable material and explosion of spacecraft. It was started at 18:30 UTC on November 22 and was recorded with cameras, microphones and number of sensors installed around container inside Cygnus. Data collected during experiment were transmitted to Earth during following days and until November 25 Cygnus remained on 413.6 km x 422.5 km orbit (five kilometers above ISS). To meet demands of the next point of its mission, Cygnus have been waiting until Friday 25, when it initiated two burns of its BE-4 engine to increase orbit from 417.7 km (final orbit before burn was already circular) to 502.6 km x 511.2 km. First pair of LEMUR-2 satellites (Sokolsky and Xioaqing) was deployed at 21:05 UTC and next pair separated already on Saturday (Anubhavthakur and Wingo) at 01:05 UTC.

This was last part of the OA-5 mission. On Sunday, Cygnus started its main engine once again to reduce speed with two burns. It entered into dense upper layers of atmosphere of Earth around 23:36 UTC on November 27, 2016 over South Pacific.