India Just Launched a Navigation Satellite (While Trying to Save Another One)

India has successfully launched a new navigation satellite, even as the country continues hunting for another satellite that it lost contact with earlier this month.

A Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launched the IRNSS-1I navigation satellite from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The official launch time was 0404 Indian Standard Time on Thursday, April 12 (6:34 p.m. EDT or 2234 GMT on Wednesday, April 11).

The successful mission comes as ISRO continues efforts to revive an ailing communications satellite, called GSAT-6A, following that craft's launch on March 29 atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. ISRO lost contact with GSAT-6A just days after the satellite's launch. 

An Indian Space Research Organisation PSLV rocket launches the new IRNSS-1I navigation satellite into orbit from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on April 12, 2018, at 4:04 a.m. India Standard Time. (Image credit: India Space Research Organisation)

But the new navigation satellite, IRNSS-1I, is working well in orbit, ISRO officials reported. Once it begins service, the satellite will form part of the Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC) system. The goal of the system is to provide positional information in India, as well as in a zone around the mainland encompassing about 1,500 kilometers (932 miles), ISRO said. IRNSS-1I will be the eighth NavIC satellite.

Just 19 minutes after launch, IRNSS-1I moved into an orbit that will transfer the satellite to its final orbit. The craft will eventually orbit the Earth at roughly the same rate that the Earth turns, giving IRNSS-1I a constant view of one area on the planet's surface. This is called a geosynchronous orbit.

The India Space Research Organisation's IRNSS-1I navigation satellite is attached to the agency's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle booster ahead of the craft's April 12, 2018, launch. (Image credit: India Space Research Organisation)

"In the coming days, orbit maneuvers will be performed from MCF [Master Control Facility, or mission control] to position the satellite at 55 degrees east longitude in the planned geosynchronous orbit, with an inclination of 29 degrees to the equator," the Indian Space Research Organization said in a statement.

This launch of the PSLV is the rocket line's 43rd flight. PSLV has successfully launched 52 Indian satellites and 237 customer satellites, ISRO said. 

Meanwhile, ISRO officials will continue working to re-establish control of the ailing GSAT-6A satellite. Earlier this week, The Times of India reported that GSAT-6A had been located, although communications attempts are still ongoing.

The GSAT-6A incident is India's second problematic mission in less than a year. In August 2017, the country lost the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) 1H satellite, after another PSLV placed the satellite into a lower-than-expected orbit. Multiple media reports said the satellite was also stuck inside the rocket's fairing, which prevented the IRNSS 1H from deploying as planned. This was the first PSLV failure since September 1997.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: