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K. Sivan, the chairman of ISRO, India’s space agency, revealed today that the decision to recall GSAT-11 in April just as it arrived in French Guiana for a May Ariane 5 launch prevented a major failure.
They had decided to recall it because two previous satellites had failed, using almost identical equipment. As he notes,
GSAT-11 had the same set of power system configuration that two older satellites had. RISAT-1 died prematurely and GSAT-6A lost communication contact soon after launch on March 29 because of suspected power system failure, harnesses etc… We had just sent GSAT-11 [to Guiana] and no one was sure if the same issue was there in GSAT-11,” he said.
Checks found that the provision or “margin” for the deployment of the solar panel was much smaller than was required. “Had it gone in that configuration, the panel [which generates power for the 15-year life] would not have deployed in space. The satellite would have been a failure.”
Because the recall cost money and delayed the launch significantly, it required the ability to look at the engineering honestly and not let politics interfere. Sivan and his managers did that, which speaks well for future space engineering from ISRO.