India is gearing up to launch its own ASTROSAT, the first dedicated space observatory similar to NASA’s Hubble to study deep space in October 2015.
The observatory to be placed in equatorial range for five years will orbit around Earth at 650-km speed, said the Indian Space Research Organisation on Tuesday.
Built by Bangalore-based ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC), India hopes to join the elite club of space players like the US, Europe, Russia and Japan with the launch of ASTROSAT in October. India’s Astrosat would be the first of its kind with the ability to scan the sky in variable frequencies from ultraviolet to optical and low to high energy X-ray bands, said ISRO. It is significant as the ASTROSAT is the first mission to be operated as a space observatory by ISRO.
Here are the space observatories sent earlier by the US, Europe, Russia and Japan.
Hubble Space Telescope of the US/Europe:
The Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized human understanding of the universe with its discovery of rare and unknown deep space exploration of galaxies, asteroids and cosmic energy sources. It was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990, and remains in operation as a joint US-European mission. With a 2.4-meter mirror, Hubble’s four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared spectra at a height of 559 km. It orbits 7.5 km per second with a power source of 2800 watts and had cost $2.5 billion. It was able to detect objects in space that are 25 times fainter than the dimmest objects observable from Earth. But the failure of its main light-gathering mirror has prevented the 43-foot telescope from functioning properly.
Russian space telescope Spektr R was launched on 18 July 2011 with a 10 metre carbon fibre dish for radio telescopy under project RadioAstron, which is the world’s biggest radio telescope. Launched by Roscosmos, it can detect centimetre range wavelength light, compared to Hubble’s 2.4 metre mirror. Spektr R orbits the Earth via a highly elliptical orbit with a perigee of 10,000 km and an apogee of 390,000 km with an axis of 200,000 km.
Japan’s Suzaku Observatory:
Launched in 2013 by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Suzaku observatory was able to map the spectroscopic signature of iron in the hot, 10 million degree gas that fills the space between galaxies in clusters. Suzaku (ASTRO-EII) is the fifth in a series of Japanese X-ray astronomy satellites, in cooperation with NASA. Suzaku is designed to perform various kinds of observational studies of a wide variety of X-ray sources, with higher energy resolution and a higher sensitivity than ever before, over a range of soft X-rays to gamma-rays (0.4-600 keV). It uses improved instruments derived from those used for ASCA (ASTRO-D), the previous Japanese X-ray observatory, which was launched in August 1993.
While several observatory mission are being undertaken by other players, the US is also gearing up for its next big space observatory called the James Webb Space Telescope. The $9 billion James Webb will detect infrared light, sports a bigger mirror and runs for a lifespan of about 10 years. It will be launched in late-2018.