Setback to Isro as GSLV launch fails after snag

Written by M Sarita Varma | BV Mahalakshmi | Thiruvananthapuram/ Hyderabad | Updated: Apr 17 2010, 04:20am hrs
The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has tripped in its attempt to join the club of cryogenic rocket technology heavyweights, as the indigeneously designed Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D3) failed in its third stage of launch, after two of its engines failed to ignite. The launch vehicle blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota on Thursday, but veered off its scheduled trajectory soon after.

The shuttle, built with cryogenic engines, deviated after a few minutes and stopped transmitting data after 500 seconds of launch. Isro, however, said they are happy with the success of first two phases and that the launch of the first indigeneously designed shuttle should be lauded. The next GSLV-D3 will be launched again in a years time, Isro said. Scientists were crestfallen after a 29-hour countdown that got going on Wednesday morning at 11.27 am. They were on tenterhooks soon after launch as there was a change in trajectory during the third stage.

Isro chairman K Radhakrishnan said performance of the vehicle was normal up to the second stage. It was speeding at a velocity of 4.9 km per second. However, we saw the vehicle tumbling and losing control as the two vernier (steering) engines may not have ignited, he said.

Radhakrishnan admitted that the mission objectives were not met fully. Isro will be back with the indigenous cryogenic engine flight within a year, he predicted. Only five space-faring countries so far, including the United States, Russia, France Japan and China, are in the club of countries that designed and developed cyrogenic rocket engine technology successfully. India had been in a bid to be its sixth prestigious entrant.

What is special about cryo is that it can be used to put communication satellites weighing more than two tonne on orbit. India had previously imported seven cryogenic engines from Russia, using five of them to launch heavy satellites over the last decade. The technology is intended to launch heavier satellites into high orbits, about 36,000 kilometres (22,000 miles) from the earth, Isro officials said.

For Isro, the mission is only a stepping stone to its more ambitious plan of a manned flight in this decade. Isro chairman had hinted that the outfit was ready to launch Indian astronauts by 2017. It is waiting for the Centres go-ahead for the Rs 124-billion venture which is expected to come in a couple of months.

The Cryo feat took 18 years of R&D sweat in Isro back-stables, Isro director S Sathish told FE.

The work on homespun cryogenic engine had cost approximately Rs 350 crore.