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GSLV failure triggers hunt for signalling units abroad.

ISRO plans to hire transponders to tide over the current shortage

THE FAILURE of the GSLV or Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, which was to place in orbit the communication satellite GSAT-5P, having 36 transponders, has put the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in a fix over the availability of satellite transponders for its users.

To tide over the likely shortage, the Indian space agency now plans to hire transponders from foreign satellites. "The transponder requirement has become acute (after Saturday's GSLV failure)," a spokesperson for the agency admitted. However, ISRO says there would be no shortage, as it would approach other service providers for meeting the shortfall caused due to the burning out of the GSAT-5P along with the GSLV.

Firms that provide transponders on hire are enlisted with ISRO and will be approached soon.

GSAT-5P was the fifth satellite launched in the GSAT series. It was meant to augment the communication services currently provided by the Indian National Satellite System (INSAT). The 2,310 kg-satellite had 24 Normal C-band and 12 Extended Cband transponders.

At present, eight Indian communication satellites are in service -- INSAT--2E, INSAT--3A, INSAT-4B, INSAT-3C, INSAT--3E, KALPANA-1, GSAT- 2, INSAT--4A and INSAT--4CR. INSAT--4B is in orbit but is not fully functional.

These provide about 175 transponders in the C, Extended C and Ku-bands for telecommunications, television broadcasting, weather forecasting, disaster warning as well as search and rescue operations.

The transponder crisis is expected to ease with the launch of another GSAT satellite on a foreign launcher -- Ariane from the French Guyana -- in 2011.

This is a scheduled launch and has nothing to do with last week's failure, officials said. This satellite will make available 24 Ku band transponders to TV broadcasters.

The GSAT- 12, to be launched atop the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle ( PSLV) in the last quarter of 2011, would also provide 12 C-- band transponders.

Another satellite, GSAT- 4, lost due to the failure of the GSLVD3 in April, was an experimental one, meant to test technologies such as electronic propulsion system and bus management unit. So, its loss did not affect transponder availability.

In July this year, an Indian satellite in orbit, INSAT-- 4B -- launched in 2007 -- started malfunctioning.

The satellite had 12 C- band and 12 Ku band transponders.

This disrupted the services of several regional language broadcasters using Ku band transponders from this satellite. Some Western cyber terrorism experts attributed this failure to Stuxnet -- a suspected cyber warfare worm, but ISRO denied the link.

While transponder shortage is the immediate fallout of the GSLV disaster, it has wider ramifications.

ISRO now has only one of the seven imported cryogenic upper stages for the GSLV programmes.

Its indigenouslydeveloped GSLV is not fully tested for a launch yet. This puts a question mark on future missions such as Chandrayaan- 2 and human space flight -- both of which will use GSLV, and to the launch of regular communication and broadcast satellites.

ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan has indicated a review of the programme will take place.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Dec 28, 2010
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