(Satellite News via NewsEdge) With a population of more than 1 billion people, India has been targeted as one of the largest potential markets for satellite services, but the Indian Space Research Organization's (ISRO) efforts to play a key role in developing the market have been thrown into chaos after the failed launch of the Insat-4C, India's heaviest ever communications satellite.
The geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) carrying the spacecraft veered off course shortly after being launched from the Sriharikota Space Research Center and was destroyed, along with the Insat-4C and its 12 Ku-band transponders.
The satellite was designed to provide DTH TV services, video picture transmission, and digital satellite news gathering services, as well as to serve the National Informatics Center with VSAT connectivity.
The satellite weighed 2,168 kilograms, with an operating life of 10 years.
The challenge for ISRO is what to do next.
ISRO chair Madhaven Nair said the loss of Insat-4C capacity would "only have a short-term impact."
"Insat-4C was to have provided 12 Ku-band transponders. The Insat system already has 175 transponders, and this includes some in-orbit spares, which can be used to meet a portion of the user requirements booked on Insat-4C. In addition, ISRO had already scheduled a series of Insat/GSAT satellites, which will carry 24 high-power Ku-band transponders in the near future," he said.
"With the launching of these satellites, ISRO is confident of meeting the requirements of the Indian users in a timely manner. Whenever there is a temporary shortfall in capacity, ISRO also exercises the option of leasing capacity from other satellite operators and making it available to customers until capacity from Indian-built satellites becomes available," he added.
While the loss of Insat-4C dealt a blow to ISRO's plans, he said the organization was moving ahead with the launch of other satellites.
"In the year ahead, India will continue to launch communication and remote sensing satellites to enhance the present system capabilities. Insat-4B, identical to the Insat-4A satellite, which was launched in December 2005, carrying 12 Ku-band and 12 C-band transponders mainly catering to direct-to-home television services, is planned for launch on board a European Ariane launcher in the first quarter of 2007," he said.
"An experimental satellite, GSAT-4, to demonstrate multi-beam Ka-band transponder and carrying a navigation payload, besides several spacecraft bus technologies, is planned for launch on board our GSLV," he added.
While ISRO is still investigating the July 11 GSLV failure, the agency will push ahead with upgrades to the vehicle to increase its payload capacity.
"While the present GSLV carrying the Russian-supplied cryogenic stage is able to launch 2,000kg-size satellites into [geosynchronous transfer orbit], once the Russian-supplied cryogenic stage is replaced by India's own cryogenic stage, which is now in an advanced stage of testing, the GSLV will be able to place up to 2,500kg-size satellites in [geosynchronous transfer orbit]," he said.
The next-generation vehicle, dubbed GSLV-Mk 3, can place up to 4 tons into geosynchronous orbit. The first test of that vehicle is scheduled to take place in 2008.
The agency's smaller rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), had completed eight missions, which Nair described as "the workhorse launch vehicle" for India.