The launch of India’s GSAT-10 communications satellite has been delayed by a week due to a minor error in the European Ariane 5 rocket meant to place it on orbit, the country’s top scientist says.

“While reviewing the launch preparation, Arianespace found a hole in one of the hoses connecting the spaceport and launch vehicle. It is suspected one gram of dust particles might have entered the launch vehicle through the small hole,” says K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

One gram of dust is sufficient to put the satellite’s sensors and other parts out of action, according to the ISRO scientist. “The idea is to find out whether it [dust] is sticking to a critical moving part.”

Officials are conducting a detailed assessment of the damage. “We need to carry out two important tests before the launch. One is the endurance test on the fuel booster turbopump and [in] the other ... the cryogenic engine will ignite in high-altitude vacuum condition,” Radhakrishnan explains.

“If the defect is fixed, the satellite will be lofted on September 29, subject to all clearances. Otherwise, it will take a few more days,” Radhakrishnan says.

The GSAT-10 satellite originally was scheduled to be launched from the Ariane 5 pad in Kourou, French Guiana, on Sept. 22. The satellite weighs nearly 3.5 tons and cannot be lifted by India’s own launch vehicles.

The three-axis stabilized geostationary satellite, which has a 15-year lifespan, was developed for India’s communications requirements and to augment current services. It carries 12 regular C-band, six extended C-band and 12 Ku-band transponders.

India is seeking to expand its presence in the commercial satellite launch market and hopes to soon begin a much-awaited orbital mission to Mars (Aerospace DAILY, July 17).

Last year, India successfully lofted two communications satellites, GSAT-8 and GSAT-12, which are intended to boost direct-to-home services in the country.

ISRO has lined up 58 missions for its 12th five-year plan (2012-17), including 25 launch vehicles and 33 satellite launches. On Sept. 9, ISRO successfully launched its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, putting two foreign satellites into orbit.

Ariane 5 photo: Arianespace