The failure of the launch of the Indian Space Research Organisation’s much-hyped communications satellite INSAT-4C is a setback to the broadcasting companies in India, which would have otherwise benefited in delivering direct-to-home TV broadcasting.
Also, this is likely to delay the launch of some other satellites originally planned by the ISRO.
Though the blow to the DTH industry could not be estimated exactly, the broadcasting industry believes that it could delay the launch schedule of operators like Tata Sky DTH and Sun TV’s DTH platforms.
Similarly, for existing broadcasters and DTH services providers, who were planing to launch new channels and services, this could spell bad news.
India’s first heavy weight communication satellite, which was launched from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh today, would have boosted DTH and VSAT sectors with additional transmission facilities and bandwidth.
“The existing players like Doordarshan that could have migrated, would have to continue on their current satellite. The plans of DTH entrants like Sun TV would certainly get delayed until they put together arrangements for another private satellite or until the government hires another one,” said an expert.
Sun TV is believed to be depending heavily on INSAT 4-C — the heaviest satellite India has ever attempted to put in space — to roll out its DTH venture. The second entrant that could be affected is Tata Sky, the 80:20 joint venture between the Tata Group and STAR. A Tata Sky official refused to comment while Sun TV executives could not be reached for comments.
Zee TV’s Dish TV, which currently has a viewership of 1.2 million, doesn’t foresee any negative impact on its DTH business. “We have not booked any bandwidth on the satellite. We’ll continue operating through out current satellites,” said Sunil Khanna, chief executive officer, Dish TV.
INSAT-4C, which was equipped with 12 high power Ku-band transponders, was expected to provide India with a capacity primarily for direct-to-home TV broadcasting. It had a design life of 10 years.
Besides DTH, the 2.2 tonne satellite was also designed to provide services like digital satellite news gathering, digital picture transmission, meteorological imaging and services for the National Informatics Service.
“It will take not less than 2-3 months till the failure analysis committee of the ISRO delves into the data to find what exactly had led to the failure of the launch, although everything went as planned, starting from the making of the satellite to the testing of it,” said a space scientist in Bangalore on the condition of anonymity.
INSAT-4C is the second of a seven series of four satellites to be launched by the ISRO. So the delay in the launch of the satellite will definitely affect the future of these space initiatives which were to follow a successful INSAT-4C project.
ISRO, through the use of the indigenous vehicle for launching the satellite, expected to reduce the launch cost by around 40 per cent.
Although the first use of the indigenous Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle in April 2001 was a success, the failure of the launch vehicle in its second mission has no doubt put a question mark on the reliability of GSLV.
After INSAT-4C, ISRO had announced it would launch Cartosat, a remote sensing satellite in September, this year. No ISRO spokesperson was however available for comment on what would happen to the satellite launches that were said to be useful for large-scale mapping of natural resources.