2014’s first space mission to be India’s GSAT-14

MUMBAI: The first time it was about to launch in August 2013, a technical snag forced an abortion. But now, India’s Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO’s)  twenty third communication satellite GSAT-14 by the is all set to be launched into space on 5 January 2014 on the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)-D5.  The launcher will propel the bird into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTS) after which it will use its own propulsion system to reach its geostationary orbital home at 74 degrees east longitude.

The mission is important for ISRO which has been seeking to get a piece of the satellite launch action globally. But it has found things difficult since four out of the seven launches of GSLV have been failures and three previous attempts to use indigenous cryogenic engine have also ended up in a mess.

The previous attempt to blast off GLSV into space in August 2013 was aborted following a fuel leak which developed in its engine hours before launch. ISRO worked on it and gave it a better metal covering, following which it has decided to give it another shot.

A three stage rocket - the first stage runs on solid fuel, the second on liquid fuel and third on a cryogenic engine – the GSLV- D5 will be carrying the 1982 kgs (lift off mass) GSAT-14, which will be replacing GSAT-3 that was decommissioned in 2010. The new satellite’s structure is based on ISRO’s two ton weighing (I-2K satellite bus). The satellite has six Ku band (51.5 dBW EOC-EIRP) transponders, six C band (36 dBW EOC-EIRP) transponders and two Ka band beacons and will be co-located with INSAT-3C, INSAT-4CR and KALPANA-1.

Most of the C- and Ku-band capacity on GSAT-14 will be utilized for long distance education and telemedicine, while the Ka band transponders will help in studying rain and atmospheric effects. This ninth operational geostationary satellite is expected to have a mission life of 12 years and will be able to provide enhanced broadcasting as compared to GSAT-3 for the whole of India.

According to the ISRO website, the mission has three main objectives- to augment the in-orbit capacity of extended C and Ku-band transponders and to provide a platform for new experiments such as fiber optic gyro, active pixel sun sensor, Ka band beacon propagation studies and thermal control coating experiments.

The 29 hour countdown to the launch began at 11:18 am on 3 January with the launch time set as 4:18 pm on 4 January from its launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC SHAR) at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. GSLV-D5 is expected to have a 17 minute, eight second flight duration. If successful, this will be 2014’s first space launch as SpaceX’s launch of Thaicom-6 has been postponed from 3 January to between 6 and 9 January. The Elon Musk backed company decided to go in for a later liftoff as problems had emerged with Falcon 9 rocket’s fairing.

If ISRO’s GSLV-D5 successfully plants GSAT- 14 into orbit, it is likely to have a beneficial spinoff which it badly needs. It could lead to orders to build more rockets that can carry payloads of up to four tonnes. Till now ISRO has been using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) that carries loads of around a tonne.

The mission will be telecast live on Doordarshan and on the web from 3: 52 pm on Sunday.

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