Launch of Insat-3C not before 2002

India's next generation communication satellite Insat-3C, which was originally scheduled to be launched in September, will not be placed in orbit before January at the earliest. And that is dependent on it's getting space aboard Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket.

The failure of Ariane 5's flight 142 to reach a proper orbit on July 12 led to the indefinite suspension of further Ariane 5 flights as a seven-member independent inquiry board went into what went wrong. The panel, which submitted its report to Arianespace on 1 August, notified all its customers, including the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which had launched the Insat series on French Ariane rockets.

The summary of the findings state that the malfunction was due to a combustion instability at the 'EPS' upper stage ignition due to the abnormally high pressure gradient in the combustion chamber.

The return-to-flight program for the Ariane 5 is moving ahead at present with more than 60 ignition tests of the Aestus upper stage engine having been performed on a test rig in Germany. The data will be used in determining the new ignition sequence.

Modifications of the Aestus engine test rig will be made to validate flight conditions during the ground-based static firings. To allow these modifications to be carried out, and to provide time for the upper stage's qualification, the Ariane 5's next flight is now targeted for January 2002, Arianespace CEO Jean-Marie Luton has said.

Arianespace at present has a backlog of 50 payloads to be launched, which include 41 satellites and nine ATV missions for the international Space station. This is for both its Ariane 4 and 5 series.

The 1,170 kg Insat-3C will provide fixed satellite services (FSS) in the normal and extended C-bands, as also broadcast satellite services and mobile satellite services in the S-band.

Insat-3C will replace India’s current workhorse, Insat-2C, whose capacity will be transferred to the new bird. Insat-2C is expected to reach the end of its seven-year life span in another six months.

The launch of Insat-3C will be the first phase of ISRO’s efforts to add more than 50 transponders to its capacity, ISRO chairman K Kasturirangan had told a conference of V-SAT service providers some months ago.

The demand for V-SATS is expected to increase from the 14,000 currently in operation to 20,000 in the next couple of years with broadband V-SATs coming in with new technology.

Insat-3C has cost ISRO $40 million. In addition, it is paying $77 million to Arianespace as launch costs.

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