The first Indian Satellite, Aryabhata which was launched on April 19, 1975 today completes 45 years.
The satellite which was named after the great Indian mathematician and Astronomer, Aryabhata (5th century) is India’s first satellite to go in space. It was built by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). On 19 April, 1975 it was launched from Kapustin Yar, a Russian rocket launch and development site in Astrakhan, Oblast using a Kosmos-3M launch vehicle. The name was suggested by then Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.
The launch day was a historic day. India and USSR had signed an agreement directed by UR Rao back in 1972 which allowed the USSR to use Indian ports for tracking ships and launch vessels. In exchange they will launch Indian satellites. India became world’s 11th nation and the second developing country after China to orbit a satellite.
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The satellite weights 360 Kilograms or 790 lb. It was a 26-sided polyhedron, 1.4 metres in diameter. All faces (except the top and bottom) were covered with solar cells.The satellite was built in order to conduct experiments in X-RAY astronomy, aeronomics and solar physics. Satellite’s 96.46 minutes orbit had a Perigee of 563 kilometres and an apogee of 619 kilometres at an inclination of 50.7 degrees.
After a power failure in the satellite, it stopped the experiments and five days later it lost all the signals. The mission lasted for almost 6 years till March 1981 because the spacecraft’s mainframe was active. Then on February 11, 1992 due to orbital decay the satellite entered the earth’s atmosphere.
The project costed more than it’s estimated price of 3 crores because of excess expenditure. It was a historic moment for both India and Russia. So to commemorate the day, both the countries released a commemorative stamps. The Reserve Bank of India printed the satellite in the 2 rupee note which circulated between 1976 to 1997.
In a report published by The New York Times in 1975 it was written that, Indira Gandhi described it as “an important event in India’s efforts to harness the benefits of science. India’s President, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, termed it a “very significant achievement.” Both Mrs. Gandhi and Mr. Ahmed thanked the Soviet Union for making available the launching facilities. After this monumental project, ISRO never looked back and goes on to launch hundreds of new satellites.