India plans space telescope launch in second half of 2015

ASTROSAT won't trouble Hubble, will excite boffins at University of Leicester

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) says it is ready to launch its first “mission aimed at studying distant celestial objects.”

Dubbed “ASTROSAT”, the craft packs four X-ray instruments, an ultraviolet telescope and a charge particle monitor.

ISRO says all payloads have been integrated into the satellite and that a few months testing are all that stands between it and a launch atop a rocket designated PSLV C-34. That vessel will ascend to an altitude of about 650km and despatch ASTROSAT into “a near equatorial orbit around the Earth.”

India's press likes to describe ASTROSAT as a “mini Hubble”, a decent description as the observatory will pack a 300mm mirror compared to Hubble's 2.4m kit.

But ASTROSAT has Hubble beat in some ways as its instruments will observe ultraviolet rays, x-rays and light visible to our puny human eyes in ways and in spectra that Hubble cannot.

ASTROSAT is expected to last five years, rather less than Hubble's 25-and-counting, but is nonetheless a welcome addition to humanity's space-spotting fleet. And also rather exciting for boffins at the University of Leicester which provided the CCD camera for the soft X-ray telescope. ®


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