ISRO to launch replacement as navigation satellite’s atomic clocks fail

Updated on Jan 30, 2017 07:31 PM IST

India will launch one of its back-up navigation satellites this year as a replacement to IRNSS-1A satellite, whose three atomic clocks have failed.

Starting in July 2013, the Indian space agency has launched seven navigation satellites. The last one was launched on April 28, 2016.(PTI File)
Starting in July 2013, the Indian space agency has launched seven navigation satellites. The last one was launched on April 28, 2016.(PTI File)
IANS, Chennai | ByIndo-Asian News Service

India will launch one of its back up navigation satellites this year as a replacement to IRNSS-1A satellite, whose three atomic clocks have failed, a top official of Indian space agency ISRO said on Monday.

The official denied the existence of similar problems with the rubidium atomic clocks in another navigation satellite.

“The atomic clocks have failed in only one satellite. We will be launching the stand-by satellite this year. All other six satellites are operational and are providing the navigation data,” said AS Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

He said the atomic clocks were imported and ISRO would take up the issue with the foreign supplier.

Each satellite has three clocks and a total of 27 clocks for the navigation satellite system were supplied by the same vendor. The clocks are important to provide precise data.

Simply put, the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) is similar to the GPS (Global Positioning System) of the US, Glonass of Russia and Galileo of Europe as well as China’s Beidou.

While GPS and Glonass are fully functional global systems, the Chinese and the Japanese systems offer regional coverage and Europe’s Galileo is yet to be operational.

According to the Indian space agency, the applications of IRNSS are: terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, vehicle tracking and fleet management, terrestrial navigation for hikers and travellers, disaster management, integration with mobile phones, mapping and geodetic data capture and visual and voice navigation for drivers.

In other words, IRNSS could be said to be the “Indian GPS”.

Apart from the civilian applications, the IRNSS will be used for defence purposes as well.

Kumar said ISRO was studying the problem, when queried whether the issue was with the electronic side of the clocks.

The Rs 1,420 crore Indian satellite navigation system NavIC consists of seven satellites in orbit and two as substitutes.

Starting in July 2013, the Indian space agency has launched seven navigation satellites. The last one was launched on April 28, 2016. Each satellite has a life span of 10 years.

It is learnt that the NavIC satellites were performing well till the three clocks in IRNSS-1A -- the first satellite -- failed.

According to Kumar, all the hardware are susceptible to failure even though elaborate testing is done.

Industry officials said navigation satellites of other countries too have faced atomic clock problems.

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