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The space agency staged a successful mission and also came out on top in a cutting-edge scientific experiment utilising the fourth stage of a PSLV rocket, which gave scientists at ISRO a double cause for celebration on Sunday. Seven Singaporean satellites were successfully launched into their intended orbits by ISRO using a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) earlier in the day during a dedicated commercial mission.

In order to “mitigate the space debris problem,” according to Chairman S Somanath, the scientists decided to conduct a unique scientific experiment during the mission in which the fourth stage of the rocket would be lowered into a 300 km orbit after placing customer satellites at an altitude of 536 km.

After the successful launch of the PSLV-C56 mission, ISRO provided an update and stated that the scientists’ novel endeavour was “successful” and that “ISRO/India remains committed to reduced space debris”.

According to ISRO, a rocket would typically spend “decades” in orbit as space debris following a successful mission before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. However, the time frame has been shortened to “two months” as a result of Sunday’s trial.

The PS4 stage de-orbiting experiment was successful on the PSLV-C56/DS-SAR mission. The stage has been deliberately manoeuvred into a 295 kilometre by 300 km orbit, according to an ISRO social media post.

According to ISRO, the fourth stage of the rocket now spends far less time in space, cutting its tenure in orbit from several decades to less than two months. “Less time in space equals a lower danger of debris. India is still dedicated to minimising space trash and utilising space sustainably for the good of all people, the space agency underlined in the social media post. Earlier, Somanath addressed scientists from the Mission Control Centre and stated, “After this (a successful launch), we will have many exciting subsequent activities on the PS4 stage. The PSLV fourth stage, which is now in the satellite’s orbit at a 5-degree inclination and almost 535 kilometres in a circular orbit, will be brought back to a lower orbit.

According to him, the PS4 stage was returned to a lower orbit “to mitigate space debris problems”.

“The experiment is being done with an intent to have a lower lifespan of the stage being spent in space, primarily to make sure that the space debris mitigation problems are addressed through our conscious efforts to bring back the PSLV upper stage in a controlled manner, and to demonstrate that in this mission,” said Somanath, who is also the Secretary, Department of Space.

PSLV Mission Director S R Biju echoed the Chairman’s assertion, saying, “As our Chairman mentioned, we have not completed the mission. The mission’s main goal of deploying seven Singapore satellites into their intended orbits has been accomplished, and PSLV (sic) has made it a habit to conduct various experiments in the rocket’s fourth stage.

As the PS4 stage is being returned to another orbit (536–570 km), which is in high demand for many satellites, we will start this mission when the original one is complete. In order to avoid getting lost there, we chose to take the PS4 stage, also known as the spent stage, to another orbit and another goal, for two reasons, he added.

One, our chairman has instructed us to take every precaution to lessen the threat of trash in orbit. Two, this priceless orbit won’t be occupied by a spent PS4 stage as debris; instead, we’ll make room for future satellites. This experiment, which is now being conducted, has these two goals as its two main goals.

The PSLV Orbital Experimental Module (POEM) in the rocket was used as an orbital platform to conduct scientific experiments as part of a similar exercise carried out by ISRO in April during the launch of the PSLV-C55 mission.

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