Saturday, December 25, 2010

Indian rocket explodes minute after launch

Indian rocket explodes minute after launch

Saturday, 25 December 2010

SHRIHARIKOTA: India's ambitious space programme suffered a major setback as an advanced communication satellite exploded within a minute after its launch from here on Christmas day Saturday.

A stunned Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) did not give the reason for the dramatic explosion in the sky but an officer told IANS that there was a fault in the second stage of the launch.

"The rocket's first stage seemed to have performed normally. The problem seems to have cropped up in the second stage as the rocket didn't get sufficient thrust," he said.

But another official insisted that even the first stage was a failure.

The 2,310 kg GSAT-5P satellite, costing about Rs.125 crore, was to serve the needs of the telecommunication sector and the weather department.

It was also to retire the INSAT-2E satellite, sent up in 1999.

It was at 4.04 p.m. that ISRO launched the rocket, with the satellite, in clear sky from the Sriharikota space centre, about 80 km from Chennai.

It rose into the sky with a deep roar, emitting thick orange flame at its tail. And suddenly it exploded -- and disintegrated.

The failure plunged the scientific community into gloom.

Saturday's launch was originally scheduled for Nov 20 but was aborted a day earlier after a leak was detected in one of the valves of the Russian-made cryogenic engine.

Later, tests ensured the stability of the valve. The ISRO gave the go-ahead for a Christmas day launch.

The Russians had supplied seven cryogenic engines long back, and India has used six of them till date.

The GSAT-5P satellite was supposed to have a life span of over 13 years. It had 36 transponders - automatic receivers and transmitters for communication and broadcast of signals.

Its successful launch would have taken ISRO's transponder capacity to about 235, from the 200 currently in the orbit.

In September 2007, when ISRO flew the GSLV to put into orbit the INSAT-4CR communication satellite, the rocket had faced a valve problem.

ISRO launched two major satellites in 2010 - communication satellite GSAT-4 and remote sensing satellite Cartosat-2.

The GSAT-4 launch failed after the rocket crashed into the Bay of Bengal while Cartosat-2 was placed successfully in the orbit.

ISRO has many communication satellites in service - INSAT 2E, INSAT 3A, INSAT 3B, INSAT 3C, INSAT 3E, INSAT 4A, INSAT 4CR and INSAT 4B working at 50 percent capability.

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