Thursday, April 15, 2010

India's Space Program Suffers Setback Today

Today's GSLV-D3 launch screen grab via SpaceLaunch News.

India's upgraded GSLV rocket with a new cryogenic upper stage lifted-off today on a satellite delivery mission, only to begin tumbling when the upper stage's vernier engines did not light.

The GSLV-D3 (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket launched today from the Satish Dhawan Space Center, located on India's southeastern coastline, on time at 6:57 am EDT (10:57 GMT).

As the rocket lept upward it passed through cloudy skies as it began flying out over the eastern Indian Ocean.

The Indian Space Agency stated that the launch was normal through the end of the second stage engines burn as the rocket darted upward at a rate of 16,076 feet per second.

Applause broke out twice in the large control center.

It was then the turn of the inaugural flight of the cryogenic third stage engine coupled with several vernier engines on the GSLV.

At T+5 minutes, six seconds, the main engine of the upper stage ignited on time, but the two steering engines did not fire in sync with the engine. It lost control and went ballistic.

At T+ 8 minutes and 41 seconds, data stopped coming in, according to the space center's launch control.

A humbled K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization announced moments later that "the control ability was lost as the two cryo engines would not have ignited. We saw the vehicle was tumbling and loosing control indicating the non-ignition" of the engines.

The upper stage with the payload attached stopped traveling upward and began to free fall back toward earth, landing in the Bay of Bengal minutes later.

The third stage engine uses liquid hydrogen at -445 degrees Fahrenheit as fuel and liquid oxygen at -400 degrees as oxidizer.

The major loss of this flight is with the new technologies GSAT-4 satellite carried in the nose section of the vehicle.

India's space program is striving toward human space flight and probes to the planets by 2025, and the launch director stated that today's failure will set the program back one year.

"We will put all efforts to ensure that the next flight with the indigenous cryogenic engine takes place within a year," Radhakrishnan told the launch team from the control center.

GSAT-4 carried numerous payloads and was to have operated from a geostationary orbit located at 82 degrees East longitude.

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