Power failure may be the reason ISRO lost contact with GSAT-6A communication satellite
Scientists from Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) are still trying to find out why they lost contact with the communication satellite GSAT-6A on Saturday after its launch on Thursday.
Power failure is the most likely cause, according to officials grappling with the second setback in just over half a year.
“When communication fails, the first thought is power failure, however one failure can trigger others, so we cannot be sure,” said a senior official from ISRO, on condition of anonymity.
The satellite might have gone into a “safe mode.”
“Usually what happens when there is a power glitch, the satellite goes into a safe mode to avoid any further catastrophe. After this usually we are able to establish communication, but this time it did not happen,” said K Sivan, chairman, ISRO.
After a perfect launch on Thursday, ISRO lost contact with GSAT-6A on Saturday while manoeuvring the satellite into the orbit.
There were three planned orbit raising manoeuvrers after the launch to change the satellites apogee and perigee, the farthest and the closest point from the earth and change the inclination.
“Usually we have three manoeuvres to take it to the orbit. On March 31 morning the second manoeuvre was successful. Subsequent to that we would have tried to bring it into the normal orientation. Suddenly the communication link was lost,” said Sivan.
ISRO is still hoping to re-establish contact. “We are still trying to establish a link. Let’s hope for the best,” Sivan said.
Two of the three manoeuvrers were carried out successfully, with the liquid apogee motor (LAM) firing properly.
“The second orbit raising operation of GSAT-6A satellite has been successfully carried out by LAM Engine firing for about 53 minutes on March 31, 2018 in the morning,” ISROs said in a statement.
ISRO has been struggling with mixed success in the launch trials so far.
“These things do happen, but they are rare. A few months ago the French lost communication with a satellite but were able to re-establish contact,” Ajay Lele, Senior Fellow in the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, said.
“You have certain amount of fuel for orbit raises. In this case they might have to use more amount of fuel. That might cause the lifetime of the satellite to reduce.”
GSAT 6A has a lifespan of 10 years.
The GSAT 6A is a high power S-band communication satellite, just like its twin GSAT-6. The satellite was expected to help India in providing mobile communication through multi-beam coverage facility.
The satellite was designed to provide a platform for developing technologies such as demonstration of 6 m S-Band Unfurlable Antenna, handheld ground terminals and network management techniques that could be useful in satellite based mobile communication applications.
“It is of serious concern to lose two satellites in six months. They will have to go into minor details about what happened,” said Lele.
In August 2017, India’s mission to launch its backup navigation satellite IRNSS-1H ended in a failure after the heat shield did not separate on the final leg.