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Stage set for PSLV-C20 mission today

Chennai All is set for the launch of Indo-French satellite 'SARAL', aimed at oceanographic studies, and six foreign mini and micro satellites onboard ISRO's workhorse rocket PSLV from the spaceport of Sriharikota in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh on Monday.

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C20 is slated for blast-off at 5.56 PM local time from the first launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre, 110 kms from here. President Pranab Mukherjee is expected to witness the event.

The 59-hour countdown for the launch, which commenced at 6.56 AM yesterday, was progressing normally, Indian Space Research Organisation sources said on Sunday.

This is the 23rd mission of PSLV, which has an impeccable record of 21 consecutive successful flights. This is the ninth time ISRO is using the 'core alone' variant of the rocket.

The 668.5 kgs and 44.4 metres tall rocket will have a lift off mass of 229.7 tonnes. Besides SARAL, it would put into orbit two micro-satellites UniBRITE and BRITE from Austria and AAUSAT3 from Denmark and STRaND from United Kingdom as also one micro-satellite (NEOSSat) and one mini-satellite (SAPPHIRE) from Canada.

ISRO had initially planned to launch SARAL on December 12 last year but postponed it to carry out additional tests to "address technical issues to ensure reliability".

The ISRO-built SARAL is a 410-kg satellite with payloads -- Argos and Altika -- from French space agency CNES for study of ocean parameters towards enhancing the understanding of the ocean state conditions which are otherwise not covered by the in-situ measurements.

In view of the expected presence of the President, the Satish Dhawan Space Centre has been put under a thick net of security, officials said.

SARAL will provide data products to operational and research user communities, in support of marine meteorology and sea state forecasting; operational oceanography; seasonal forecasting; climate monitoring; ocean, earth system and climate research, the officials said.

Altimeter (Altika) would help study the sea surface heights while Argos payload is a satellite-based data collection platform.
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