GSAT-1 satellite drifting 'out of sight'

India's dreams for its odyssey in space seem to be going askew somewhat after the GSAT-1 satellite, launched by the indigenous GSLV D-1 into orbit successfully, couldn't be placed in the correct geo-stationary orbit.

Scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have been watching helplessly as the GSAT-1 drifts at the rate of 13 degrees a day. It will probably go out of sight of ISRO's master control facility in Bangalore by the month-end, reports United News of India, quoting ISRO sources.

At the time of the last orbit raising event carried out on 23 April, the satellite was located at 53 degrees east.

Tests could be conducted only when the satellite became visible again, ISRO chairman K Kasturirangan had said on Tuesday.

At a press conference in Bangalore, capital of the southern state of Karnataka, Kasturirangam said a shortfall of 10 kg of propellant was the reason why orbital correction could not be made. It could only be placed in a 23 hour and two minute orbit instead of a 24 hour orbit.

He, however, added that the GSAT-1 was in excellent health. As the GSAT-1 was not meant to be an operational satellite, it would not affect any user, he claimed.

The next target would be to increase the GSAT payload to 1,750-1,800 kg. The target was to reach a two tonne payload by the third flight which will lead to changes in configuration.

The second GSLV launch will be held in the third or fourth quarter of 2002.

Meanwhile, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launch has been scheduled for August. It will carry a payload of two satellites - one from Poland (Probo) and another from Germany (Bird). ISRO has scheduled the launch of the Insat-3C satellite also in August.

The question remains how ISRO expects to get orders for its upcoming launches after this big setback to its space programme.

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