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MAJOR SETBACK IN SPACE
GSLV explodes in mid-air; second failure this year
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Sriharikota (AP), December 25
The launch of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, GSLV-F06, was "unsuccessful" today with the rocket exploding in mid-air, within moments from its take-off from ISRO's launch pad at Sriharikota, about hundred kilometres from here.

This is the second GSLV launch which failed this year as the earlier mission on April 15 too had met with a similar fate. The 30-hour-long countdown was smooth and there was no indication of a negative result, when the GSLV-FO6 began soaring into the sky.

But, less than a minute after the launch, it lost its trajectory and exploded. As it was climbing into the sky, the rocket exploded into a thick ball of fire, filling the winter sky with white, dark-grey and reddish-orange smoke.

The flaming debris splashed into the Bay of Bengal, as stunned scientists watched in dismay. The ISRO is analysing the telemetry data to know the exact reasons for the "technical failure". The rocket GSLV-F06 was to have put into orbit communication satellite GSAT-5P.

The previous GSLV flight flown in April 2010 also ended unsuccessfully, as it lost its trajectory during the final phase and plunged into the sea. This time the launch was terminated in the first phase itself. The 2,310-kg satellite, equipped with 24 normal C-band and 12 Extended C-band transponders, was launched by home-made Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F06) powered by Russian cryogenic engine.

This was India’s second attempt to use cryogenic technology and the country was hoping to join the exclusive club of space-faring nations, which use this technology for rocket launch. This was the seventh flight of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).

When the first spacecraft with indigenously developed cryogenic stage (GSLV-D3) tumbled and plunged into the Bay of Bengal 293 seconds after lift-off on April 15, ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan had vowed to return to Sriharikota within a year to prove Team ISRO’s cryogenic capability.

The GSLV-FO6 launch was originally scheduled for December 20 and it was postponed due to leakage in the cryogenic engine.

The launch was planned in three stages. The first stage was planned to have a core motor with 138 tonnes of solid propellant and four strap-on motors each with 42 tonnes of hypergolic liquid propellants. The second stage planned was to use 39.4 tonnes of hypergolic liquid propellant and the third was the cryogenic stage with 15.3 tonne of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

The purpose of GSAT-5P was to augment the services provided by the Indian National Satellite System (INSAT). Since 2001, the ISRO has been using the GSLV that can take satellites weighing 2,000 kg and above to space. Two of the six flights had failed. In the first five launches, the cryogenic stage had motors imported from Russia - one of them failed in 2006. The sixth one had indigenously developed motors, but it also flopped.

The unsuccessful launch of GSLV, which is a key to India’s manned mission to the moon, has led to apprehensions over ISRO’s future projects. The GSLV was being developed to carry heavier loads that was necessary for future projects of the organisation.

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