A team of federal experts at an Alaskan space communications center helped rescue an ailing Indian satellite that was out of control in March, a U.S. official said Thursday.
Larry Heacock, director of satellite operations for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, said the Indian satellite, called IRS1A, was launched into orbit March 17 by a Soviet rocket.Satellite controllers in West Germany, he said, discovered the IRS1A was unable to focus a guidance sensor on the Earth, a sighting it was to use for an accurate orientation. As a result, the craft was unstable and could not be controlled properly.
Heacock said the satellite passed over the NOAA satellite communications station in Fairbanks, Alaska, six times every 24 hours. The German Space Agency, which was operating the satellite for India, asked the NOAA station to take and send data to IRS1A.
"Each time it went by, NOAA took data and sent it to the German Space Agency," said Heacock. Using this data, the West Germans were able to properly orient IRS1A.
The IRS1A is to be used by the Indians to gather remote sensing data. It was placed in a near-polar orbit, which enables it to scan the whole Earth once every 22 days.