Indian rocket explodes minute after launch (Fourth Lead)

December 25th, 2010 - 8:49 pm ICT by IANS  

ISRO Sriharikota, Dec 25 (IANS) India’s ambitious space programme suffered a major blow as an advanced communication satellite exploded within a minute after its launch from here on Christmas day Saturday.The 2,310 kg GSAT-5P satellite, costing about Rs.125 crore, was launched at 4.04 p.m. in clear sky from the space centre here, to serve the needs of the telecommunication sector and the weather department.

It was also to retire the INSAT-2E satellite, sent up in 1999.

It rose into the sky with a deep roar, emitting thick orange flame at its tail. And suddenly it exploded — and disintegrated.

The failure stunned the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

A despondent former ISRO chairman U.R. Rao said it was the first time he had seen a failure in the first stage of the launch.

“Though it is unfair to comment without the telemetry data, the failure could have been due to any of the factors, including solid propellant leak or failure of control system,” Rao said.

The first two stages of our rocket launches are common for PSLV (polar satellite launch vehicle) and GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle).

“I do not call it a setback as failures are common in rocket/space missions. We are really dealing with rocket science here, which requires 100 percent accuracy in everything we do, be it the design, structure, components, system, fuel and processes. A minor glitch in any of them can cause trouble,” Rao told IANS.

Saturday’s launch was originally scheduled for Nov 20 but was aborted a day earlier after a leak was detected in one of the valves of the Russian-made cryogenic engine.

Later, tests ensured the stability of the valve. The ISRO gave the go-ahead for a Christmas day launch.

The Russians had supplied seven cryogenic engines long back, and India has used six of them till date.

The GSAT-5P satellite was supposed to have a life span of over 13 years. It had 36 transponders - automatic receivers and transmitters for communication and broadcast of signals.

Its successful launch would have taken ISRO’s transponder capacity to about 235, from the 200 currently in the orbit.

In September 2007, when ISRO flew the GSLV to put into orbit the INSAT-4CR communication satellite, the rocket had faced a valve problem.

ISRO launched two major satellites in 2010 - communication satellite GSAT-4 and remote sensing satellite Cartosat-2.

The GSAT-4 launch failed after the rocket crashed into the Bay of Bengal while Cartosat-2 was placed successfully in the orbit.

ISRO has many communication satellites in service - INSAT 2E, INSAT 3A, INSAT 3B, INSAT 3C, INSAT 3E, INSAT 4A, INSAT 4CR and INSAT 4B working at 50 percent capability.

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