ISRO’s cryogenic fuel mission fails
Bangalore: India’s effort at joining the elite club of space faring nations with indigenous cryogenic fuel technology hit a roadblock on Thursday as the geo-synchornous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV-D3) carrying the geo-stationary experimental satellite (GSAT-4) ‘deviated’ from its path.
The 49-metre tall three-stage GSLV-D3, carrying the
GSAT-4 advanced communications satellite, blasted off at 4.27
pm at the end of a 29-hour countdown. But soon scientists
tracking the launch found that the rocket had deviated from
the flight-path only to splash in the sea.
ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan informed those present at the location that though the cryogenic engine ignited, "the vehicle started tumbling and started losing altitude, because two Verinier engines would not have ignited."
It plunged into the
Bay of Bengal after it deviated from its flight-path. The satellite was to have been put into a Geostationary
orbit, 36,000 km above earth, but the initial euphoria after
the textbook launch turned into disappointment.
As a result, the ‘controllability’ to steer the rocket on its path was lost at an altitude of 60kms. He said Indian scientists had worked hard for the past 18 years and that they would go for another launch within a year.
"Our team has all the capability and the necessary
resilience to build a cryogenic engine and within one year be
ready to have the next flight test," the ISRO chief said.
The launch was normal till the second stage when after 5.5 seconds, the rocket tumbled off its path and data link to it was also lost.
"The cryogenic state ignition order was issued by onboard computers as planned. Indication of cryogenic engine getting ignited was also obtained," he said.
“The initial flight was very smooth till end of the second phase i.e up to 293 seconds. But then something went wrong and we are not sure after looking at the data whether the cryogenic main engine actually ignited”, he said.
He said detailed analysis would be carried out to determine what caused the deviation from flight and why the systems did not work at time.
Emphasising on the need for a speedy probe he said, “We will have to determine the actual reason behind the failure of the rocket. The vehicle was tumbling, which means it lost control, leading to its fall into the sea. We will soon begin to analyse the data and we are optimistic of getting the results within 2-3 days. After this we will begin an in-depth analysis to minutely determine the reasons behind failure.
"Mission objectives were not fully met," he declared.
The crucial launch exercise was about 19-20 minutes, with the first stage taking 150 seconds (2.5 minutes) to lift-off and soar into the sky. The second stage was fired for 290 seconds (4.8 minutes) to zoom further and shut off to fire the cryo stage to enter the higher earth orbit in the next 12 minutes. It is this stage that didn’t go as planned.
Only five countries - United States, Russia, France, Japan and China - have the cryogenic engine upper stage technology to launch heavier satellites in geostationary orbit.
India is the sixth country to design and develop the cryogenic technology.
When the US prevented Russia from transferring its cryogenic technology to India in 1992, the state-run ISRO embarked on a mission in 1994 to design and develop the cryo engine for achieving self-reliance in such complex technology at a cost of Rs 335-crore (Rs.3.35 billion) in 16 years.
India, however, had imported seven cryo engines from Russia but used five to launch heavy satellites (above two-tonne class) in GSLV-Mark I and Mark-II rockets during the last decade.
The Rs 150-crore GSAT-4 has one Ka-band regenerative transponder and a navigation payload that will operate in C-band and L1 and L5 bands for global positioning system (GPS) aided geo augmented navigation (Gagan).
The advanced version of the GSLV is a three-stage rocket with solid, liquid and cryogenic stages. The solid core motor of the first stage is one of the largest rocket motors in the world and uses 138 tonnes of propellant (fuel-oxidiser).
The focus was on self-reliance "in this critical
area", he said adding there was a constant drive on reducing
the cost factor involved.
The primary objectives of the missions included prepare
and launch indigenously developed cryogenic upper stage and
"we have done this", he said.
"We need to do some more work and we will do it in coming
days and come back. This is part of development of any complex
technology and we have to work with dedication, with might,
focus to locate and correct the problem... team ISRO will do
it," he said.
Asked whether lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, will fly on a
GSLV vehicle as scheduled, he said if India managed to have
its own successful indigenous cryogenic engine and stage
tested, "we should not have any reasons for a delay on that
The plan was to launch Chandrayaan-2 by 2013.
He said ISRO`s Cartosat-II will be launched by a PSLV next
month which will also carry small satellites of Canada and
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