IRNSS-1H Navigation Satellite Launch Failed

The forty first flight of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C39) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota, was unsuccessful.

PSLV-C39 had a normal lift-off and all the flight events took place exactly as planned, except heat shield separation.

This resulted in satellite separation occurring within the heat shield. The satellite is inside the heat shield resulting in the unsuccessful mission. Detailed analysis is under progress to identify the cause of the anomaly in the heat shield separation event.

A  heat shield, which is part of the rocket, is meant to protect a satellite from the heat generated by the friction against atmosphere during the lift-off. In case of a satellite, once it is ready to be placed in the orbit, it is expected to separate and fall off.

The IRNSS-1H was built by a consortium led by Alpha Design Technologies, a defence equipment supplier from Bengaluru, over eight months. Led by Colonel HS Shankar, a team of 70 scientists supervised the operations. The Rs. 400-crore company had been tasked to make two satellites. The second is expected to be finished by April 2018.

IRNSS-1H was the eighth in a series of IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite Systems) satellites launched by ISRO since July 2013. This was to create a constellation to provide satellite-based navigation services over the Indian subcontinent on the lines of the global positioning system (GPS) created by the United States.

The Indian navigation satellite constellation, called NavIC, essentially comprises seven satellites. IRNSS-1H was intended to replace IRNSS-1A, which developed problems last year. IRNSS-1H would have augmented “the existing seven satellites of NavIC constellation”. It was supposed to sit in a sub-Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (sub-GTO).

IRNSS-1 series satellites
Satellite Launch Date Launch Vehicle
IRNSS-1A 1 July 2013 PSLV-C22
IRNSS-1B 4 April 2014 PSLV-C24
IRNSS-1C 15 October 2014 PSLV-C26
IRNSS-1D 28 March 2015 PSLV-C27
IRNSS-1E 20 January 2016 PSLV-C31
IRNSS-1F 10 March 2016 PSLV-C32
IRNSS-1G 28 April 2016 PSLV-C33
IRNSS-1H 31 August 2017 PSLV-C39

There are plans to expand NavIC system by increasing constellation size from 7 to 11.

IRNSS is intended to provide two services — Standard Positioning Service for general users and a Restricted Service, which is an encrypted service only for authorised users like the defence forces.

NavIC is designed to provide accurate position information services to users in India as well as the region, up to 1,500 km from the boundary. For NavIC to become ubiquitous in the subcontinent, ISRO will sell its capabilities to general positioning service providers like mobile phone manufacturers, vehicle manufacturers etc.

For ISRO, several first launches have not gone down well. The maiden launch of the Satellite Launch Vehicle-3 in 1979 had been a failure; so was the launch of Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle in 1987. In 1993, the first voyage of the PSLV, which is now considered the workhorse of Indian space missions, had been a failure as well.