Launch Updates - Analytical Graphics, Inc.

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New Launch: 2011 October 12, 0530 UTC
Site: Satish Dhawan Space Centre, India
Launcher: PSLV
International Designator(s): 2011-058A, 2011-058B, 2011-058C, 2011-058D
SSC Name Owner

"An Indo-French satellite launched on an international climate research mission Wednesday, ascending into space to track tropical cyclones, monsoons and storm systems for at least three years.

"The 2,204-pound [1,000-kg] Megha-Tropiques satellite lifted off at 0530 GMT (1:30 a.m. EDT) Wednesday from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on Sriharikota Island. It was 11 a.m. local time at the launch site, which is located on India's east coast about 50 miles [80 km] north of Chennai.

"The four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle reached orbit and deployed Megha-Tropiques about 22 minutes later, then three more secondary payloads separated to begin their missions."

"Embarking on an international research mission, Megha-Tropiques has four instruments designed to probe the structure of the atmosphere, measure temperature and water vapor, and study the Earth's radiation budget.

"Megha means 'cloud' in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India."

"India built the spacecraft, provided the launch and contributed to two instruments. France supplied the satellite's water vapor profiling sensor and the radiation detector.

"France's investment in the mission totaled 40 million euros, or about [US]$55 million, not including labor costs, according to Didier Renaut, director of meteorology and climate programs at CNES, the French space agency.

"In an interview Wednesday, Renaut said India had about a 60 percent share in Megha-Tropiques, with France adding the remaining 40 percent.

"Renaut said Megha-Tropiques has two main goals.

"'The first objective is general scientific research into the tropical climate, convective systems in the tropics, contributions to the rain budget in the tropics, and things like that,' Renaut said. 'The second one is a more operational goal, to use more real-time Megha-Tropiques data to watch over the meteorological phenomena in the tropics, such as convective systems, monsoon rain systems and tropical cyclones.'

"Long-term research will benefit from Megha-Tropiques by improvements in climate computer models. Megha-Tropiques could help scientists better understand how water and energy come together in the tropics to form clouds and storms.

"Real-time forecasters will have daily access to Megha-Tropiques data to help with hurricane and storm outlooks.

"Megha-Tropiques is one of the first spacecraft to launch for the Global Precipitation Measurement program, an international network of satellites led by NASA and Japan to track worldwide weather."

"The satellite orbits about 538 miles [866 km] above Earth, crisscrossing the equator to cover an area stretching between 20 degrees north and south latitude. Most tropical cyclones develop in this band, which also includes the perpetually stormy intertropical convergence zone, where tradewinds from the northern and southern hemispheres collide and generate rain showers."

"Officials selected the orbit to allow regular observations of fast-developing clouds and storms."

"According to Renaut, engineers will finish in-orbit testing of the spacecraft in two or three months, then it will take about six months to calibrate the scientific instruments and validate their results."

[Note: This launch notification was delayed pending identification by USSTRATCOM.]

Source: Spaceflight Now, "Tropical climate satellite soars for India, France"

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