The fiasco of GSAT-6A

- The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author.

On March 29, 2018, Indian Space Research Organisati­on (ISRO) launched GSLV Mk-II (GSLV-F08); carrying the 2,140 kg communicat­ion GSAT-6A, it took off from Sriharikot­a and some 17 minutes later the three-stage rocket injected the satellite into a geosynchro­nous transfer orbit. This was the Geosynchro­nous Satellite Launch Vehicle’s 12th flight and sixth with indigenous cryogenic upper stage. In coming days, ISRO scientists were to fire the onboard thrusters to manoeuvre it to a geostation­ary orbit at an altitude of 36,000 km from earth.

In this launch, ISRO used the high thrust indigenous cryogenic ‘ Vikas’ engine that has increased thrust by 6 per cent, consequent­ly enhancing the payload capacity by 50 per cent – 2.5 tonnes in this case. The second stage planned also had electromec­hanical actuation system replacing electro-hydraulic actuation to enhance reliabilit­y of the rocket. These improvemen­ts and more are to be incorporat­ed into GSLV’s future missions, including Chandrayaa­n-2 planned for October 2018. However, 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, 2018, communicat­ion from the satellite was lost at 9.30 a.m. on March 31. This is definitely a major setback but ISRO is making efforts to re-establish the communicat­ion link. Only after the communicat­ion link is re-establishe­d with the satellite can it be placed in its intended orbit. This may be a difficult propositio­n even if it is a case of mechanical/technical failure. On the other hand, if it has been caused by sabotage, then the satellite may be considered lost.

The fact is that the space is fast becoming an ambiguous battlegrou­nd. China’s space lab may be out of control and hurtling towards earth, but not only has it lived its life, its point of impact on earth may be fixed by China, though proclaimed out of control. China would already have considerab­le space capabiliti­es and R&D in space would have been accelerate­d after Tianjin Port was stuck by a space weapon in August 2015. With China fixated with limiting India’s strategic space and curbing our economy, wouldn’t she love to sabotage ISRO’s satellite that would boost mobile communicat­ions in India, including of Indian Armed Forces? The underlying fact is that such possibilit­y cannot be discounted.

Cause for the downing of an Indian Air Force (IAF) Sukhoi close to the LAC in May 2017 was suspected by foreign analysts as a cyberattac­k by China. Possibly same was the reason for downing of a UAV during the Doklam standoff, so why not a satellite? GSAT-6A, similar to its predecesso­r GSAT-6, is a high power S-band communicat­ion satellite with a mission life of some 10 years. It has a has a six-metre wide antenna that is meant for S-band communicat­ion; three times broader than those generally in ISRO satellites, which will enable the satellite to provide mobile communicat­ion for the country through handheld ground terminals, whereas, smaller antenna in other communicat­ion satellites require larger ground stations. This will also benefit Armed Forces in use of hand-held mobile terminals. GSAT-6A will complement GSAT-6, which has been providing satellite communicat­ion services since its launch on August 27, 2015. ISRO is preparing for three launch campaigns including PSLV-C41 carrying IRNSS-1I, to be launched shortly followed by GSLV Mk-III.

India has plenty catching up to do in terms of mobile internet speed and broadband speed around the world. India was ranked 109 out of 122 in the Speedtest Global Index in November 2017, as also 76 rank out of 133 countries in broadband speed. For this, ISRO is planning to launch heavy-duty communicat­ion satellites. GSAT11 is planned to be launched in April-May this year, with the 5,725kg satellite carrying 40 transponde­rs in the Ku-band and Ka-band frequencie­s aimed at providing high bandwidth connectivi­ty with up to 14 gigabit per second (Gbps) data transfer speed.

On June 5, 2017, ISRO had launched GSAT-19, which too carried Ka/Ku-band high throughput communicat­ion transponde­rs. Simultaneo­us to GSAT-11 planned to be launched from the European spaceport in April-May, ISRO will launch GSAT-29 through GSLV Mk III rocket from Sriharikot­a. Thereafter, GSAT20 is planned to be launched in 2019. All these satellites together will provide high bandwidth connectivi­ty of up to 100 gigabit per second; provide high-speed internet connectivi­ty in rural areas as well and help bridge the digital divide. These satellites use multiple spot beams through a special transponde­r operating on high frequency, which increases internet speed and connectivi­ty; spot beam being a satellite signal specially concentrat­ed in power to cover limited geographic­al area on the earth. The narrower the beam more is the power. Moreover, these satellites will reuse the beams several times in order to cover entire India. GSAT-19 uses 16 beams and is able to transfer data at the rate of 13 Gbps. GSAT-20 will use 40 beams. Each beam will have two polarisati­ons, which will effectivel­y make them 80 beams. This satellite will have data transfer rate of 60-70 Gbps.

Many may not know that ISRO is helping 125 government projects work effectivel­y and efficientl­y by optimising space technology, mainly for social-welfare and developmen­t projects including MGNREGA, navigation system and land demarcatio­n plans. ISRO has repeatedly proved to be one of the most efficient and dedicated organisati­on in the country with recurring achievemen­ts that have made India proud. If it has set its sight on making mobile internet speed and broadband speed in India world class, there is no reason it will not achieve it. This year is also launch of Chandrayaa­n-2 mission. In case GSAT-6A is required to be re-launched, Chandrayan-2 may be delayed. But Indians will be looking forward to future ISRO missions.

 ??  ?? LT GENERAL

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India