Indian space program hit by another launch mishap
India’s largest rocket lost control and erupted in a fireball Saturday, dealing another blow to the country’s space program after back-to-back failures of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle….
Trouble struck the rocket less than a minute after liftoff, when video footage showed the vehicle veering from its flight path, tumbling out of control and being engulfed in a fireball.
“Controllability of the vehicle was lost after about 47 seconds because we found the control command did not reach the actuators (of the strap-on boosters),” said K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization….
Saturday’s mishap was the second failed launch this year for the GSLV, which is India’s most powerful rocket. The GSLV has now launched seven times, and ISRO declared four of those missions failures.
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GSLV Launch History
1. GSLV-D1 Development Flight — April 18, 2001 — FAILURE — GSAT-1 placed in wrong orbit
2. GSLV-D2 Development Flight — May 8, 2003 — SUCCESS — GSAT-2 orbited
3. GSLV-F01 Operational Flight — Sept. 20, 2004 — SUCCESS — EDUSAT (GSAT-3) orbited
4. GSLV-F02 Operational Flight — July 10, 2006 — FAILURE — Veered off course — INSAT-4C destroyed
5. GSLV-F04 Operational Flight — Sept. 2, 2007 — PARTIAL SUCCESS — INSAT-4CR’s placed in orbit with apogee lower and inclination higher than expected due to rocket under performance — satellite eventually reached proper geostationary transfer orbit using on board propulsion.
6. GSLV-D3 Operational Flight — April 15, 2010 — FAILURE — Cryogenic upper stage failed — GSAT-4 destroyed
7. GSLV-F06 — Operational Flight — Dec. 25, 2010 – FAILURE — rocket veered off course — GSAT-5P destroyed
Editor’s note: It’s interesting to see how few flights there have been of the GSLV over almost a decade. Only seven flights, all carrying domestically produced satellites. This reflects India’s difficulty in gaining a share of the geosynchronous launch market.Â Until the launch record improves, it will be difficult to convince satellite providers to put their birds aboard this launch vehicle, which is capable of boosting satellites of up to 2.5 metric tons into orbit.
The small number of launches also indicates the limitations of Indian space technology. The rocket’s cryogenic third stage is built by Russia. India purchased seven of these stages; it has one left. ISRO has been developing its own cryogenic stage to replace it. However, the first effort to use it failed in April when the stage failed to light, resulting in a complete failure. ISRO will try again next year.
By contrast, ISRO’s smaller Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has flown more often and been more successful. PSLV is designed to launch 1.6 metric ton satellites into 620 km sun-synchronous polar orbits.