The satellite GSAT-6A, which lifted off on the back of the heavyweight GSLV rocket last week, has dropped out of the radar of space agency ISRO. The space research organisation said in a statement today that they have lost communication with the satellite as it was being prepped for the final push that will place it in orbit. Top officials at ISRO did not spell out what exactly went wrong and whether the 2066-ton satellite can be retrieved at all.
After Thursday’s launch, the satellite was meant to be placed in orbit in three phases. When a satellite is launched, it is kept closer to the Earth before it is raised to its final orbit. Orbit-raising refers to the manoeuvres by which it is taken to its final orbit in stages. Each time, a series of thrusters – small engines that makes alterations in the flight path – is used.
ISRO posted an update at 9:22 am on Friday, when the first orbit-raising was carried out. People familiar with the matter said the second orbit-raising was also successful; the thrusters were fired for 53 minutes on Saturday morning.
While the satellite was preparing for the third and final orbit-raising, ISRO said it lost communications with it. Efforts are on to establish link with the satellite again, the statement added. “The second orbit raising operation of GSAT-6A satellite has been successfully carried out by LAM Engine firing for about 53 minutes on March 31, 2018 in the morning… 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,” ISRO said in the statement.
The home-made satellite, built at a cost of Rs. 270 crore, is expected to send and receive signals from hand-held devices.