Space | 22. June 2016 | posted by Julia Heil


Credit: ISRO
On 22 June 2016, the microsatellite BIROS took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India on board a PSLV launcher (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle).

It was finally time: after another postponement of the deadline, the fire detection satellite BIROS (Bi-spectral Infrared Optical System) took off on 22 June 2016.

All of the collectively crossed fingers helped: here is a look back at the days that preceded the launch.
Although a part of the DLR team had already set off on their homeward journey to Germany, systems engineer Christian Schultz, project coordinator Matthias Hetscher, design engineer Matthias Lieder and software engineer Stefan Trippler remained on site in India to accompany the microsatellite in its final preparations. Schultz set off for Germany shortly before the launch to take his place at the control centre in Oberpfaffenhofen.##markend##

Crushed coconuts for a successful start

The multi-satellite platform needed to be bolted together before BIROS could be fitted to the launcher together with other satellites. To do this, the lower level that holds the four micro-satellites was connected to the upper half accommodating the main satellite (weighing a hefty 770 kilograms). The Easter egg is then sealed tight.p>

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
BIROS in the hangar of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre

The rocket was rolled out to the launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR) on Saturday, while the returnees prepared for launch at the DLR German Space Operations Center (GSOC) in Oberpfaffenhofen. Anyone looking to witness the lift-off needed to be up at the crack of dawn. All the same, the three scientists from the DLR Institute of Optical Sensor Systems were not alone as they attended the ceremony on the island of Sriharikota, and the grounds were teeming with curious onlookers. Coconuts were crushed to curry favour with the gods and get their blessing for a successful launch. These ceremonies also involved convincing the Hindu god Ganesh – responsible for the success of all journeys and new things – to remove any obstructions that could get in the way of a successful launch procedure. By the end of the ceremony, at least 30 cleft coconuts – enough for a blessing and a favourable launch – lay strewn across the launch pad.

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
BIROS is stowed away in a sturdy crate for transport

Charging the batteries until the last minute

Up until Sunday evening, the scientists had to pay several visits to the microsatellite BIROS to charge its batteries. The solar panels will not unfold until the third orbit, and every ampere-hour will count so that BIROS can bridge the time between launch and separation. Later on, the batteries will provide the fire detection satellite with enough energy to overcome even extended periods without sunlight. The official countdown came on Monday morning at T-48 hours. This meant raising the security level and prohibiting anyone from leaving the building. The final opportunity for a well-deserved rest had therefore already come and gone.

Incense sticks and temple sacrifices

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
The temple to the goddess Sri Kamakshidevi

The three remaining members of the DLR team set off on Tuesday to find a suitable temple and to eliminate even the most remote risks of failure. They discovered what they were looking for in the shrine to Sri Kamakshidevi in the SHAR Temple Complex. Two priests were roped in to perform a ceremony with prayers, incense sticks and a sacrificial offering: the ritual promises guaranteed success, just like the specifically crafted BIROS candle that the scientists had brought along from Berlin and that now stands in the temple complex shrine. And soon enough, Wednesday 22 June 2016 arrives – scheduled launch at 03:35 UTC. The countdown begins, and as the clock hits 0, the fire detection satellite – itself a product of collaboration between 10 different DLR institutes over three years – is on its way.

Dann ist es Mittwoch, der 22. Juni 2016 - Startzeit 3:56 UTC. Der Countdown beginnt und bei 0 macht sich der Feuerdetektionssatellit, an dem zehn unterschiedliche DLR-Institute gemeinsam für drei Jahre gearbeitet haben, auf den Weg.

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
The BIROS candle in the shrine to Sri Kamakshidevi asks the gods for a successful launch

About the author

Julia Heil hat sich schon immer für das interessiert, was hinter den Dingen steckt - Fragen stellen ist eine ihrer Lieblingsbeschäftigungen. Zunächst als Volontärin in der Kommunikationsabteilung und nun als Redakteurin für das DLR-Magazin schreibt sie über die vielfältigen Forschungsthemen des DLR und taucht mitten hinein in die Welt der Wissenschaft. to authorpage