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GSAT-6A goes incommunicado

GSAT-6A goes incommunicado
In a statement on Sunday, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) disclosed that it has not been able to contact communication satellite GSAT-6A that it launched two days ago on Thursday. The snapping of the contact took place in the third and last stage of the satellite positioning itself in its orbit. Though ISRO is trying to reestablish the contact with its mega communication satellite, experts believe there is little chance of success. The satellite had a lifespan of 10 years and it is the second such failure in last eight years. Before this, the launch of GSAT-5P in 2010 was unsuccessful. ISRO had spent Rs 270 crore on GSAT- 6A. The satellite weighed 2,066 tonne and 49.1 meter in length. This was launched from GSLV-F08 at Sriharikota. The satellite was to be put in the earth's orbit at 36,692 km from the earth. Its antenna was six meter wide, which is three times the normal antenna. This satellite would have helped in providing mobile connectivity in remote areas. The satellite was also meant to help the mobile communication networks of the armed forces. After its launch, ISRO scientists were keeping a mum on the developments. ISRO Chairman K Sivan held a marathon meeting with scientists on Saturday. ISRO has so far sent 96 spacecraft into space and organised 69 launch missions and 9 students missions. It has also launched 236 satellites of 28 countries. In 32 years, ISRO has sent 96 satellites into space. Out of this, GSAT-6A is the 12th mission which has failed. ISRO had sent its first spacecraft into space in 1975 and the failure rate of communication satellites is the highest as seven communication satellites have failed so far.
While scientists have yet not been able to figure out what exactly went wrong with the satellite, a failure of the power system is believed to have snapped the contact between the spacecraft and the ground station at ISRO. The satellite was making normal communications till Saturday afternoon when it took some commands from the ground station. But suddenly the connection snapped and ISRO scientists were neither able to send or receive any communication from the spacecraft, suggesting that the power supply in the spacecraft has snapped. While ISRO scientists are working to solve the problem and ISRO Chairman Sivan is still hopeful that the ground station can reestablish the link, they are not able to tell by when they expect the satellite to be available for communication. Speaking to the media, ISRO Chairman K Sivan said, "After the successful launch of GSAT-6A from Sriharikota on Thursday, ISRO was supposed to perform three orbit-raising manoeuvres to take the satellite from the launch orbit to the designated orbit. The first manoeuvres were performed successfully on Thursday. The second orbit-raising exercise was performed on Saturday. As the ISRO ground station was gearing up for the third manoeuvre, the communication link with the satellite snapped."
The ISRO chairman further said that ISRO scientists are trying to reestablish the communication link with the satellite. "Though delinking of the signal from a satellite is a common phenomenon, this time the signal delinking is happening for a longer duration. Even if the satellite's primary power has failed, we can use the back-up power like solar power if we are able to reestablish the contact with it."
ISRO is a prestigious organisation with an enviable track record of successfully launching a large number of satellites and other space missions. It also has a commercial arm called Antrix which is responsible for selling Isro products and services. ISRO has launched satellites of different countries and is regarded to be at the forefront of space research. A failure like the GSAT-6A is a serious setback for the organisation and hundreds of scientists who have been working on the project for a long period of time. But failures like this also give the scientific community a chance to analyse as to what went wrong and what remedial measures can be employed to set right the mistakes. After the suspected snapping of power supply in the GSAT-6A communication satellite, ISRO scientists and engineers have promised to launch a fresh quality assurance drive on all its projects. As the communication satellite was meant to provide mobile phone connectivity in remote areas and to the armed forces, the new services may not be offered till a similar satellite is successfully launched. ISRO which has given the nation enough reasons to be proud of the organisation can detect and correct the mistakes that made GSAT-6A incommunicado.

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