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ISRO puts off Israeli payload’s launch
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, March 7
In a blow to the Indian and Israeli researchers, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has decided to leave out TAUVEX (Tel Aviv University Ultra Violet Experiment), an Israeli payload, during the launch of its experimental communication satellite GSAT-4.

“We were very disappointed to learn that we were to be removed from the spacecraft. We have worked for this for a long time and were excited by the prospect of getting excellent science. We are now waiting for ISRO to tell us when the next launch opportunity will be”, Jayant Murthy, professor at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics here and the Indian principal investigator of TAUVEX, told The Tribune in an email.

Responding to this reporter’s query, Noah Brosch, Tel Aviv University’s Wise Observatory director, who is the Israeli principal investigator of TAUVEX, said, “I have been made aware of the satellite problems, and knew that the panel on which TAUVEX was mounted had been taken off to allow work to proceed on some components (unrelated to TAUVEX) that needed replacing.

If GSAT-4 will launch without TAUVEX this would be very disappointing indeed. We went through a considerable amount of work and expense to fit TAUVEX to this satellite, and were looking forward to some excellent and unique science that only TAUVEX could have provided”.

Brosch added that if GSAT-4 was launched without TAUVEX, he would “expect that ISRO would come back to me with an explanation”.

An MoU for including the TAUVEX on GSAT-4 was signed on December 25, 2003, by G Madhavan Nair, the then ISRO chairman, and Aby Har-Even, director-general, Israel Space Agency (ISA) at ISRO headquarters here. The MoU followed the cooperative agreement signed between ISRO and ISA in October 2002.

Data from the telescope (TAUVEX) was supposed to help in solving astrophysical questions related to star formation, history of galaxies, physics of giant black holes, etc. It could also help in guiding other space telescopes towards selected interesting objects in the sky.

K Radhakrishnan, ISRO chairman, did not respond to an email sent by this reporter regarding leaving out of TAUVEX during the proposed launch of the GSAT-4 satellite.

S Satish, director, publicity and public relations, ISRO, claimed that no final decision had been taken with regard to dropping TAUVEX from the launch. “Our Indian payloads will come first”, he said.

Knowledgeable sources said the ISRO wanted to keep the satellite light and this had prompted it to leave out TAUVEX from the launch. The issue, however, raises a question mark on the efficacy of the GSLV launcher, powered by the first indigenous cryogenic engine, which is slated to put the satellite in the orbit. GSAT-4 is slated for launch sometime this year.




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