Launch failure a setback for regional navigation network programme

Tunia Cherian | | Updated on: Jan 11, 2018

The failure of PSLV C39 to eject the IRNSS-1H navigation satellite into its orbit on Thursday has thrown up a few challenges for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and private sector industries.

In terms of launch capabilities, this is a 'minor’ setback say ISRO scientists and industry experts. The PSLV, the launch vehicle performed all its manoeuvres from lift-off to the final stage. Which means, it did its job quite well. The failure to release the 1,425 kg satellite was due to the heat shield not responding to instructions due to a technical glitch.

ISRO has to temporarily ground the PSLV, which has successfully placed over 200 satellites of various sizes and weights in a polar orbit over the past two decades. A special team will undertake a detailed analysis to find out the reasons for the problems encountered in the final stages of the launch mission.

Thursday night's 'mishap’ was the first failure for the PSLV since 1997, after the rocket was pressed into service. It has delivered a record 39 successful flights since then. This rare incident in the history of the PSLV’s journey will make a slight dent in ISRO's credibility to launch small satellites, where it has emerged as a major player due to its cost competitiveness and sustained efficiency. The commercial arm Antrix Corporation will have to go the extra mile to win contracts.

Perhaps the biggest impact will be felt in operationalising the entire regional navigation network with the complete constellation of nine satellites envisaged under NAVIC (Sailor). Industry experts say it will require 6-8 months to build a brand new satellite to replace the IRNSS-1H, which ironically is safely trapped in space, but rendered useless.

A consortium of private companies led by Bengaluru-based Alpha Digital Technologies, in coordination with ISRO, took more than nine months to fabricate this satellite (which was to replace one of the seven satellites that was malfunctioning). The last in the series of navigation satellites, the INRSS-1A was launched in April 2016.

The task assumes importance and urgency as NAVIC has to augment one satellite at the earliest since all the three atomic clocks in one of the orbiting satellites went defunct in January. Ultimately, the sooner the ISRO gets the nine-satellite constellation into operation, the more advantageous it will be. Which means the space agency and the private sector have to get their act together quickly and bounce back into action. ISRO has both the expertise and resilience to beat failures by quickly learning and correcting them.

The IRNSS is an independent regional navigation satellite system designed to provide accurate position information services to users in India as well as a region extending up to 1,500 km from its boundary. It provides two types of services, namely, Standard Positioning Service (SPS), which is provided to all the users and Restricted Service (RS), which is an encrypted service provided only to authorised users.

The practical applications of the data provided are in mobile as well as in marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracing and fleet management and visual and voice navigation for drivers.

Published on September 01, 2017
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

You May Also Like

Recommended for you