ISRO-built satellite fails after five weeks

January 31st, 2009 - 1:16 pm ICT by IANS  

ISROBangalore, Jan 31 (IANS) The very first communications satellite sold by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to the European operator Eutelsat has failed abruptly after five weeks in orbit, in a setback to ISRO which just celebrated the 100th day of its successful moon mission. “Scientists at ISRO are analyzing the anomaly in the hope of reviving the satellite,” ISRO spokesman S. Satish told IANS.

He said ISRO’s two earlier satellites INSAT-1C and 2D had similar problems. But European analysts have told the authoritative Washington-based Space News, that the ISRO-built satellite “is likely a total loss”.

The satellite W2M is the inaugural product of a Euro-Indian joint venture agreement between Antrix and Astrium Satellites of Europe signed in February 2006. It was launched Dec 20 for Paris-based Eutelsat.

“It is really unfortunate but we have to take the failure in its stride,” said K.R. Sridharamurthi, executive director of Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO. He said the confidentiality agreement with Astrium prevented him from discussing anything further about the satellite problem.

In a curt statement Eutelsat said: “The performance of the W2M satellite, which was launched on 20 December, 2008, does not comply with the requirements set with the spacecraft’s manufacturer, EADS Astrium/ISRO Antrix, following a major anomaly affecting the satellite’s power subsystem.”

Under the agreement, Antrix and ISRO had responsibility for operating W2M during its first weeks in orbit before transferring control to Eutelsat. “The satellite had performed well during these weeks,” Sridharamurthi said.

Space News quoting industry officials said there was a sudden failure of its electric-power subsystem during the night of Jan 22-23 as it was being moved from its in-orbit test location toward its final geostationary slot at 16 degrees east longitude.

While the exact cause of the W2M failure is under investigation, “it can almost certainly be traced to the Antrix-provided platform”, Space News, quoting industry officials, said.

According to Space News, recovery efforts will continue as engineers seek to determine whether at least a portion of the satellite’s capacity can be brought into use. “If these efforts are unsuccessful, they said, W2M’s on-board thrusters will be used to guide the satellite into a so-called graveyard orbit about 300 km above the geostationary arc.”

The Astrium-Antrix joint venture’s ambition is to offer a relatively inexpensive alternative for customers who want satellites at the lower end of the price, power and weight range of commercial telecommunications satellites.

Eutelsat was the first customer to purchase a satellite from the Antrix-Astrium joint venture. A second satellite ‘Hylas’ is under construction at an ISRO centre in Bangalore for Avanti Communications Group of London and scheduled for launch late this year.

Sridharamurthi said that work on Hylas production is proceeding as scheduled and will not be affected by the W2M problem.

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