The Satellite trouble of India : a wakeup call for Indian Space Program

Indian Space Research Organization ISRO’s recent launch of its heaviest communication satellite GSAT 6A on March 29 has met with a severe technical glitch and the organisation has lost communication with it.

GSAT 6A was launched via GSLV-Fo8 rocket from Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota. It was the sixth mission of GSLV-Fo8 rocket with a cryogenic engine. The satellite had to be put in the right orbit in 3 orbit raising operations. The first two had been carried out with success on the scheduled dates but just within minutes after the second one, the Space Agency broke the news that the communication link with the satellite has been lost but kept the stance that they may be able to reconnect as the approximate location of the satellite can be tracked by making use of other satellites.

Loss of link

The Agency is working hard to find out the reasons but has suspected a power failure which led to short circuit and ultimately leads to “loss of lock” which means no communication can be established with the satellite. The incident of power failure is not new to Indian Space program as there have been many satellite launches in the 1980s and 1990s when such things occurred. But, GSAT 6A is new and ISRO had already is said to have fixed the issue of power failures long back. GSAT 6A which is a backup for GSAT 6 is said to have huge risks if the link is not established as the satellite which was meant to give important information will end up as a space debris with enough fuel for next 10 years. Another notable feature of the launch is the use of High Thrust Vikas booster engines as against the Vikas engines in GSAT 6A. The new engines promise 6percent additional thrust than the latter.

Cost of Failure

The cost of failure to establish the link is deeper as it will impact the image of India as a nation with well-developed Space capabilities- an image which has taken many years of hard work. This being the second major technical snag in the last 6 months as the last one was with the launch of Indian Navigation satellite IRNSS-1H carried by PSLV C-39 which experienced an issue due to an issue with the heat shield.

This is a huge failure when seen in terms of cost of $41.5 million for an organisation which does not have endless funds at its disposal. The failure has dashed the hopes of many as it was meant for bettering the capacity of the communication systems which is essential to have a sound remote communication system all over India. Additionally, the significance of GSAT 6A was high as it was to enhance the communication systems of our armed forces with its multi-band coverage with the biggest ever unfurlable S-band antenna it was supposed to give 5 beams in S-band and 1-beam in C-band in addition to the small hand-held ground terminals.

The Chairman of ISRO K.Sivan has however expressed hopes of re-establishing the link although the chances as per some other experts seem dim. It will be bright to see the failures are not carried forward to any future launches and the issues at the root are addressed and rectified.

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