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ISRO successfully launches IRNSS-1I navigation satellite

NEW DELHI, April 12: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched the IRNSS 1I navigation satellite from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, on the 43rd flight of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), early Thursday morning.

The IRNSS 1I mission is critical for the space agency as it is Isro’s second attempt to replace the IRNSS 1A satellite, after the failure of the IRNSS 1H mission in August ISRO’s last mission is in jeopardy as the space agency lost contact with GSAT 6A a few days after launch on March 31.

The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) is a constellation of seven satellites that provides indigenously developed regional GPS services called NavIC. The rubidium-based atomic clocks onboard the IRNSS 1 A failed and it was no longer useful for providing navigation services.

“This NavIC constellation is really going to create history and make innovative applications to the entire community in the ocean-based services especially for the underserved and unserved,” K Sivan, chairman of ISRO, said.

“Very recently using the NavIC applications we have created an app that will be released very soon. I request industry and institutions to come forward to take these applications to the user community.”

The space agency has faced flak from the Comptroller and Auditor General for NavIC still not being fully operational, after more than 10 years of its launch and had cost Rs 1,284 crore.

The 7 IRNSS satellites were launched between 2013 and 2016, with IRNSS 1A being the first. By mid-2016 problems surfaced with atomic clocks on board the satellite. “For a foolproof navigation system that covers the entire country all 7 satellites have to be functional,” Ashish Agarwal, a scientist at National Physical Laboratory, said.

The clocks were manufactured by Spectracom, which is part of the Orolia Group, that is headquartered in the US. The group also supplied clocks for the IRNSS 1I. Though the technology for rubidium clocks has been developed in India, it isn’t proven yet.

The IRNSS 1I was placed in a sub-geosynchronous transfer orbit by the PSLV following which orbit raising manoeuvres that rely on the satellite’s own propulsion system will place it in the targeted geosynchronous orbit at 36,000 km height.

Though the space agency has suffered two setbacks in less than nine months, the launch of two satellites in two weeks comes as a big boost for ISRO. There are nine more launches this year.

“We have lot more challenges for the ISRO community. I am sure they will rise to the occasion,” Sivan said.

Over the next few days, the progress of the IRNSS 1I mission will be closely watched. In the case of GSAT 6A, the orbit raising manoeuvres could not be completed because of the snapped communication link which meant that Isro could not guide it to its targeted orbit.

ISRO loses contact with communication satellite GSAT-6A

SRIHARIKOTA, April 1: Communication from the GSAT-6A satellite launched on March 29 has been lost and efforts are underway to establish a link with it, the Indian Space Research Organisation said Sunday, after maintaining an unusual silence on the health of the spacecraft.

The second orbit raising operation of GSAT-6A has been successfully carried out by Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) Engine firing for about 53 minutes on March 31, in the morning, the ISRO said in a statement.

But, after the successful long duration firings, when the satellite was on course to normal operating configuration for the third and the final firing, scheduled for April 1, communication from the satellite was lost, the space agency said on its website.

“Efforts are underway to establish the link with the satellite,” it added.

The ISRO had successfully put into orbit its latest communication satellite GSAT-6A after a perfect launch of its powerful geosynchronous rocket (GSLV-F08), from its spaceport in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The satellite would help in mobile communication even from very remote locations through hand-held ground terminals.

The space agency’s unusual silence regarding the satellite had lead to speculation about the health of the spacecraft.

The ISRO, which normally communicates on its website about the orbit raising operations, like it did on March 30, following the success of the first orbit raising operation, had not released any update since then.

The 2140-kg communication satellite GSAT-6A is aimed at helping in mobile communication even from very remote locations through hand-held ground terminals.

With a mission life of about 10 years, GSAT-6A is aimed at providing a thrust to mobile communication through multi-beam coverage facility.It is expected to be a shot in the arm for the armed forces.

ISRO chairman K Sivan had said post the launch that GSAT-6A was a complement to GSAT6, which was already in orbit, and these two satellites combined will provide a platform for development of advanced technologies,.

This is the first mission for Sivan, who assumed charge of the space agency in January.

In August last year, India’s mission to launch its backup navigation satellite IRNSS-1H on board PSLV-C39 ended in a failure after a technical fault on the final leg following a perfect launch.

The ISRO then said the heat shield did not separate on the final leg of the launch sequence and, as a result, IRNSS-1H got stuck in the fourth stage of the rocket.

"Out Of Control" Space Lab To Become Celestial Fireball Tomorrow: China

BEIJING, April 1: A defunct space laboratory is set to become a celestial fireball as it re-enters earth's atmosphere in the next 24 hours, China's space authority said Sunday, hitting speeds of over 26,000 kilometres an hour before disintegrating.

The Tiangong-1 is expected to make an uncontrolled earthbound plunge Monday Beijing time, China Manned Space said in a statement, an estimate roughly in line with European Space Agency projections.

The abandoned eight-tonne craft is unlikely to cause any damage when it comes down, but its fiery disintegration will offer a "splendid" show akin to a meteor shower, Chinese authorities said previously.

The re-entry window remains "highly variable" and the debris from the lab could land anywhere between the latitudes of 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south -- from New Zealand to the American Midwest, the ESA said.

There is "no need for people to worry", the China Manned Space Engineering Office said earlier on its WeChat social media account.

Such falling spacecraft do "not crash into the Earth fiercely like in sci-fi movies, but turn into a splendid (meteor shower) and move across the beautiful starry sky as they race towards the Earth", it said.

Tiangong-1 -- or "Heavenly Palace" -- was placed in orbit in September 2011, an important step in China's efforts towards building its own space station.

The module -- which was used to practise complicated manual and automatic docking techniques -- was originally intended to be used for just two years, but ended up serving considerably longer.

It had been slated for a controlled re-entry, but ceased functioning in March 2016. Space enthusiasts have been bracing for its fiery return since.

During its brief lifespan, it hosted Chinese astronauts on several occasions as they performed experiments and even taught a class that was broadcast into schools across the country.

Beijing began its manned spaceflight programme in 1990 after buying Russian technology which enabled it to become the third country to send humans into space following the former Soviet Union and the United States.

China sent another lab, Tiangong-2, into orbit in September 2016 as a stepping stone to its goal of having a crewed space station by 2022.

It also plans to send a manned mission to the moon in the future.

Chinese media has downplayed comments by the ESA and others that the country's engineers have lost control of the lab, with reports saying that the idea it is "out of control" is an invention of the foreign media.

On Chinese social media, commenters criticised the government's reluctance to own up to the situation.

"Can you or can't you report that you've lost control of the situation?" one commenter wrote on the Twitter-like Weibo.

"It's not unusual that something this complicated would have a mishap."

 

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