Indian space scientists were celebrating yesterday after the successful launch of a new communications satellite, INSAT-4CR, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
The satellite was originally to launch on Saturday, but bad weather meant officials had to delay proceedings for 24 hours. A technical hitch almost caused the launch to be scrapped again as the rocket's computers reported anomalous readings. However, engineers were able to get everything back in shape, and the launch was only delayed a further two hours.
The rocket, a 49 metre, three-stage vehicle with two liquid stages and a final cryogenic stage, carried the satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. Once there, its on board thrusters will fire to move it into its final orbit at 36,000km altitude. It will spend the next 11 years relaying direct to home (DTH) TV services that observers say will revolutionise the television industry in the country.
Another DTH TV satellite was scheduled for launch in July, but the launch was aborted half way through, when a faulty liquid propellant stage meant the rocket veered off course. That failure to launch meant India's digital TV rollout had to be delayed.
According to the Hindustan Times, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) officials were also mourning the loss of three colleagues in a car accident last week in the temple town of Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh.
The car was carrying two senior officials, Rajeev Lochan, scientific secretary, and S Krishnamurthy, director of publications and public relations. The driver was also an ISRO employee, named Chandran. He and Lochan died immediately, while Krishnamurthy passed away in hospital on Saturday.
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INSAT-4CR in orbit, DTH to get a boost
High drama marked the launch of Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) F04, which blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here at 6.21, pm after a technical glitch and a two-hour delay, to place India's communication satellite INSAT-4CR in orbit.
The GSLV-F04, the country's third operational GSLV flight, was all set to take off at 4.21 pm, but barely 15 seconds before take-off the signals relating to readiness of the cryo-stage failed to reach the automatic launch sequence programme and the systems put a hold on the mission.
Finally, the launch which had already been delayed by a day due to inclement weather, finally took off.
Later, ISRO chief Madhavan Nair said: "This mission from all point of view has been highly dramatic. But within two hours all the corrections were carried out, and it was a very nice take off." The ISRO team had been weighed down heavily by the previous failure of the GSLV F02 in July 2006. So the success of the Rs 310 crore GSLV-F04 mission had been all the more vital.
"We had really gone through the mill. On one side we had the anxiety coming from the previous failure. There were a series of tests, retests, validations and corrections. But, when the countdown began on Sunday everything went precisely until the last 15 seconds when the check out computer did not receive the readiness signal from the cryogenic stage. The computer promptly put a hold and the entire operation was stopped," explained Nair.
Corrective action took two hours before the vehicle took off at 6.21pm.
The 49-metre-tall GSLV-F04 is the fifth flight of India's GSLV and the third operational flight. It has a lift-off mass of 415 tonnes and is a three stage vehicle with solid, liquid and cryogenic stages.
The INSAT-4CR to be launched into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) carries 12 high-power Ku-band transponders designed to provide communication services such as Direct-To-Home (DTH) television services, Video Picture Transmission (VPT) and Digital Satellite News Gathering.
The satellite is designed for a mission life of 10 years. The INSAT-4CR, weighing 2.130kg is to replace an identical satellite, INSAT-4C that was lost following the failure of the GSLV-F02 in July 2006.