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India rocket launches asteroid-spotting satellite

BANGALORE: India launched a rocket yesterday carrying seven satellites into orbit, including a Canadian orbiter that will scan for asteroids that could be hurtling toward Earth.
The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle blasted off from the Sriharikota rocket launch center located on an island off the coast of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
The launch, witnessed by Indian President President Pranab Mukherjee at the space mission control center, “was perfect,” Devi Prasad Karnik, an official of the state-run Indian Space Research Organization, said.
The suitcase-sized Canadian satellite, which the Canadian Space Agency calls a “sentinel in the sky,” will circle the globe every 100 minutes, scanning space to pinpoint asteroids that may come close to Earth.
Information from the satellite could help deflect asteroids whose trajectory might threaten Earth, Canadian space officials say Earlier this month, an asteroid whizzed safely past Earth the same day a much smaller, previously undetected meteor hit Russia, injuring nearly 1,000 people.
Near-Earth Object Space Surveillance Satellite or NEOSSat “will be the only space telescope dedicated to searching for asteroids,” Canadian satellite scientist Alan Hildebrand was quoted as saying by India’s Hindu newspaper. The Canadian satellite will also scan for chunks of asteroids, comets and space debris — leftovers from old space missions — that can cause collisions.
The rocket was also carrying an Indo-French satellite called “SARAL,” or Satellite with ARGOS and ALTIKA — two climate monitoring tools developed for analyzing ocean currents and sea surface heights by French space agency CNES.
“We will obtain crucial data for climate models and global ocean currents” from the satellite, said CNES project head Pierre Sengenes. Learning more about global ocean circulation is key in understanding how global warming is affecting the planet, scientists say.
The other satellites being carried into space included another one from Canada, two from Austria and one each from Denmark and Britain.
The Indian mission was the 23rd for the country’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV.
India, which aims to send its first manned flight into space in 2016, has emerged as a significant player in the lucrative global commercial satellite-launch market, according to space experts.
The Indian space agency has launched 35 foreign satellites since 1999 while the maximum number of satellites ever launched by the PSLV in a single mission stands at 10.

Spy arrested
An Indian man has been arrested on charges of spying for Islamabad on military war games staged on India’s border with Pakistan, police said yesterday.
The 35-year-old man is accused of passing on details of the exercises held by the Indian Air Force on Friday in the western desert state of Rajasthan, senior state police officer D.S. Dinkar said.
Dinkar identified the man as an Indian national called Sumaar Khan and said he was allegedly spying for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, “passing information related to Indian defense installations and military activities.”
Police alleged the man used mobile phones and Internet to transmit information but did not say when he was arrested.
Both India’s President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attended the drill, codenamed “Iron Fist.”
Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan frequently accuse each other of spying on each other’s military activities.