Thursday, April 21, 2022

ISRO's AstroSat Satellite - The Scientific Payloads

The satellite, AstroSat, which the Indian Space Research Organisation [ISRO] launched, back in 2015, was designed for a purpose without precedence in the organisation.
Unlike it's other satellites, that look & work inwards, this one peers outwards, towards the Universe. An understanding of our galactic surrounding, of which the Astrosat was a miniscule maiden step, is the ticket to bigger subsequency - protecting the planet from possible Armageddon, for one.
So far it, has beamed back more than 50 TB of Astronomical data to ISTRAC#, that are archived at ISSDC# & available to pursuers of Astrophysics for evaluation.
The April 2022 issue of Resonance carries an article elaborating on the multiple Scientific onboard instruments carrying out observation,
"Specifically designed to study stars and galaxies simultaneously in the ultraviolet [UV] and a broad range of energies in X-Rays, AstroSat carries four co-aligned telescopes and detectors, which are mounted on the same deck of the satellite. A fifth instrument with three X-ray detectors mounted on a rotating platform oriented 90o with respect to the other four scans the sky for X-ray transients [source that brighten unexpectedly in X-rays]."
Any comparison with the showstopper James Webb Telescope [JWT] or the earlier Hubble Space Telescope would be unfair. Not only is the scale & scope of the programme on a different level, their underlying operating principles are different too - while the AstroSat is attuned to detect UV & X-Ray, these 2 American devices primarily focus on Infra Red [IR] & visible emission, & none on X-Rays.
Having been in operation for 7 years now, the AstroSat has outlived it's nominal design life of 5 years. Unsurprisingly, the vagaries of Space environment has taken it's toll on the satellite as, "the near UV instrument and two of the three LAXPC units are not functional" it notes. Disappointingly, it's successor appears nowhere on the horizon & could possibly face a situation where ISRO would have no such asset in orbit catering to the needs of India's Astronomy community.
ISTRAC = ISRO Telemetry Tracking & Command Network
ISSDC = Indian Space Science Data Centre