India Loses Contact to the Most Powerful Communications Satellite


Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced on Monday that it lost contact with the most powerful communication satellite of the agency. The space agency was continuously trying to re-establish a link with their most communication satellite. It disappeared over the weekend due to some setbacks for its missions on space.

The Satellite’s Power System at Fault

News reports in India suggest that the power system of the satellite was what its engineers believed to be at fault for the loss of contact. The missing communication satellite GSAT 6A completed two orbital adjustment maneuvers before its launch on board the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV Mk.2) on Thursday.

It was Saturday when the mission control center’s engineers lost their link with the spacecraft. According to ISRO, GSAT 6A had problems just after its main engine’s second major burn intended to raise orbit. The agency assured that efforts are made to re-establish the link with the missing communications satellite. Aboard the GSLV Mk.2, GSAT 6A successfully launched into a primary elliptical geostationary transfer orbit.

This took the satellite closer to 149 kilometers or 92 miles from Earth to as far as about 36,508 kilometers or 22,685 miles. After its launch on Thursday, the ISRO managers relate that GSAT 6A draw out its solar panels. By that time, the spacecraft began generating its own electricity. The planned final orbit of the satellite was to be at around 22,300 miles or 35,800 kilometers in altitude above the equator.

In this altitude, the laws of astrodynamics apply and allow the satellite to in its own orbit following the same speed as the rotation of Earth. This geostationary orbit is the ideal orbit for most satellites. GSAT 6A’s flight plan indicates that it needs three burns for its orbit to circularize at geostationary altitude.

A Problem on Third Maneuver Resulted in Lost Contact

The three burns also allow the spacecraft to shift its track from an oscillated one to a more direct position above the equator. This was the supposed flight plan for the communication satellite and the first two went as planned. However, right after the second maneuver, the controllers lost contact with GSAT 6A. ISRO did prepare for any problem during the launch.

According to ISRO’s chairman K. Sivan, the spacecraft should have reset to “safe mode” if it ran into a trouble. In safe mode, the controllers should be able to re-establish communication with the satellite. By Tuesday, the engineers of the control center are still trying to communicate with the satellite.