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The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has slated its first launch for 2013 on February 14 with the ocean study spacecraft SARAL, reports The Hindu. This will be the first of the 8 to 10 missions, including satellites and launch vehicles, which ISRO has planned this year.

Along with the 450-kg Indo-French SARAL, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will put into orbit six small experimental satellites built by western universities for a fee. SARAL would be one of the very few such ocean-centric satellites and a vital cog in studying sea surface heights and other aspects, an ISRO official said.

This satellite would be similar to ISRO’s Oceansat-2, but with an altimeter (named ‘Altika’) to measure heights.  In October 2012, NASA relied on Oceansat-2 to get finer details of Hurricane ‘Sandy’ that wreaked havoc on the eastern U.S. SARAL is short for Satellite with ARgos and ALtiKa, the two main devices on it which have been provided by the French space agency CNES. Besides building the spacecraft, ISRO will launch and operate it through its life.

Around April this year, ISRO expects to resume flying the GSLV rocket. The GSLV-D5 will lift the communications satellite GSAT-14 into orbit. ISRO had put the GSLV programme on hold after it suffered two successive failures in April and December 2010. The lapses were analysed and corrections made, the official said.

May will see the first of the national navigational satellites or navsats — the IRNSS-1 — which will fly on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. IRNSS or the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System with its seven satellites is tipped to be India’s own regional Global Positioning System.

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