With a population of more than 1 billion people, India has been targeted as one of the largest potential markets for satellite services, but the Indian Space Research Organization's (ISRO) efforts to play a key role in developing the market have been thrown into chaos after the failed launch of the Insat-4C satellite July 11, India's heaviest ever communications satellite.
The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) carrying the spacecraft veered off course shortly after being launched from the Sriharikota Space Research Centre and was destroyed, along with the Insat-4C and its 12 Ku-band transponders designed to provide direct-to-home (DTH) TV services, video picture transmission, digital satellite news gathering (DSNG) and to serve the National Informatics Centre with VSAT connectivity. The satellite weighed 2,168 kilograms and was designed to operate for 10 years.
The challenge for ISRO is what to do next.
Madhaven Nair, chairman of ISRO, said the loss of Insat-4C capacity would "only have a short-term impact. Insat-4C was to have provided 12 Ku-band transponders. The Insat system already has 175 transponders, and this includes some in-orbit spares, which can be used to meet a portion of the user requirements booked on Insat-4C. In addition, ISRO had already scheduled a series of Insat/GSAT satellites, which will carry 24 high-power Ku-band transponders in the near future. With the launching of these satellites, ISRO is confident of meeting the requirements of the Indian users in a timely manner. Whenever there is a temporary shortfall in capacity, ISRO also exercises the option of leasing capacity from other satellite operators and making it available to customers until capacity from Indian built satellites becomes available."
While the loss of Insat-4C dealt a blow to ISRO's plans, the organization is moving ahead on launching on other satellites, Nair said. "In the year ahead, India will continue to launch communication and remote sensing satellites to enhance the present system capabilities," he said. "Insat-4B, identical to the Insat-4A satellite, which was launched in December 2005, carrying 12 Ku-band and 12 C-band transponders mainly catering to direct-to-home television services, is planned for launch on board a European Ariane launcher in the first quarter of 2007. An experimental satellite, GSAT-4, to demonstrate multi-beam Ka-band transponder and carrying a navigation payload, besides several spacecraft bus technologies, is planned for launch on board our GSLV."
While ISRO is still investigating the most July GSLV failure, the agency also is pushing ahead with upgrades to the vehicle designed to increase its payload capacity, Nair said. "While the present GSLV carrying the Russian supplied cryogenic stage is able to launch 2,000 kg-size satellites into [geosynchronous transfer orbit], once the Russian supplied cryogenic stage is replaced by India's own cryogenic stage, which is now in an advanced stage of testing, GSLV will be able to place up to 2,500 Kg-size satellites in" geosynchronous transfer orbit, he said.