The launch of India’s latest navigation satellite IRNSS-1H onboard its polar rocket on Thursday failed following a technical glitch just prior to its scheduled orbiting in space. Addressing media after the launch, a dejected ISRO chief AS Kiran Kumar said, “The C39 launch vehicle had a problem, heat shield has not separated. As a result of that the satellite is inside the heat shield and we have to go through the detailed analysis to see what has happened.”
But for the failed heat shield separation, the remaining activities had gone on smoothly, he said, adding a detailed analysis would be undertaken.
This statement was in the aftermath of the highly anticipated launch, which was expected to develop India’s self-reliant navigation system. The IRNSS-1H, weighing 1,425 kg, was carrying atomic clocks, to replace the three Rubidium Atomic Frequency Standard (RAFS) clocks on the IRNSS-1A that had malfunctioned. The IRNSS-1H launch was expected to set NavIC, India’s version of the American GPS, which would give India exclusive navigational access of the country, and to an extended area of upto 1500 kms of its borders.
The IRNSS-1H was one of the replacement satellites for the 7-satellite Navigation of Indian Constellation, or NavIC, system. The system was altered to include two replacement satellites, one of which was expected to have been successfully launched today. The NavIC system was created, so that Indian dependence on the American-based GPS could be eliminated.
NavIC would have also enabled standard positional services and restricted services, which would have placed India in an elite club of nations, with domestic and foreign navigational ability. NavIC was set up earlier when a Memorandum of Understanding between the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the agency responsible for maintaining Indian Standard Time (IST) and ISRO’s Telemetry and Command Network (ISTRAC).
ISRO has been able to rely on the Polar Launch Satellite Vehicle (PSLV) for its missions, like the launch of 104 satellites that took place in February 2017. The vehicle meant to launch the IRNSS-1H was the PSLV C-39.