ISRO Launch Fails After Heat Shield Malfunction

The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) launch of a replacement satellite for the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) was unsuccessful, ISRO Chairman A. S. Kiran Kumar confirmed on Aug. 31. Due to a malfunction, the satellite, called IRNSS-1H, became inadvertently trapped within the heat shield fairing, which preventing it from being deployed into the correct orbit.

IRNSS-1H was the eighth satellite launched for IRNSS, and was expected to fly into a Sub-Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (Sub-GTO) after taking off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC) in Sriharikota. According to ISRO, as in the previous six launches of IRNSS satellites, it used an “XL” version of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) equipped with six strap-ons, each carrying 12 tons of propellant.

ISRO has not confirmed the root cause of the incident, nor has the organization yet responded to a request from Via Satellite for additional comments. It remains to be seen how this mission failure will impact the PSLV’s future launch schedule.

Out of 40 total successful launches, this is only the second mission failure for PSLV. The first occurred in 1993, when an attitude control software glitch led to a collision of the second and third stages at separation, preventing the IRS-1E satellite it was carrying from reaching orbit.

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