Communications satellite INSAT-3E has completed its life and gone out of service. Built to last 15 years, it has completed ten-and-a-half years in orbit.
The third-generation satellite was launched in September 2003 with 36 transponders — 24 C-band and 12 extended C-band transponders — but only 25 of them have been working since 2009.
K. Radhakrishnan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, which builds and operates Indian satellites, told The Hindu, “The satellite has been decommissioned.”
A few days ago, it ran out of the on-board oxidiser, which, along with fuel, keeps it Earth-locked (or fixed over India) and runs its daily functions. The ISRO had apparently expected that the satellite, positioned at 55 degrees E longitude, would last a few more months and that it would be smoothly replaced with GSAT-16.
Now the space agency is getting set to launch IRNSS-1B, second of its seven regional navigation satellites, on April 4.
Dr. Radhakrishnan said, “We started shifting users of INSAT-3E on to standby capacities on some of our other satellites. The migration process began on March 22 and is going on.” The spare capacity includes the three-month-old GSAT-14.
INSAT-3E’s 10 extended C-band transponders supported VSAT operators; its C-band supported BSNL and captive communication networks of the National Thermal Power Corporation and the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, among others.
The ISRO is now left with 189 transponders on its INSAT/GSAT fleet and 91 additional transponders leased on foreign satellites. Dr. Radhakrishnan said, “No one is suffering for want of capacity.”
INSAT-3E had briefly blinked and disrupted services for almost a day in September 2012 and was restored.
Meanwhile, the Master Control Facility at Hassan is due to move the expired satellite into a higher ‘graveyard’ orbit and keep it out of the way of many working spacecraft of other countries.