Indian Space Program: News & Discussions

SSLV from ISRO ..... first launch expected next year ........ credits to @Indranil of BRF

CNES promotes French-Indian NewSpace contacts



Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of French space agency CNES, has underlined the role played by the agency in nurturing relations between private “NewSpace” players in India and France.

Le Gall was in New Delhi to take part in the 4th Observer Research Foundation (ORF) Kalpana Chawla Space Policy Dialogue. This yearly event has established itself as a neutral and open forum to discuss the Indian space sector’s competitiveness and its position in the international space arena.

Le Gall underlined the importance that CNES attaches to working more closely with new space players, in particular India, which it sees as one of the world’s major NewSpace development hubs. Citing the partnerships that CNES has engaged with several Indian start-ups, he described a symbiotic relationship through which traditional agencies should be seeking to help the NewSpace players, who he says are set to become the future drivers of the space industry.

By working with CNES, Le Gall said, these young private Indian newcomers are nurturing particularly promising ties with French players that will prove profitable to both ecosystems.

The CNES president also pointed to the climate-monitoring missions France and India have worked on together, which have served as a model in this domain. Two French-Indian satellites already in orbit, Megha-Tropiques and SARAL-AltiKa, are providing data for climate research and operational applications like monsoon forecasting, food security and water resource management.

They will be joined later this year by the joint Oceansat 3 - Argos mission, while studies are under way for a future thermal infrared satellite.

On the sidelines of the event, Le Gall met his Indian counterpart K. Sivan, recently appointed as the new Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Head of the Department of Space. Their discussions confirmed India’s desire to boost cooperation between CNES and ISRO in new areas of interest like launchers, as well as CNES’s participation in future Indian missions to Mars.

CNES promotes French-Indian NewSpace contacts - Air & Cosmos - International
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AstroSat Picture of the Month (January 2018)

X-ray binaries are a special class of binary stars that are very bright in X-rays. The X-rays are produced when matter is accreted from the donor star (usually a relatively normal star) onto the accretor, which is very compact – a Neutron Star or Black Hole.

4U 1728-34 is a Neutron Star low mass X-ray binary (NS-LMXB) which is known to exhibit regular thermo-nuclear bursts (Type-I) of accreted matter onto the Neutron Star surface. The burst oscillations (BO) observed during the initial phase of the Type-1 burst is one of the important diagnostic tool to measure the spin period of the NS-LMXB.

In addition to BO, which originates at the surface of NS, quasi-periodic oscillations (QPO) of X-ray radiation from the accreting gas is also a common phenomenon observed in X-ray binaries. QPOs in milliseconds timescale are very important tool to understand the dynamics of accretion flow at the close vicinity of the compact objects.

The source 4U 1728-34 was observed by LAXPC onboard AstroSat on 8th March 2016 for ~ 3 ksec duration. Dynamical power density spectrum in the 3-20 keV band during the observation, reveals the presence of a high frequency QPO (HFQPO) whose frequency drifted from ~ 815 Hz at the beginning of the observation to about 850 Hz (fig.1). The QPO is also detected, for the first time in the 10-20 keV band by LAXPC (fig.2).


Fig.1: Dynamic power spectra of HFQPO in the energy range 3-20 keV. X-axis shows time evolution of frequency of QPO. Y-axis shows frequency in Hz. Colour coding indicates the power.


Fig.2: Power spectrum of HFQPO in the energy range 10 – 20 keV

During the end part of LAXPC observation of the source, a typical Type-1 burst was detected, and the count rate in the detector reached ∼10000 c/s. The burst profile is typical with a fast rise and slow decay lasting for ~20 seconds (fig.3).


Fig.3: Time profile of the Type-I X-ray burst observed with LAXPC

In the early phase of the burst, a coherent burst oscillation was observed at around 363 Hz. The frequency varies from ~361.5 to ~363.5 Hz which has been reported by Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) during earlier burst observations.

Thus LAXPC demonstrated the capability of detecting millisecond timing phenomenon even from short observations.

Reference: Jai Verdhan Chauhan, The Astrophysical Journal, 841:41 (5pp), 2017 May 20

AstroSat Picture of the Month (January 2018) - ISRO


AstroSat Picture of the Month (Science Day-February 2018)
The Witch’s Broom in the sky


Image Credits: F. K. Sutaria, K.P. Singh, P. T. Rahna, J. Murthy, A.K. Ray and N.K. Rao

The Witch's Broom or the Western Veil, is a part of a large Supernova Remnant called the Cygnus Loop or the Veil Nebula. Extending over 3 degrees in the sky (compared to the full moon which is 0.5 degrees), and located in the northern constellation of Cygnus, the entire Cygnus Loop is 75 light years in diameter, and around 1470 light years away. Though the nebula is one of the most beautiful and colorful objects in the sky, it is quite faint due to its large angular size and a big telescope in a dark sky is needed to fully appreciate it in all its glory.

Different parts of this object were discovered separately and given different names. The Witch's Broom, or NGC 6960 is a part of this gigantic Supernova Remnant. This remnant is the result of a very massive star exploding sometime between 3000 and 6000 B.C. The shock waves of this explosion, as they blast through the surrounding gas, produce emission in all bands of light, including radio, visible, ultra-violet and X-rays. Since the expanding shells are extremely thin and is almost transparent to background optical light, only the edges are bright enough to see. This is why we see fine filaments or ropes that resemble a broom.

The Near Ultra-Violet and Far Ultra-Violet images of the Witch's Broom captured by AstroSat's UVIT show emission from these delicate glowing filaments, primarily from ionized Silicon, Carbon, Iron and Helium. Astronomers are using this data to study the chemicals in this gas, and how they are heated by the shock of the explosion.

AstroSat Picture of the Month (Science Day-February 2018) - ISRO
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ISRO computer had malware, could’ve been hacked, say researchers

HYDERABAD:A malware infected computer of ISRO exposed India’s premier space research agency to hackers, claimed Indian and French security researchers on Sunday. The researchers also claimed that hackers could have taken control of ISRO’s command rocket launches using the vulnerability. Express has not been able to independently verify this claim.

READ HERE | TNIE Exclusive: Ever used India Post? Well your information is vulnerable to hacking

The trojan malware, known as XtremeRAT, was detected in ISRO servers in December 2017 and was reported to the agency by an Indian researcher. ISRO reportedly responded and resolved the issue only after French researcher Robert Baptiste reached out to the agency on Twitter. “ISRO in their conversation with me informed that that investigated and found a UTM login port that was not mapped internally to any systems.They claimed to have disabled that port for now,” said Baptiste quoting ISRO’s communication with him that Express has seen.

The XtremeRAT malware was found in ISRO’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command Networks (ISTRAC) that provides tracking support for all the satellite and launch vehicle missions of ISRO. “The malware was probably infected on a computer that had access to servers used for Tracking and Command (TTC) services that help launch vehicle lift-off till injection of a satellite. A computer which was probably used to command rocket launches and separation of a satellite. I say ‘probably infected’ because no one knows which computer was used,” said the Indian researcher in December 2017.

The researcher says he stumbled on the ISRO vulnerability while using the search engine Shodan, that lets users find specific types of computers connected to internet using a variety of filters. “If Shodan can be used for searching hacked sites, I thought, why not search for infected servers? I filtered it down to region and ISRO showed up in the scan results,” said the Indian researcher.ISRO has not yet responded to Express’ request for a comment on the issue.

Resercher says search engine Shodan led him to ISRO’s vulnerability. “I did not dig any further as anything beyond that will probably be illegal,” he added. So what is XtremeRAT? It’s a commercially available remote access Trojan (RATs) used by hackers to conduct cyber espionage. There are numerous RATs that are available for free and can be purchased online, mostly from hacker forums or the dark web. The malware allows the hacker to dig deep into a specific target’s servers and databases and even sell off the access rights of their victims’ systems and their data to others.

“If infected with a trojan, the attacker owns the computer. The hacker can command the computer to do absolutely anything he wants. He just has to use the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to access a computer. Has there been a data loss? most likely yes,” says the Indian researcher. Express reached out to ISRO’s public relations officer for a confirmation but did not receive a response. The Indian researcher claims he also tried to reach out to ISRO multiple times but got no response. He reached out to Computer Emergency Response Team and they responded to his email saying they will look into the issue. “However, no action was taken. I was about to give up and then I thought of contacting Robert Baptiste. He tweeted about it and then they seemed to magically care about it as the issue was in the public,” he says. Researcher says, the malware has hit sectors like --Energy, utilities, and petroleum refining.
An unauthorized satellite launch in India threatens US regulatory reform in space

A brash satellite start-up could upend efforts to make space friendlier for private companies.

Swarm Technologies, a stealthy firm that hopes to provide space-based communications for the “internet of things,” launched four satellites they call “SpaceBees” on an Indian rocket in Jan. 2017. The only problem? Swarm launched their experimental satellites after the US satellite regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, refused permission for the SpaceBees to fly, as IEEE Spectrum first reported.

It is likely the first time a private organization has launched spacecraft without the explicit approval of any government. Now, the FCC has revoked Swarm’s latest application to operate four more satellites as it investigates the claims made by the company while applying for its original license. The episode reveals how increasingly capable private companies are rapidly outgrowing the patchwork of unsophisticated regulations for space technology.

“The fact that a company can do something like this, and number one, the government was not able to stop them, and number two, other governments were willing—the Indian government was willing to launch it—that says something about the lack of good, enforceable regulations, laws and treaty arrangements,” says Todd Harrison, a space technology expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Harrison has warned in the past about the destabilizing potential of the plunging cost in space access.

Slipping through the cracks
Activities in space are broadly regulated through treaties between national governments, who are obliged to ensure that spaceflight originating from their countries follows basic rules of cooperation and coordination. In the US, the FCC regulates satellite operators, mainly through governing the use of radio spectrum shared with terrestrial broadcasters, while the Federal Aviation Administration authorizes rocket launches.

In this case, Swarm, a US company, sought approval for its satellites to go into orbit, and the FCC denied it. Not because of concerns about radio interference; instead, the FCC was apprehensive that the unusually small satellites—about a quarter of the size of the popular 10 cm3 design used by many small satellites—presented a particularly high risk of collision because they could be difficult to detect with the radar currently used to track space debris in orbit. Even tiny pieces of debris can destroy expensive satellites, or put the lives of astronauts onboard the International Space Station at risk.

Despite the FCC denial, Swarm contracted with Spaceflight Industries, a company that brokers ridesharing deals for smaller satellite operators to launch their spacecraft in groups large enough to fill an orbital rocket, or for them to to find a spot on a launch with a single, large payload. Spaceflight connected Swarm to Antrix, the commercial face of India’s space agency, to purchase space on one of its rockets.

The satellites ultimately launched, but without regulatory approval—and it’s not clear yet who is to blame.

“Spaceflight brokered and integrated the four satellites onto a [Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle] that launched in January,” a company spokesperson told Quartz. “Spaceflight does not comment on matters between the FCC and applicants. Spacecraft providers are required to obtain all licenses necessary to operate, and communicate with, the spacecraft. Please know: Spaceflight would not knowingly launch a customer whose FCC license had been denied.” (Antrix and Swarm did not respond to requests from comment from Quartz.)

In its rejected FCC application from January, Swarm said that it had partnered with “two Fortune 100 companies” that are interested in using its technology. CEO Sara Spangelo is a former NASA and Google employee, while CFO Benjamin Longmier sold an aerospace company to Apple and co-founded Apollo Fusion, another space startup.

Can the system be fixed?
“It gets right into the seam of our regulations,” Harrison says of the incident, noting the gap between the FCC’s regulation of objects in space and the FAA’s regulation of their launches. It’s possible Swarm will argue that it had the approval of the Indian government to launch its satellites, but that wouldn’t give it permission to transmit data back and forth to its ground stations in the US. And, Harrison says, “if there is a collision [between SpaceBees and other spacecraft] it will be the responsibility of the Indian government,” which launched the spacecraft.

The US government is currently restructuring its approach to regulating space activities to make it easier for companies to obtain the permissions they need to do business in orbit, including an attempt to combine the various space regulatory functions in a single office under the Department of Commerce.

“While this has the potential to be messy, it is also shining a bright light on regulatory oversight and reforms, not just at the FCC, but FAA, Commerce, [the Department of Defense], and elsewhere,” says Phil Larson, an assistant dean at the University of Colorado’s engineering school and a former White House space adviser. “As the space economy continues to grow, it’s critical for the National Space Council to address these issues.”
In recent months, two experimental payloads launched by rocket-makers as publicity stunts, Rocket Lab’s “Humanity Star” and SpaceX’s Tesla roadster to Mars, have generated intense interest in private spaceflight, as well as criticism of companies acting on their own in space. Though the two stunts were both pre-approved by relevant regulators, they demonstrate that private companies can now match the capabilities of nations.

So far, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and other new commercial space companies have played by government rules, even as they succeeded in quietly pushing to overhaul them. Swarm, rather than lobby for new rules or fight the FCC’s decision in court, just flew their satellites. Flagrant disregard for the current system—if Swarm or another company adopt a Travis-Kalanick-at-Uber approach to regulation—could lead lawmakers to demand a more onerous system of checks and balances.

A global problem
Cheaper access to space will become an international challenge. The question of which countries are responsible for which satellites is already sometimes a tricky one; satellites owned by one company in one country can be launched in another and provide service in a third. Swarm’s experience suggests that space companies will become increasingly adept at exploiting gaps in regulation.

“Does it allow companies to shop for a jurisdiction?” Harrison wonders of the current system. The situation might lead to race to the bottom akin to international financial regulations, where countries compete to offer the laxest regulation to major companies. It could also push space regulation in the opposite direction, toward further restrictions based on more coordinated international space cooperation.

Part of the problem is that national space agencies themselves aren’t always forthcoming about registering their own launches with the United Nations.

“In an ideal world, you would hope there would be a regime where you are required to announce at, or before, launch what you were putting in space,” Jonathan McDowell, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics who tracks space activity closely, told Quartz in January. Last year, he published a paper (pdf) with Ram Jakhu at McGill University in Canada and Bhupendra Jasani at King’s College in the UK documenting “ambiguities in the requirements and poor feedback and quality control in the system have led to significant flaws in the registry which allow cover for the small number of deliberate abuses.”

They documented 17 unregistered satellites launched by major powers that appear to be deliberately omitted from international satellite registry, and another 71 omitted by accident. The authors urged stricter registration requirements and more publicly transparent efforts to verify what is actually launched by national space programs.

Yet this goes against what McDowell calls a “new trend in commercial secrecy.” Also in January, an experimental satellite owned by a private Canadian company and launched on a Chinese rocket was not acknowledged until a week afterward. The same Indian launch that carried the SpaceBees into space also flew a satellite known as “DemoSat-2” whose operator was not publicly named until more than a month after launch; it turned out to be an FCC-approved launch from Astranis, a startup funded with $18 million from Andreessen Horowitz.

“This hasn’t happened before, until this year,” McDowell told Quartz. “With maybe one or two exceptions, commercial satellite launches have all been acknowledged. And so this sort of, ‘oh, we’re not going to say who we are,’ feels like a sudden and new trend.”
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European Commission and Department of Space of India signed historic Cooperation Arrangement to share satellite EO data

Philippe Brunet, Director for Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence signing the agreement with Dr PG Diwakar, Scientific Secretary, ISRO

India: To allow the benefits of the European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation and Monitoring programme and of the Indian fleet of remote sensing satellites to extend beyond the borders of the partners, in Bangalore, on 19 March, the European Commission and India’s Department of Space signed a landmark Cooperation Arrangement related to sharing of Earth observation satellite data.

The Copernicus programme provides a wide range of applications, e.g. climate change, land, ocean and atmosphere monitoring as well as support in the forecasting, management and mitigation of natural disasters. Its full, free and open data policy has proven its merits by allowing the development of a thriving user base in Europe and beyond. On the other hand, India has developed an ambitious and wide-ranging Earth Observation programme which is managed by the Department of Space of India and implemented by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Recognising that data sharing will provide mutual benefits, in particular in the pursuit of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the European Commission and India’s Department of Space (DOS), have decided to sign a Cooperation Arrangement with the aim to strengthen and stimulate cooperation on Earth observation and mutual access to the data from the European Union’s Sentinel series of satellites and from the Indian Earth observation satellites.

Under this arrangement, the European Commission intends to provide India with free, full and open access to the data from the Copernicus Sentinel family of satellites using high bandwidth connections from data hub to data hub. Reciprocally the Indian DOS will provide the Copernicus programme and its participating states with a free, full and open access to the data from ISRO’s Earth observation satellites including historical data sets. It is intended that ISRO’s satellite data will be made available for distribution on the European ‘Copernicus hub’. This comprises land, ocean and atmospheric series of ISRO’s civilian satellites (Oceansat-2, Megha-Tropiques, Scatsat-1, SARAL, INSAT-3D, INSAT-3DR) with the exception of commercial high-resolution satellites data.

The Cooperation Arrangement includes technical assistance for the establishment of high bandwidth connections with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) sites, in particular through setting up of mirror servers, data storage and archival facilities. Considering the importance of in situ observations, which are complementary to space-based observations, the Indian DOS will facilitate access to in situ data from its regional observatory networks of geophysical and meteorological data, to support the enhancement of the Copernicus data architecture and towards the development of global products. ISRO will coordinate access to in situ data and promote the use of information and data provided by the Copernicus programme with various institutions and government agencies, particularly the environmental sector and all other users, including academia and the private sector.

This Cooperation Arrangement is also expected to lead to the development of an active downstream sector in the European Union and in India, as well as to joint product development. They aim at facilitating the involvement of diverse users in the development of products and services. In particular, both sides intend to encourage cooperation on data processing for common use in line with the EU-India Agenda for Action-2020, e.g. long-term management of natural resources, monitoring of marine and coastal areas, water resource management, impacts of climate variability and climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, food security and rural development, infrastructure for territorial development and health management issues.

Both sides support free, full and open access for end users to data and information from the Sentinel fleet and from the ISRO satellites specified in the Arrangement, and each side will fund its own activities and adhere to the principle of ‘no exchange of funds’.

The Cooperation Arrangement has been signed in Bangalore on 19 March by Mr Philippe Brunet, Director for Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence, on behalf of the European Commission and by Dr PG Diwakar, Scientific Secretary, ISRO on behalf of the Department of Space of India.

From a presentation by M. Annadurai to the 60th UN COPUOS meeting.
Chandrayaan-2 consists of an orbiter, lander, and small rover. Here, the spacecraft is shown in its launch configuration.


ISRO employs a balloon to counteract 5/6 of the weight of a duplicate of the Chandrayaan-2 rover in order to test its mobility on simulated lunar soil at lunar gravity.
BHEL to make space grade cells for ISRO


The technology transfer will enable BHEL to produce space grade Li-Ion cells to meet the country's space programme requirements.
BHEL to make space grade cells for ISRO

Mar 23, 2018, 01.47 PM IST

BENGALURU: State-run Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHELBSE -0.31 %) would make space grade lithium-ion (Li-Ion) cells for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) under technology transfer, the space agency said on Friday.

"We have entered into a technology transfer agreement with BHEL to make space grade Li-Ion cells," it said in a statement here.

The agreement was signed on Thursday in the presence of ISRO Chairman K. Sivan and BHEL Managing Director Atul Sobti at the
at the space agency headquarters here.

"The Li-Ion batteries are used as power sources for our satellite and launch vehicle applications due to their high energy density, reliability and long cycle life," noted the statement.

The ISRO's Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala has developed the technology to produce space grade Li-Ion cells, demonstrated its performance under testing conditions and established its cycle life characteristics in accelerated mode.

The cells are being used for various satellite and launch vehicle applications.
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Isro tests Payload based on Origami, the Japanese paper-folding art

Isro tests Payload based on Origami, the Japanese paper-folding art
First payload operation on Jan 16 was successful, is providing excellent images. Data is useful for topographical mapping, vegetation monitoring, aerosol scattering

T E Narasimhan | Chennai Last Updated at March 21, 2018 01:05 IST


The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has tested the Indigenously Developed Metal-based Origami Payload in Indian Nano Satellite-1C (INS-1C).
INS-1C is an experimental satellite launched by PSLV-C40 on January 12, 2018 as a co-passenger payload. It is the third vehicle in the Indian Nano Satellite (INS) series.

The first two satellites, INS-1A and INS-1B, of this series were carried as co-passenger payloads by PSLV-C37 in February 2017. INS-1C carries Miniature Multi-spectral Technology Demonstration (MMX-TD) Payload from the Space Applications Centre (SAC), Isro Ahmedabad.

Compact imaging systems with reduced weight and size offer tremendous opportunities for their use in space-borne micro/nano satellites and planetary missions where size and weight are at a premium. Although miniature cameras such as those found in cell-phones are now available commonly, their resolution and light collection are poor compared with their full size counterparts. The Robust Technology Development Programme of SAC/Isro has developed an innovative satellite payload using the concept of Origami, the Japanese art of folding paper.

The Isro Nano Satellite (INS-1C) payload team has used the concept of multi-fold reflective optics to design imagers of significantly reduced thickness compared with conventional refractive cameras. This multi-fold optical configuration is known as Origami optics.

Reflective optics is based on the use of metal mirrors, instead of the usual glass-based Origami lens.
This makes the camera potentially much more versatile in terms of spectral coverage. The mirrors and the optical assembly were developed indigenously. The optics is fabricated using single-point diamond turning machine with a fast-tool servo.

Utilising the capability of the optics, a compact MMX-TD payload was configured for the INS-1C nanosatellite. The camera provides RGB snaps of 29 km x 29 km area with 23 m ground sampling from polar sun-synchronous orbit of 505 km altitude.

The first payload operation was carried out successfully on January 16, 2018 and the payload is providing excellent images since. Data sent by this camera is useful for topographical mapping, vegetation monitoring, aerosol scattering studies and cloud studies, said Isro.

First Published: Wed, March 21 2018. 01:05 IST

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Isro defers Chandrayaan-2 launch

Isro defers Chandrayaan-2 launch

E T B Sivapriyan, DH News Service, Chennai, Mar 23 2018, 18:17 IST


In picture: ISRO logo. File photo for representation.

Isro has postponed the launch of the Chandrayaan-2, the country's second mission to the moon, to October this year after experts suggested more tests during a review of the ambitious mission.

"Initially, we had planned an April launch for Chandrayaan-2, but in the review meeting held a few days ago with experts from the across the country, it was decided that more tests are needed before the mission is launched. Hence, the mission cannot be launched in April. We have fixed the launch for October," Isro chief K Sivan told reporters at the Chennai Airport on Friday.

The Chandrayaan-2 satellite would comprise an orbiter, lander and six-wheeled rover which would move around the landing site and instruments on it would send back data that would be useful in analysing the lunar soil.

After reaching the lunar orbit, the Lander housing the rover will separate from the orbiter. After a controlled descent, the lander will soft land on the lunar surface at a specified site and deploy the rover. India launched its first unmanned moon mission in October 2008.

The Isro chief also said communication satellite GSAT-6 on-board GSLV-F08 will be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, 105 km from here, on March 29. The satellite will be launched at 4.56 pm on Thursday next.

The GSAT-6, which will have a lifespan of nearly 10 years, will be put into orbit by Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F08), Isro said, adding that the latest satellite will be similar to GSAT-6.

The new satellite would provide a platform for developing technologies like demonstration of 6m S-Band Unfurlable Antenna, hand-held ground terminals and network management techniques. These are useful in satellite-based mobile communication applications.
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GSLV-F08/GSAT-6A Mission - ISRO

GSLV-F08/GSAT-6A Mission
GSLV-F08 is the 12th flight of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and Sixth flight with indigenous Cryogenic Stage. The Launch of GSLV-F08 carrying GSAT-6A is planned from the Second Launch Pad (SLP) in Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota

GSLV -F08 / GSAT-6A Mission is scheduled to be launched on Thursday, March 29, 2018 at 16:56 Hrs (IST).