Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Aug 19, 2003
Science & Technology
Industry & Economy - Science & Technology
Suspect components delay Insat 3E launch
Bangalore , Aug. 18
A BATCH containing `faulty' units of critical imported components used in Insat-3E has forced ISRO to postpone its launch barely 18 days from D-day.
The communications satellite has been in the French Guianese spaceport since July 16, undergoing tests and awaiting launch on September 4 (according to IST) by the European service provider Arianespace. It now stands delayed by at least 3-4 weeks until the components are re-tested and Arianespace decides a new date, the national space agency said without giving details.
The suspect components, solid-state power amplifiers (SSPAs), are the heart of a satellite transponder. As Business Line learns, were sourced from Japanese major Mitsubishi Electric Corporation at least two years ago, as is customary for satellite assembly.
The vendor alerted ISRO last week. Now, some of the readily available SSPA replacements will be sent to Kourou and others will be brought back to the Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad for thermal coating and assembly. Mitsubishi, a global major in the component, is said to be sending a team of engineers to Ahmedabad in the next couple of weeks for detailed testing and re-engineering.
In all, 36 SSPAs were used on 3E's transponders and some of them would be replaced and some repaired, an official source said.
ISRO's official statement said the satellite "is now delayed because of the need to retest a few components of the communication payload. The retests have become necessary in view of a quality alert received from the manufacturer of these components. INSAT-3E will be ready in three to four weeks."
Both the failed SSPAs are said to be of the same batch and design of which 200 units are said to have been supplied to various agencies. ISRO alone has sourced over a hundred SSPAs for its various Insats. A pre-launch satellite undergoes several thermal cycles and apparently nothing was found amiss.
The satellite is meant for a life of 12 years. The ISRO spokesman, Mr S. Krishnamurthy, said such scares and delays are not new to the satellite industry. Only in April this year, the previous launch, Insat 3A, went through a day's delay on the launch-pad as the signal from the transmitter was not adequate, he recalled. "We now know the problem. If the satellite had failed in orbit later, it would have been very difficult to trace the real culprit," he said.
Satellites like 3E that weigh 2700 kg cost around Rs 200 crore, often Rs 100 crore lower than a procured launch.
3E has two co-passengers - SMART-1 of European Space Agency and e-Bird of EUTELSAT.
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