In first launch of 2021, ISRO to send Brazilian satellite Amazonia-1 into space in February
Amazonia-1 will be launched by ISRO’s PSLV-C51 along with three private satellites built by Indian startups
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is gearing up for the launch of Amazonia-1, a mega satellite developed by Brazil, sometime in February 2021. The launch, from the Sriharikota launch centre, will be the first in 2021.
According to a report in The Times of India, the satellite, which will help monitor the ecosystem of the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, was transported from on a cargo flight from Sao Jose dos Campos in Brazil to Chennai.
Amazonia-1, which took eight years to be developed by Brazil, will be launched by ISRO’s PSLV-C51 along with 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 was quoted saying in the TOI report, "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 Indian satellites are ‘ANAND’ from startup Pixel India, ‘SATISH SAT’ from Space Kids India and ‘UNIT-SAT’ by a consortium of universities.
Emirates SkyCargo, which transported the satellite, has expertise in transporting satellites and other cargo developed for space technology. However the report quoted the airline saying 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.
Despite the Amazonia-1 satellite weighing just 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. to avoid any damage during the transport, the report said.
To avoid damage during the transport, the satellite components were packed in large containers. Also, four members of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), the south American country's apex body for space research and exploration 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, according to a statement from Emirates SkyCargo quoted in the report.
According to the TOI report, Sivan 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.