It was a moment reminiscent of September 2019.
Barely minutes after the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) fired up its latest innovation – a Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) on its maiden flight — the excitement paved way for dismay.
The two experimental satellites – EOS-02 and AzaadiSAT — developed by hundreds of schoolgirls from across India hurtled towards the earth shortly after their launch from Sriharikota, and was rendered unusable.
The new-generation rocket that was expected to demonstrate India’s capacities in ready-to-launch missions could not achieve the target it aimed for.
ORBIT GONE WRONG
“Irrespective of the number of missions undertaken in the past, the last point at which the rocket leaves the satellite in space is crucial and challenging, every single time. The accuracy has to be on point, in terms of the location, velocity, as well as the direction. Even if it varies a little bit, the entire trajectory of the satellite can go haywire and disrupt the entire mission,” a senior astrophysicist told News18.
The point at which the glitch occurred is automated in the rockets, but the calculations inserted have to be precise and well-controlled. According to the scientist, one of the components may not behaved reliably, and such issues can be hard to predict, post successful ground tests. But with the ISRO gearing up for much more ambitious missions, including Gaganyaan — India’s first human spaceflight, in the near future, even the smallest of glitches could prove to be costly.
Most communication and remote sensing satellites are placed in low earth orbit at a height of 250-2,000 km, and can either have a circular or elliptical orbit depending on the mission requirements. For the latest mission, ISRO had aimed for a circular orbit of 356 km, but it ended up in an elliptical orbit of 356 km x 76 km, which essentially means that the point at which the satellite is closest to the earth is 76 km, which is believed to be the lowest, and unable to hold the satellite for long.