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India lobs satellite toward orbit

India lobs satellite toward orbit

Wednesday, April 18, 2001

This spring has already been a busy season in outer space, with the Sun at the peak of its 11-year solar storm cycle, and with NASA's Space Shuttle running construction missions back and forth to the International Space Station.

Today things may get even more crowded up there, as India counts down for its second attempt to launch a heavy, geosynchronous satellite into orbit. If it succeeds, India would become only the sixth country with that capability, joining the U.S., Russia, China, Japan, and the European Space Agency. The Indian Space Research Organization (www.isro.com) has launched satellites in the past, but they are lightweight and orbit Earth in a north-south plane.

On March 28, the country canceled its first attempt on the launch pad, when one of the booster rockets had insufficient thrust. The next attempt is at 5:13 a.m. EDT Wednesday (2:43 p.m. Indian time), from the SHAR space center on Sriharikota Island, 60 miles north of Madras, in the Bay of Bengal. The launch window is open until April 25 to allow for weather or technical challenges.

India is using a GSLV-D1 rocket to put the 4,000-lb satellite in space. The three-stage rocket is 161 ft tall and weighs 401 tons at liftoff (www.isro.org/gslvd1/gslvd1.htm). The ISRO has 19 more launches planned through 2004 (www.oosa.unvienna.org/natact/2000/india.html).

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