PSLV launch: Asteroid-hunter, smartphone on board satellites

Carrying an ocean monitor, an asteroid-hunter and an android smartphone among the seven satellites on board, India's trusted rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)-C20, lifted off from Sriharikota in yet another successful mission.

The rocket took off from ISRO's Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Monday evening, with President Pranab Mukherjee among those watching the launch from the space station. This was the 22nd successive successful launch for the PSLV.

For India, the main payload was the Indo-French satellite SARAL (Satellite with ARgos and ALtika). The satellite witnessed ISRO collaboration with the French space agency CNES. The 409-kg satellite will collect information on oceans and rains, help locate vessels and track migration of animals and birds.

Among the other satellites launched were NEOSSat a 74-kg Canadian surveillance satellite that will look out for asteroids over 50 million kilometres away. The search for asteroids is of interest as it comes after a meteorite recently crashed near Ural mountains in Russia. However, the makers of the satellite say that while it may be able to reduce the hazards of a similar impact, its basic design is to find bigger asteroids.

SAPPHIRE is another Canadian satellite which aims to survey objects orbiting earth, including active and old satellites. Denmark's AAUSAT3 will test the feasibility of tracking ships moving through the Arctic region.

Another payload that is of interest is the STRaND-1, from the UK, which is a unique yet simple contraption. It comprises a smartphone loaded with specific apps, stuck to a 30 cm x 10 cm cubesat. The Google Nexus phone has four apps that were selected based on a Facebook contest. One of the apps, 'Postcards from space', will take pictures of the Earth based on unique public demands. Another app, '360', will provide photos on a map showing where they were taken.

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