The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) today said its launch of an eighth satellite to replace a defective satellite in its IRNSS series of seven navigation satellites was unsuccessful.
Isro's workhorse PSLV launch vehicle (PSLV-C39) placed IRNSS-1H into orbit, but the heat shield covering the satellite failed to separate to release the satellite.
''The mission was unsuccessful,'' said AS Kiran Kumar, chairman of Isro, a few minutes after the 7 pm launch. He said the spacecraft was stuck in the heat shield in the last and fourth stage; it did not release into space as planned. A detailed analysis has to be conducted to see what exactly happened, he added.
The launch of IRNSS-1H became necessary after three atomic clocks of one satellite started malfunctioning. Atomic clocks provide navigational data, and they are crucial for a Global Positioning Systems.
The entry of the private sector became necessary as the country, which has already carved out a niche for itself in the lucrative space industry, wanted to ensure a competitive market within the country.
The 1.4-tonne IRNSS-1H was built by a consortium led by Alpha Design Technologies, a defence equipment supplier from Bengaluru, over eight months. Led by Colonel HS Shankar, a team of 70 scientists from Isro supervised the operations.
The Rs400-crore company had been tasked to make two satellites. The second is expected to be finished by April 2018.
The launch of the eighth navigation satellite, which if successful, would have brought the country a step further to developing its own global positioning system, called Indian Regional Navigationa Satellite System (IRNSS), reducing its dependency on foreign navigation networks.
The IRNSS-1H satellite lifted off from the Sriharikota Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh in southern India to join a constellation of seven other satellites in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), but failed to eject itself out of the rocket.
Currently only five nations have a satellite system offering Global Positioning - the original GPS is owned by the US Air Force and Russia has its parallel system GLONASS.
This was the PSLV's first failure - in what was seen as a routine mission - after 39 continuously successful launches and only the second such instance since 1993.
A PSLV flight lasts 19 minutes. Normally the heat shield separates three minutes into launch but Isro officials apparently waited through the entire flight period before conceding the failure.
''We could see the satellite circling along the orbit with the heat shield,'' Kiran Kumar said at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.
The failure may somewhat dent the image that the PSLV commands in the global small-to-medium launchers market.