India admits solar panel problems

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India’s Space Research Organisation (ISRO) confirmed its was anxious about a potential solar panel problem on a satellite it urgently recalled from Arianespace’s launch facility at French Guiana.

It GSAT-11 craft was recalled in April. Dr K Sivan, ISRO’s chairman, justified ISRO’s “unprecedented” decision to recall the satellite, saying that an expert committee had decided to have the satellite returned for a complete inspection at ISRO’s facility in Bengaluru.

“There is [$120 million] at stake as costs of the satellite and the launch, apart from India’s reputation. We cannot afford to take risks in such a high-profile mission. We did lose our place in the launch queue when we brought our satellite back. But it turned out to be a wise decision. GSAT-11 had the same set of power system configuration that two older satellites had. RISAT-1 died prematurely and GSAT-6A lost communication contact soon after launch on March 29 because of suspected power system failure, harnesses etc… We had just sent GSAT-11 [to Guiana] and no one was sure if the same issue was there in GSAT-11,” he said.

“Had it gone in that configuration, the panel [which generates power for the satellite’s 15-year life] would not have deployed in space. The satellite would have been a failure.”

Dr Sivan confirmed that Arianespace would launch 3 Indian satellites over the next 12 months. “Arianespace will launch GSAT-11 on November 30th, followed by GSAT-31 in December and GSAT-30 in May 2019,” said Sivan.


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