Chennai: The countdown for the Monday evening launch of an Indian rocket that would sling into orbit the world's first smart phone-operated nano satellite and a space telescope satellite - and five others including an Indo-French satellite - is progressing smoothly, an official of the Indian space agency said.
"The countdown is smooth and all operations are normal," an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) official, who did not want to be named, told IANS.
The 59 hour countdown for the rocket launch that would be lugging seven satellites Monday evening began at 6.56 am at ISRO's rocket launch centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, around 80 km from Chennai.
The filling up of the propellant in the fourth stage/engine of the 44.4 metre tall Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C20 (PSLV-C20) with a lift of 229.7 ton mass and in the reaction control thrusters of the first stage/engine is under progress, ISRO said.
On February 22, ISRO's Launch Authorisation Board (LAB) gave its nod for the Monday evening rocket launch that would carry the Indo-French satellite SARAL (Satellite with ARGOS and ALTIKA) and six other foreign satellites. The seven satellites together weigh 668.5 kg.
The entire flight sequence - lift off to the ejection of the seventh satellite at an altitude of 794 km from earth - will take around 22 minutes.
The Indo-French initiative satellite SARAL will study the sea surface heights and the data generated will be shared by both the countries.
According to ISRO, the SARAL satellite is the first under the Indian mini satellite bus-series 2 configured for 400 kg satellites.
The Indian space agency states this satellite frame is envisaged to be the workhorse for different types of operational missions in the coming years.
The other six satellites that PSLV-C20 would sling into orbit are two Canadian satellite NEOSSat (Near Earth Object Space Surveillance Satellite), the world's first space telescope designed by Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and Sapphire satellite built by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), BRITE and UniBRITE (both Austria), STRaND-1 (Britain) and AAUSAT (Denmark).
Curiously the STRaND-1 (Surrey Training, Research, and Nanosatellite Demonstrator) is the world's first 'smart phone satellite' carrying Google Nexus One phone running on Android operating system.
The 6.5 kg satellite is a Britain mission, jointly developed by the University of Surrey's Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL).
The phone will run several applications including collection of data and take pictures of the earth with its camera.
Once all the satellite's own operating systems have been checked out, key system functions will be transferred to the phone's components to take control and operate the satellite, said SSTL in its website.
According to CSA, the satellite NEOSSat will detect and track asteroids and satellites circling the globe every 100 minutes and scanning space near the Sun to pin point otherwise almost invisible asteroids.
The satellite will also be useful in tracking resident space objects including space debris.
On the other hand, Sapphire will look for resident space objects that include functioning satellites and space debris circling between 6,000 km and 40,000 km above the earth.
The February 25 launch is the first of the 10 space missions that ISRO has planned for 2013.
The government told Parliament last year that ISRO is planning to accomplish 10 space missions in the next one year with eight of them planned by September 2013 and the remaining two by 2013-end.
The missions are three polar satellite launch vehicles, one geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle, two communication satellites, one earth observation (ocean) satellite, one meteorological satellite, one navigation satellite and Mars orbiter.