NEW DELHI: Amid intense preparations for its most challenging Chandrayaan-2 mission, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is gearing up to launch two other satellites before the lunar mission in April.
Talking to TOI, Isro chairman Dr K Sivan said, “The first launch will be of GSLV Mk II carrying Gsat-6A satellite by the end of March. Soon thereafter, we will launch navigation satellite IRNSS-1I that will be lifted off by PSLV C-41 in the first week of April. Preparations for these two launches are currently going on at Sriharikota.”
Gsat-6A, similar to Gsat-6, is a high-powered S-band communication satellite weighing 2,140 kg. It will provide a platform for developing technologies that would be useful in future satellite-based mobile communication applications.
IRNSS-1I, on the other hand, is a navigation satellite that is meant to replace the faulty first navsat IRNSS-1A, part of the Indian navigation system or NavIC or desi GPS. The three atomic clocks of the IRNSS-1A that were meant to provide precise locational data had stopped working two years ago. Last year on August 31, Isro had launched navsat IRNSS-1H to replace the faulty satellite. However, the IRNSS-1H got stuck in the heat shield of the rocket and the mission failed. IRNSS-1I is, therefore, being launched to replace the first navsat. Currently, there are seven navsats in the orbit covering India and a region extending 1,500 km around it that provide real-time positioning and timing services.
On the Chandrayaan-2 mission, the Isro chairman said, “Preparations for the mission are in full swing. All the required tests are going on. The right time to launch the mission comes only once in a month. Therefore, we are hoping to launch it at the right time in April,” he said.
Dr Sivan said, “As Isro is launching such a complicated mission involving an orbiter, lander and a rover for the first time, we have to take extra precautions. If due to some glitch we are not able to launch in April, then we will try to launch the mission in October-November. If we launch the mission in between, we won’t get maximum benefit due to eclipses. To utilise the full lunar day (14 Earth days) for the moon exploration, the best time to launch the mission after April will be after October.”