Saturday, May 17, 2008

Moon over Bangalore

It's been said the further from the source, the "weirder" the story, as when the small city paper in Stephenville, Texas reported on unidentified flying objects nearby, last year. The story was almost casual, "matter-of-fact" when compared to the frightful shouting of Shep Smith on FoxNews - who is incapable of understatement.

The opposite seems true of stories from India, where apparently, amidst thousands of American customer service call-centers in Bangalore the Chandrayaan lunar probe is finally being assembled by contractors for the Indian Space Research Organisation (IRSO).

As exotic as curry powder, a taste of IRSO's website is strange enough, but those interested, as I am, in the success of the Indian's lunar mission and its eventually getting off the pad at nearby Sriharikota later this year, you shouldn't miss the chance to sample the local news.

It's the next best thing to being there.

From The Times of India, no less:
BANGALORE: Mission Moon is being given the final touches in Bangalore. All payloads and instruments, including five from overseas (from US and Europe) in Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft on India's PSLV are currently being assembled at the ISRO satellite integration centre here, the biggest in Asia.

All satellites and instruments from India or abroad have to be tested followed by assembly and integration onto the spacecraft at this centre.

The instruments will be assembled and finally integrated onto Chandrayaan-1 before launch in a couple of months time. Engineers have already conducted vibration tests, temperature tests at high and low frequencies, tests with thermal sub-systems and all electrical and mechanical functioning.

"The testing of five international instruments is complete. The engineers are very happy with the results and the instruments have come through the different atmospheres in which they are tested. The entire working is very delicate and involves highly careful and sensitive handling. They are happy that all testing parameters have been met. The engineers from abroad too are naturally happy," scientists told The Times of India.

The vibration and temperature tests are particularly important as Chandrayaan-1 as well as the instruments experience conditions in the lunar orbit radically different from those closer to Earth. The success of the tests indicates that the instruments will perform as planned in lunar orbit.

The centre is also taking care of the entire microelectronics of the instruments and the spacecraft with the help of ISRO.

"Tests apart, we put together cameras, antennae and sensors of all instruments that would relay information on spacecraft's health. In fact, we're assembling the very brain of Chandrayaan-1. The spacecraft takes its final form here," an official explained.

Chandrayaan-1 is a 1.5 m cuboid-shaped body with a dry weight of 525 kg in lunar orbit. The spacecraft, which has a mission life of two years is being built with a series of new technologies - lithium-ion batteries, gimballed antenna system, miniaturised communication system, miniaturised star sensor and spacecraft bus management.

"The Deep Space Network at Bangalore will monitor the spacecraft and the data it generates.

"The national science data centre in the DSN will process raw data into user-friendly format. The data ultimately will generate new knowledge about the Moon," a scientist said.