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India Loses New Communications Satellite

NEW DELHI--The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) last night abandoned efforts to rescue its premiere communications satellite. On Friday the agency lost contact with the $100 million satellite, which had suffered major problems in part of its power supply. The mishap has shut down trading since Friday on the country's stock exchange, and represents the second setback for ISRO within the last week.

The geostationary INSAT 2D--the latest and most sophisticated of India's INSAT satellites--was launched in June aboard an Ariane rocket from French Guiana. About a week ago, an electrical connection between the solar cells and the satellite failed. Satellite controllers suspected that space debris might have caused a short circuit. Without power to warm the fuel supply, the thrusters became inoperative and the satellite spun out of control, leaving the satellite antennas unable to fix on Earth.

By Friday, the National Stock Exchange of India, which was using this satellite, was unable to trade. Telephone services in some remote parts of Jammu and Kashmir among other areas have been also been affected. "Efforts are being made to ameliorate the current problems by sharing the existing load onto other INSAT satellites already in orbit," says an ISRO spokesperson. The next satellite, INSAT 2E, is scheduled to be launched in the mid-1998.

Last Wednesday, ISRO suffered another blow when its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (ScienceNOW, 30 September) fell short and placed a remote-sensing satellite in a faulty orbit. ISRO is still trying to correct the error.