ISRO’s latest communication satellite, INSAT-3E, was successfully launched on September 28, 2003 by the Ariane-5 launch vehicle of Arianespace. INSAT-3E is the fourth satellite in the INSAT-3 series. The 162nd flight of Ariane (Ariane-5), with ISRO’s 2775 kg INSAT-3E, e-BIRD of EUTELSAT and SMART-1 of European Space Agency, lifted off at 4.44 am IST from Kourou, French Guyana. INSAT-3E was injected into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO), at 5.14 am, i.e., 30 minutes after the lift-off, in 3-axis stabilised mode, with a perigee (nearest point to earth) of 649 km and an apogee (farthest point to earth) of 35,923 km and an inclination of 7 deg. with respect to the equator. The satellite is at present orbiting the earth with an orbital period of about 10 hours 50 minutes.
The Master Control Facility (MCF) at Hassan in Karnataka acquired the first signals from INSAT-3E at 05.14 am IST. The initial health checks on the satellite indicate that the satellite’s performance is normal. MCF subsequently issued tele-commands to the satellite to make the satellite’s earth viewing face orient towards earth. The calibration of the gyros on board the satellite was also carried out. INSAT-3E is being tracked, monitored and controlled from MCF. During the initial phase of INSAT-3E operations, MCF also utilises INMARSAT Organisation’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TTC) ground stations at Beijing (China), Fucino (Italy) and Lake Cowichan (Canada). The satellite’s orbit is being precisely determined by continuous ranging from the participating ground stations. In the coming days, INSAT-3E will be raised to its final geostationary orbit, which is about 36,000 km above the equator, by firing its 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM). When the satellite reaches near geosynchronous orbit, deployment of its solar panels and the two antennas will be carried out and the satellite put in its final 3-axis stabilised mode. This will be followed by trim manoeuvres to take the satellite to its designated orbital slot. The payloads will be subsequently checked out before the commissioning of the satellite. INSAT-3E will be positioned at 55 deg East longitude in the geosynchronous orbit. Other INSAT satellite locations are: INSAT-3A at 93.5 deg East longitude, INSAT-2E and INSAT-3B at 83 deg East longitude, INSAT-3C and KALPANA-1 at 74 deg East longitude and GSAT-2 at 48 deg East longitude.
The satellite has two deployable antennas and one fixed antenna for various transmit and receive functions.
With ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC), Bangalore, as the lead Centre, INSAT-3E was realised with major contributions from Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) at Valiamala and Bangalore, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) and ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU), Thiruvananthapuram. Besides, several industries in both public and private sectors have contributed to the realisation of INSAT-3E. MCF is responsible for initial phase and in-orbit operation of all geostationary satellites of ISRO.