India’s GSLV ready for long-delayed EOS-03 launch

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will make its first launch in almost six months… The post India’s GSLV ready for long-delayed EOS-03 launch appeared first on

India’s GSLV ready for long-delayed EOS-03 launch

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will make its first launch in almost six months Thursday, with a GSLV Mk. II rocket launching the EOS-03 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. Liftoff from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre is scheduled for 05:43 local time (00:13 UTC on August 12).

Thursday’s launch — heavily delayed due to circumstances mostly beyond ISRO’s control — will mark the first flight of the GSLV Mk. II since December 2018 and the 14th overall flight across the GSLV Mk. I and Mk. II family.


Originally named Geo Imaging Satellite (GISAT) -1, the Earth Observation Satellite 03 (EOS-03) will be India’s first geostationary Earth imaging satellite and the first of a pair of satellites that will provide complementary, dedicated coverage over India for:

  • near real-time imaging of large areas of interest at frequent intervals,
  • real-time monitoring of natural disasters, episodic events and any short term events, and
  • obtaining spectral images for agriculture, forestry, water bodies as well as for disaster warning, cyclone monitoring, cloud burst / thunderstorm monitoring.

Based on ISRO’s I2K satellite bus, EOS-03 carries a 700 millimeter telescope with four imaging payloads: the Multispectral Visible Near-Infrared (MX-VNIR), the Multispectral Long-Wave Infrared (MX-LWIR), the Hyperspectral Visible Near-Infrared (HyS-VNIR), and the Hyperspectral Short-Wave Infrared (HyS-SWIR) instruments.

MX-VNIR gives the highest resolution of up to 42 meters in six spectral bands. HyS-VNIR operates in 158 bands at resolutions up to 318 meters while HyS-SWIR covers 256 bands at resolutions up to 191 meters. MX-LWIR operates in six bands with a resolution up to 1,500 meters.

EOS-03 has a total mass of 2,286 kilograms at launch and is expected to operate for at least 10 years. Power will be provided by a single solar array with three panels generating 2,280 watts. The satellite is expected to be positioned in geostationary orbit at 85.5 degrees East.

A second satellite, EOS-05 (or GISAT-2), is expected to join EOS-03 on orbit in 2022 under current schedules.

The program’s re-designation from GISAT to EOS is part of an ISRO effort to return to more generic names for satellite families geared towards studying or returning images of the Earth. In doing so, the organisation is returning to a practice from the late-1980s through the 1990s when all of India’s Earth observation satellites were designated Indian Remote Sensing, or IRS. 

This gave way to more specific names for individual satellites or programs beginning with the launch of Oceansat 1 (formerly IRS-P4) in 1999. 

EOS-03 during encapsulation. (Credit: ISRO)

The EOS-01 satellite — launched in 2020 as part of the Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT) program — was the first mission to bear this new designation. Upcoming Cartosat, Oceansat, Microsat, and RISAT spacecraft have likewise been redesignated with EOS numbers.


EOS-03 will be carried to orbit aboard ISRO’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk. II (GSLV Mk. II) rocket — an evolved version of the original GSLV design which itself was an offshoot of the smaller Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

The GSLV that will perform Thursday’s launch is designated GSLV F10 and marks the 14th flight of the GSLV Mk. I and II family, which shares the same first and second stages with the PSLV but uses four liquid-fueled boosters which remain attached for the duration of first stage flight.

The GSLV Mk. II’s first stage therefore consists of an S139 solid rocket motor core with four L40H liquid-fueled boosters — each using a single Vikas 2 engine — clustered around it.

The second stage, designated GS2 (GL40), is liquid-fueled and uses a single Vikas 4 engine – a license-built derivative of the French Viking from the Ariane program that burns dimethylhydrazine and dinitrogen tetroxide.

Time Event Velocity (inertial)
T-4.8 secs Liquid-fueled booster ignition N/A
T0 S139 solid motor ignition; LIFTOFF N/A
T+2 mins  29 secs Liquid-fueled booster shutdown 2,689.3 m/s
T+2 mins  30 secs 2nd stage ignition 2,689.9 m/s
T+2 mins  31 secs 1st stage separation 2,688.8 m/s
T+3 mins  55 secs Payload fairing separation 3,813.7 m/s
T+4 mins  51 secs 2nd stage shutdown 5,187.6 m/s
T+4 mins  55 secs 2nd stage separation 5,206.5 m/s
T+4 mins  56 secs 3rd stage ignition 5,206.0 m/s
T+18 mins  24 secs 3rd stage shutdown 10,204.9 m/s
T+18 mins  29 secs Null thrust 10,204.6 m/s
T+18 mins  39 secs EOS-03 separation 10,196.1 m/s

This particular GSLV mission will use the CUS-15 cryogenic third stage which uses a single CE-7.5 engine burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. This stage will be responsible for completing the insertion of EOS-03 into the proper geosynchronous transfer orbit.

The payload for this mission will debut a new configuration with an ogive shape and a 4 meter diameter to allow larger satellites to be launched by the GSLV.

The GSLV can utilize two launch complexes at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Sriharikota island: First Launch Pad and Second Launch Pad. While both pads are available, all GSLV launches since 2006 have occurred from the second pad. 

For EOS-03’s launch, the GSLV Mk. II will aim to place the satellite into a 170 x 36,297 kilometer orbit with an inclination of 19.4 degrees.

Launch delays

The EOS-03 satellite — then still called GISAT-1 — had been due to launch early last year, with the rocket fully integrated and rolled to its launch pad in preparation for a March 5, 2020 liftoff. A technical problem arose which led to the launch being delayed and the rocket rolled back to the assembly building.

While the issue was being investigated, the coronavirus pandemic took hold, and ISRO suspended operations. The satellite was demated from the GSLV and moved back to its preparation building and launch was eventually rescheduled for March 2021, later slipping into April and then May as voltage fluctuations were detected in the satellite.

The May launch attempt coincided with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in India, and further delays were necessary as all available oxygen production — including at ISRO’s facilities — was diverted to medical applications. With cases now down from their peak in May and hospital oxygen supplies under less pressure, ISRO has been able to produce the liquid oxygen GSLV will use during its ascent on Thursday.

India’s space program has been hit hard by the events of the last two years, with the country having made only two orbital launches in 2020, down from six in 2019. Thursday’s launch will be India’s second of 2021 and the first since January. The country’s next orbital launch is currently expected in October, with a PSLV rocket deploying the EOS-06 satellite (formerly Oceansat-3).

(Lead image: The GSLV Mk. II with EOS-03 rolls out to Second Launch Pad. Credit: ISRO)

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S.S. Ellison Onizuka Cygnus mission launches safely to ISS

Northrop Grumman launched the NG-16 Cygnus cargo vehicle, the S.S. Ellison Onizuka, to the International… The post S.S. Ellison Onizuka Cygnus mission launches safely to ISS appeared first on

S.S. Ellison Onizuka Cygnus mission launches safely to ISS

Northrop Grumman launched the NG-16 Cygnus cargo vehicle, the S.S. Ellison Onizuka, to the International Space Station at 18:01:05 EDT / 22:01:05 UTC from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Island flight facility in Virginia.

The mission will deliver 3,723 kg of crew equipment, science experiments, food, and station hardware, with a scheduled arrival at the orbital lab on Thursday, August 12.

Preparations for the flight began years ago when NASA officially granted authorization for Northrop Grumman to begin long-lead procurement for vital elements of the cargo and service module sections that together make the Cygnus spacecraft.

The cargo module for NG-16 arrived at Wallops in June 2021, followed in early-July by the service module.  After integration, the vehicle underwent integrated checkouts and fueling operations before Cygnus was loaded with an initial round of cargo and then mated to the top of the Antares rocket.

Speaking to the Antares’ previous mission, “The performance was right on the money, for the last mission,” said Kurt Eberly, Director Space Launch Programs, Northrop Grumman, in an interview with NASASpaceflight.  “It put Cygnus right where we expected.  We actually had a little bit over one sigma high performance on stage 1 and stage 2.”

“And so that’s really good performance.  It allows Cygnus to burn a little less fuel on their way to the space station compared to the propellant budget that they keep.  Having some extra fuel also allows Cygnus to go off and do some of its secondary missions.”

For the NG-16 Antares preparations, Kurt noted that after Cygnus was mated to the rocket, a series of flight tests began.

“We do what we call Flight Sim 2, which is… we basically fake the rocket out into flying the trajectory by pumping fake navigation data into the navigator.  And then that sends it over to the flight computer and runs the autopilot and so on.  And we have Cygnus powered up for that flight simulation as well.”

Following that, a dual sequence of Flight Termination System (FTS) checkouts occurred.

“We had the range over, and they do part of the FTS end-to-end tests where they send tones from the command transmitters to our Flight Termination System and make sure that those tones are received and decoded properly and acted upon.”

“We do part of that pre-fairing mate.  And then we do the rest of it post-fairing mate,” added Kurt.

Speaking to recent reports of a potential RD-181 engine upgrade to future Antares vehicles, Kurt noted that “There were some press articles in the Russian media about that.  And really all that is is just a government ministry thing that they approved Energomash to talk to us about the 181M and share some technical details about it with us.”

Mission Elapsed Time Event
00 mins 00 secs First stage ignition
00 mins 03.7 secs Liftoff
03 mins 18 secs First stage shutdown
03 mins 24 secs First stage separation
03 mins 30 secs (approx.)
03 mins 54 secs Fairing separation
03 mins 59 secs Interstage separation
04 mins 07 secs Stage 2 ignition
06 mins 52 secs Stage 2 burnout/Orbit insertion
08 mins 52 secs Cygnus separation

“So it’s something we’ve been investigating, adding capability to the vehicle and adding performance.  But that’s all it really is.  It’s basically just export control approval, internal to Russia, to allow Energomash to share those details of that uprated 181 with us.”

Kurt added: “In my job as Director of Space Launch, we’re looking at different configurations of launch vehicles that may serve different markets.  So we’re constantly going through some strategy discussions about where to we go from here and how do we look to the future.  But those discussions are ongoing.”

For NG-16, following a final round of integrated checkouts and final pre-rollout cargo loads, Antares and Cygnus made the journey to Pad 0A at Wallops, where they were connected to ground systems and taken vertical for pre-flight checkouts.

On Monday, August 9, Antares was lowered back to horizontal for cargo late load operations before going back vertical overnight into Tuesday, August 10 ahead of launch.

Liftoff occurred at the end of a 5 minute window at 18:01:05 EDT / 22:01:05 UTC, with Antares pitching onto course to take it southeast from Virginia and out over the Atlantic Ocean into a 174 x 332 km orbit inclined 51.6 degrees.

Safely in orbit, Cygnus will now perform a two day phase with the station, rendezvousing with the outpost on Thursday, August 12 for capture by Canadarm2 at 06:10 EDT / 10:10 UTC.

The might of Antares captured from remote camera by Brady Kenniston at the NG-11 launch. (Credit: Brady Kenniston for NSF/L2)

This two day phasing period will — per a nominal ascent to orbit — include 12 total burns for orbit corrections and plane adjustments to allow Cygnus to arrive at a point 250 meters from the station just over an hour before its scheduled capture time.

The largest of these phasing burns will be DV6, lasting 841 seconds and delivering a 57.79 m/s change to Cygnus’ velocity.

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  • Once Cygnus is berthed to the ISS, the station crew will be busy.  “It’s the largest cargo load we’ve delivered,” related Frank DeMauro, Sector Vice President and General Manager, Tactical Space Systems at Northrop Grumman, in an interview with NASASpaceflight.  “Not only for Cygnus but also for Antares lifting that up there.  So we’re excited about that.”

    In addition to the internal cargo, the NG-16 Cygnus will also carry PIRPL, or the Prototype Infrared Payload — an experiment for the Space Development Agency of the Department of Defense.

    “It’s an infrared sensor.  So it’s going to be capturing live infrared data and then storing that data and downlinking it, relaying it to the Launch and Missile Defense team within the space sector,” related Frank.  “And then really what we’re going to do is take that data and we’re going to use that to support the development of some modeling and simulation programs that the team can use for tracking and detecting different types of threats in the atmosphere.”

    “And interestingly, because it’s an infrared payload, they’re also looking to use that data to look for some natural phenomena, like volcanoes and other things, but also be able to track forest fires.  So it’s an infrared payload that has some specific uses, but we’re also looking to gather enough data to look at other, broader uses for it.”

    Unlike the usual CubeSats or SmallSats that Cygnus deploys after leaving the ISS, PIRPL will remain attached to the craft for the duration of its mission and collect data during the planned multi-month stay at the station. 

    While no satellites are planned for deployment from Cygnus on this mission, the flight is carrying small satellites set for deployment from the ISS itself.

    Showcasing Cygnus’ use as more than just a cargo delivery vehicle, and given a previous demonstration of the craft’s ability to reboost the ISS and Nauka’s recent engine issue which caused the station to flip 540 degrees before attitude control was regained, Frank spoke to using Cygnus for maneuvering the station.

    “Typically, [a reboost is] something that, under normal circumstances, would be pre-planned.  So on this mission, we don’t have anything like that baselined.  If that’s something that NASA would desire at some point in the mission, we could certainly go through the process working with NASA on planning for something like that.  But it’s not in the baseline plan for this mission.”

    Naming Cygnus

    In keeping with tradition, Northrop Grumman names each Cygnus spacecraft after someone notable, a pioneer, in the arena of human spaceflight. 

    For NG-16, Northrop Grumman has named the Cygnus after Ellison Onizuka.

    Ellison Onizuka. (Credit: NASA)

    “When we make these decisions, and we survey who the possible namesakes are for these missions, we’re really looking for people who in a lot of ways added a tremendous amount to the history of human spaceflight but in some cases aren’t always talked about as much,” said Frank.

    “And we felt Ellison Onizuka was a perfect candidate for this mission, given all he did in his life as a test pilot.  He was another perfect candidate, representing the diversity of the astronaut corps, and of course gave his life for that pursuit of the advancement of the human exploration of space.  He is really a special human being who I think was and is a real role model and inspiration for many people who support human spaceflight.”

    Born in Hawaii, Ellison Onizuka was the first Asian-American astronaut.  An engineer, a Colonel in the US Air Force, a test pilot, and a NASA astronaut, he earned a Masters of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder and served as a test pilot and flight test engineer before attending test pilot school in 1974.

    In January 1978, he was selected as a NASA astronaut candidate and officially joined the astronaut corps in August 1979.  He initially worked in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory and as a member of the Orbiter test team at the Kennedy Space Center.

    He flew to space on his first mission on January 24, 1985 aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery’s STS-51C mission, a classified flight for the Department of Defense. 

    Upon landing, Onizuka was quickly reassigned to his next mission: STS-51L.

    The soccer carried by Ellison Onizuka on STS-51L seen on the International Space Station in 2016. (Credit: NASA)

    After numerous delays, on January 28, 1986, Onizuka and his six crewmembers boarded the Space Shuttle Challenger and lifted off for a seven day, multifaceted mission of bio-medical, physical, mineralogical, and astronomical studies that would also have seen them become the first people to conduct in-space observations of Halley’s Comet.

    In the wake of the loss of the Challenger crew, numerous dedications, remembrances, and organizations have been named in his honor.  A soccer ball given to him by the high school his children attended and which he took with him on Challenger was recovered afterward and in 2016 was flown to the International Space Station by Col. Shane Kimbrough on the Expeditions 49/50 missions.

    (Lead image: Antares launches on a mission to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA)

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