Amazonia-1, which will help monitor the ecosystem of the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, will be launched into space in February next year from the Sriharikota launch centre and will become part of Indian Space Research Organisation’s first satellite launch of 2021. Isro’s PSLV-C51 will not only launch Amazonia-1 satellite but also three private satellites built by Indian startups as secondary payloads.
Highlighting the significance of the upcoming first full commercial launch of 2021 involving satellites of desi startups, Isro chairman K Sivan told
that the “launch is part of the space reforms”, announced by the Union Cabinet a few months ago, that give impetus to roping in the private sector in space exploration. He said therefore the “PSLV-C51 mission is one of its kind and is special for us and the entire country”. The other three privately built desi satellites are ‘ANAND’ from startup Pixel India, ‘SATISH SAT’ from Space Kids India and ‘UNIT-SAT’ by a consortium of universities.
Amazonia-1, which is the first earth observation satellite of Brazil developed indigenously by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), the south American country’s apex body for space research and exploration, was successfully airlifted to Chennai from Brazil by Emirates SkyCargo, the freight division of Emirates airline.
Though Emirates SkyCargo has expertise in transporting satellites and other cargo developed for space technology, it said that “this was the first time that it has transported a satellite from South America” to the Indian subcontinent. In 2018, the carrier transported Khalifasat, the first satellite developed by Emirati engineers at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, from Dubai to Seoul.
Though Amazonia-1 satellite just weighed 700 kg, the satellite cargo was quite heavy weighing 22 tonnes. This was because the satellite was dismantled into multiple components to facilitate easy loading and unloading from the aircraft. The satellite components were packed in large containers to avoid any damage during the transport. Four members of the INPE team also travelled with the satellite to continuously monitor the status of the cargo during the flight from Sao Jose dos Campos to Dubai and then onwards to Chennai, a statement from Emirates SkyCargo.
On the three satellites built by Indian startups, Sivan, who on Wednesday got one-year extension as secretary of the Department of Space and Space Commission chairman till January 14, 2022, had earlier said, “PSLV-C51 (mission) is going to initiate a new era of space reforms in India and I am sure that these private people will take this activity further and provide services for the entire country.” The move to allow private players in space exploration follows the Modi Cabinet’s decision in June 2020, allowing participation of the private sector in the entire range of space activities, including interplanetary missions.