Six Satellites Launched From One Indian Rocket: What Are They Doing?

By Zach White , Feb 25, 2013 08:20 PM EST

The Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Monday Feb. 25, carrying with it seven satellites from around the globe on different missions.

The satellites vary widely in size and shape, but each is a vital part of massive research programs that have required years of planning and huge investments in research. Let’s take a look at some of the objects that now float miles above our heads, and why are up there:

6) STRaND-1: A Google Nexus One smartphone, strapped to a satellite by the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey, this Android-powered satellite runs a small number of apps voted on by the public, including taking photos, measuring the Earth's magnetic field, space telemetry and an app that lets users upload and play videos, in space. The scientists are also running tests to determine how a smartphone works in space.

5) AAUSAT3: A Danish satellite built by Aalbord University students to conduct space experiments.

4) SARAL: Made in a collaboration between the Indian Space Research Organisation and the French Space Agency, this satellite was built to look earthward, largely to take pictures of oceans and study the atmosphere.

3) Bright Target Explorer (BRITE): Canadian astronomers posted two tiny nanosatellites on the rocket, as a part of a project to measure how the brightness of stars changes over time. The two 8-inch cubes weigh less than 16 pounds. They are only one piece of an eventual six-satellite constellation.

2) Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite (NEOSSat): A $25 million suitcase-sized spacecraft that is being sent up to keep an eye out for any large asteroids, it apparently would not have done any good in spotting the house-sized 2012 DA14 that narrowly missed Earth on Feb. 15, much less the smaller meteor which failed to miss Russia the same day. But the scientists behind NEOSSat are hoping to spot very specific larger asteroids, more than 30 million miles away.

1) Sapphire: Canada’s first foray into launching military satellites was launched to join the U.S. military’s Space Surveillance System, watching for debris and other satellites.

"It is with great pleasure that I announce that Canada’s Sapphire satellite has been successfully launched," Defense Minister Peter MacKay said in a statement. "Sapphire is a sound investment that will help safeguard billions of dollars of space assets, in fields such as telecommunications, weather, search and rescue and global positioning systems."

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