This space engineer has a licence to kill

October 15th, 2008 - 11:21 am ICT by IANS  

ISROChennai, Oct 15 (IANS) The name’s S. Krishnamurthy. He is 59 and has a dull designation: general manager safety. But he is the only man licensed to kill in midair the rockets of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) without seeking anybody’s permission.The aerospace engineer at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) has used his ‘licence’ once, in 2006 - destroying ISRO’s Geosynchronous Space Launch Vehicle (GSLV F02) that was carrying the 2,168-kg Insat 4C communication satellite.

As India prepares for the Oct 22 launch of its moon mission Chandrayaan, Krishnamurthy and his team members are also getting ready in their remote location away from the mission control room.

They will monitor the flight path of the moon rocket, diligently plotting the Instantaneous Impact Point (IIP) - the point where the vehicle or its debris would fall.

Laughing at the sobriquet `James Bond’, Krishnamurthy told IANS: “I will push the destruct button only when the rocket veers away from its path endangering lives and property.”

Terming each rocket launch as unique, he said: “Prior to any launch we will critically analyse all the systems - propulsion, navigation and others - and do a cause and consequence study.”

For each launch the boundaries are strict and crossing any of them will call for rocket destruction.

“After the launch four radars at SDSC will track the ascending rocket. We will get the rocket’s performance through telemetry data. We will know the performance of the rocket exactly.”

He said even at the rocket design stage it is ensured that the hardware will fall into deep sea.

Recalling the GSLV F02 flight, he said: “We saw the rocket failing and moving in a wayward manner. It had to be destroyed.”

On July 10, 2006, when the group saw the GSLV F02 going awry, 45 seconds after the liftoff Krishnamurthy pressed the “destroy” button.

The rocket broke into pieces when the explosives detonated.

Within seconds after the liftoff of the 49-metre-long 414-tonne rocket, the onlookers realised that something was terribly amiss.

Burning debris was seen falling.

Three huge pieces - probably the strap-on motors - came down separately with a thick trail of smoke behind.

Soon after that a huge ball of flame was seen in the sky, though the dark clouds obscured a lot.

The vehicle at that time was 15 km over the sea and the debris would not have fallen on land even if the vehicle was not destroyed.

Krishnamurthy said a day prior to the moon rocket launch, ISRO will inform the aviation authorities to avoid the skies over Sriharikota and the rocket’s trajectory.

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