Following The PSLV C-50 mission on Twitter

After a long time, I live-tweeted the launch of the PSLV-C50 mission.

From my newsletter, edition #8

CMS-01 was earlier called GSAT-12R. The change of names is for ISRO’s new naming convention. It has named it’s remote sensing satellites as EOS for Earth Observation Satellite and it’s geostationary satellites as CMS for Communications and Meteorology Satellites. ISRO has provided no rationale for the renaming of satellites.

PSLV-C50 mission consisted of a PSLV flown in it’s XL configuration. XL stands for Extended Length. It’s 6 strap-on boosters are extended in length. It carries 4 ground-lit boosters and 2 air-lit boosters. CMS-01 was the only payload on board. The PSLV placed the satellite in the intended orbit in 1200 seconds. The intended orbit was orbit is 284 km X 20650 km at 17.86 deg inclination.

This is ISRO’s second launch from Indian soil in 2020 and third launch including one from Kourou on board the Ariane V launch vehicle.

In the post-launch press conference, ISRO’s Chairman, K Sivan announced that PSLV-C51, ISRO’s next launch would carry Anand satellite of Pixxel Space. This would be India’s first private satellite launch. Pixxel Space is a remote sensing satellite builder and data provider.

China’s Reusable Satellite Experiment

China, on Friday, launched a space plane into orbit. The launch took place on board the Long March 2F. The payload is called a Reusable Experimental Spacecraft.

  1. China carries out secretive launch of ‘reusable experimental spacecraft’ – Andrew Jones, Space News, September 4, 2020
  2. China just launched a ‘reusable test spacecraft’ — possibly a spaceplane – Loren Grush, The Verge, September 4, 2020

I saw little to poor coverage of the mission in Indian media. I wanted to maintain a record here for my personal memory.

The launch was very secretive. There were movements that were caught before the launch by a group of China watchers that alluded to a launch on Friday.

My interest was piqued when Cosmic Penguin tweeted that two Chinese ships were en route to two spots on Earth. One was the northern Arabian Sea and another was off the coast of Uruguay. He tweeted this:

They were following the movement of two tracking ships, Yuan Wang 6 and Yuan Wang 3. The Yuan Wang 3 was of interest to me since it seems to be moving towards the northern Arabian Sea off the coast of Pakistan. Cosmic Penguin linked this to a possible launch from the Jiuquan Space Center. He also referenced Notice to Airmen (NOTAMs) that were posted online to suggest a launch time of 6 AM UTC.

Andrew Jones who covers China for Space News shared this picture on Twitter based on date from Europe’s Sentinel satellites. This seemed to show that a Long March 2F was scheduled for lift-off from Jiuquan.

Long March 2F is a human spaceflight rated launch vehicle that was previously used by China to launch Shenzou and Tiangong, China’s human space vehicles. Hence, there was a lot of interest and curiosity about the launch.

The launch actually happened an hour after NOTAM period ended. China has been known to do this in the past.

Michael Thompson, a satellite hunter based in New Mexico, also suggested that the position of ships could be to see the de-orbit burn and then landing back at Jiuquan.

You can see the Yuan Wang 3’s position in the northern Arabian Sea near the line that the Reusable Experiment spacecraft may use as it goes for landing.

The experiment is expected to test the “reusability technologies”. Comparisons with X-37B operated by the United States Space Force are rife.

I would like to compare it with up and coming missions of the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) whose Technology Demonstrator mission flew in 2016. In the 2016 mission after being launched by a HS9 solid booster rocket from Sriharikota.

The RLV was launched to an altitude of 65 km where it returned to simulate a landing on sea 425 km from Sriharikota. We are waiting for the RLV mission that will land on an airstrip that was expected to be held in 2020 but has been postponed due to COVID-19.

Update: Andrew Jones writing in Space News on September 7, in an article titled, Chinese reusable experimental spacecraft releases object before returning to Earth, says:

An additional matter of intrigue is provided by the apparent release of an object into orbit by the spacecraft ahead of its deorbit burn. US space surveillance catalogued the new object, designated NORAD ID 46395 (2020-063G COSPAR ID), assigning it to the Long March 2F launch.

The experimental spacecraft orbited in a 331 by 347-kilometer orbit inclined by 50.2 degrees. The new object is in a similarly-inclined 332 by 348-kilometer orbit.

Andrew Jones, Space News

Jones goes on to say that previous missions have launched these small  ‘Banxing’ companion satellites.

Laptop issues

A week before my daughter’s school started, we were facing an issue where the laptop would switch off in the middle of a session. So, I decided to get it fixed before the school begins.

I was not sure about road restrictions heading towards the laptop repair center. Hence, I picked a laptop repair center nearby. He replaced some parts and the laptop worked for a grand total of one day. Then, as I shared earlier, the laptop died right in the middle of a school session.

I decided to go to my original repair center to fix the issue this time. Once fixed, the laptop ran for a couple of days. Then, the laptop died again over the weekend.

In the midst of all this, I had upgraded from Windows Home to Windows Pro, when the option appeared in the Updates page of the control panel. This is that throwaway line that you read in the novel and you skip past thinking it is insignificant but which turns into a world ending event later on in the novel.

The laptop repair center informed me that my laptop’s Intel Core i5 processor is not available and needs to be replaced with an Intel Core i7. He assured an extension of life of at least 2 years for almost a quarter of the cost of the new one. I took that offer.

When I got back home, the laptop worked well but got a “Windows not activated” message. Trying to fix it myself did not yield any results. So, I took it back to the laptop repair center. The center rep reprimanded me for upgrading the version and said that I now had a pirated version of Windows and he would have to crack the version. He informed me that I would never be able to update Windows ever again.

He returned the laptop to me to enable me to store the data before he cracked Windows.

Once I returned home, I considered searching a bit more to try and save the situation. This is when I found the article that saved me and enabled me to go back to my Windows Home edition with a new install.

When you upgrade from Windows Home to Windows Pro, you get a 10-day window to go back to Windows Home. If you miss this window, you need to do a fresh install of Windows. Windows now comes as an ISO image which you can boot from a pen drive. Also, BIOS has been replaced by something called UEFI.

All of the technical details are linked to in the article. The answer to look at is one by Andre Da Costa.

A decade of self-control

Om calls for a decade of self-control. I think this may be the culmination of my reading of Brett McKay at Art of Manliness, Mr. Money Mustache and Cal Newport, whom he quotes in his blog post.

However, there are things we as people can do to take control of our own habits, our own time, and the tools we use. And yes, we should take our time, attention, and dollars and give it to little companies, not technology conglomerates like Google and Facebook.

Activa called Jupiter

We bought Jupiter home yesterday on December 2, 2019.

Pradeep taking delivery of the Activa
Pradeep taking delivery of the Activa

The Contenders

We were thinking of buying a scooter for Dhanya to help her get our daughter to school, do errands locally and give her some independent mobility. The scooters we considered were the TVS Jupiter and Honda Activa.

Shopping Experience

I really enjoyed the shopping experience I was offered at TVS Century showroom on Alandi Road, Pune. The salesperson showed us the available alternatives, answered queries patiently and made useful suggestions as per our requirement. Only then did he take us through the cost and financing options. Dhanya also enjoyed her test drive of the vehicle and after the showroom visit, we were quite keen on owning a Jupiter.

The experience at the Shanti Honda showroom was the polar opposite. The salesperson asked us what we were looking for. He brought his cost sheet and began explaining what we would be paying for the two wheeler. He then explained financing options. He lost interest when we said we would be self financing the vehicle. We asked for a test drive which he offered reluctantly.

The Verdict

We asked friends and our parents for feedback on both vehicles. As we kept hearing the feedback, we were disheartened that we might not be able to choose a Jupiter. It seems to come with a history of niggling problems and sub-par after sales service that takes the years off the vehicle. Although many people felt the Jupiter was a better riding experience not everyone agreed on whether it was a good vehicle to own. As I was buying this with my own hard earned money, I went with the safer option of buying a Honda Activa.

The Delivery

As I said above, we took delivery of the Honda Activa yesterday on December 2, 2019. The Jupiter has us so captivated, that in our conversations with each other we were never able to say Activa. We kept referring to it as Jupiter. Hence, we decided to name her Jupiter so that it fixes what we call it.

We took her to the Ayyappa Temple at Dhanori. We got a Vahana Pooja done and took her home.