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INSAT 4C launch unsuccessful

By K P Mohan in Sriharikota
Last updated on: July 10, 2006 21:42 IST
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After the failure of the Agni III missile, India's space programme received a major setback on Monday when the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F02) carrying the INSAT-4C communication satellite veered from its projected path and came crashing down.

Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman G Madhavan Nair, admitting the failure of the mission, said, "Things have gone wrong in the stage of separation (of the booster from the launch vehicle). We have to analyse the data why it went wrong."

The launch vehicle, carrying the 2,168 kg satellite to boost Direct-to-Home television service and digital news gathering, deviated from its chartered path soon after lift-off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at 1738 hours and disintegrated into a ball of fire.

Soon after the failure of the mission, ISRO officials put the entire system on "emergency condition".

The jubilation among the scientists at the control station of the space centre immediately after the launch soon turned into despair as the launch vehicle hurtled down into the Bay of Bengal.

The INSAT-42 launch debacle came a day after the Agni-III nuclear-capable ballistic missile with a range upto 3,500 km, failed to hit its target off the coast of Orissa and splashed into the sea.

The INSAT-4C satellite was the heaviest in its class. This was the first launch of GSLV from the Rs 350-crore sophisticated launch pad, commissioned in May 2005.

The 49-metre-tall, 414 tonne GSLV was a three-stage vehicle. The first stage, GS1, comprised a core motor with 138 tonne of solid propellants and four strap-on motors, each with 42 tonnes of hypergolic liquid propellant.

The second stage had 39 tonne of the same hypergolic liquid propellant.

The third (GS3) was a cryogenic stage with 12.6 tonne of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

The INSAT 4C, the second satellite in the INSAT 4 series, was aimed at strengthening video picture transmission besides providing space for National Informatics Centre's VSAT connectivity.

The lifespan of the satellite was expected to be 10 years.

Sources in Bangalore-based ISRO said the cost of building INSAT-4C, which was equipped with 12 ku-band transponders, was in the region of Rs 100 crore, while another Rs 150 crore was spent on GSLV.

However, an ISRO official has estimated the cost of the mission at Rs 1,600 crore.

Monday's launch was the second operational flight of GSLV, the first being orbiting of Edusat in September 2004.

Monday's was the first ever launch of an INSAT-class satellite for commercial gains from home soil. It was also for the first time that India's space agency attempted to put into space a two-tonne class satellite.

After the launch vehicle exploded, the debris fell into the Bay of Bengal, Nair said in his post-launch press conference.

Asked what would be the fate of those who had booked transponders in the ill-fated sattelite, he said, "We will negotiate with them and also find other capacities."

Admitting that Monday's mission had been a failure, Nair said, "It is a setback. But we had continuous success 11 times. Our boys did an excellent job for this mission. We have to see why it has happened."

Nair said, "It is a very rare phenomena. We will address the issue and find a solution and have a successful launch within a year."

Asked whether Monday's mishap would have an effect on ISRO's marketing plans of satellite launches, he said, "Once we analyse the data and find a solution, our market will come back to us."

The setback would not affect the Mark III GSLV launch, he added.

Narrating the sequence of events, Nair said the lift off was normal and was following the trajectory, but it suddenly deviated at about 60 seconds after lift off.

Some parts of the launch vehicle also broke up, he said.

"Out of four strap on motors, the pressure in one dropped to zero. It did not have the required thrust beyond 40-45 seconds. We noticed divergence of angle. Normally, a four degree deviation is okay but it deviated by 10 degrees. In any case, we have a huge volume of video data which we will analyse. We have already initiated this," he said.

"When the flight deviated beyond permissible limits, we gave a destruct command for safety," he said.

On Agni III's failure on Sunday, he said, "I am not aware of the reasons for Agni III's failure. Unless I analyse the data, I can't say anything."

On ISRO's future plans, he said "We are building another satellite to be launched in early 2007 (INSAT-4B). It is a heavier satellite and would be launched from Kouvarv."

Meanwhile, the failure of INSAT 4C meant that plans on Direct-To-Home television services and digital satellite news gathering of some channels which had booked transponder space, particularly Sun TV, have been hit.

Sun TV had booked seven high-powered ku-band transponders -- six for DTH, and one for DSNG -- of the total 12 carried by INSAT-4C, the second satellite in the INSAT-4 series.

CNBC, Times TV and Kairali were among those who had booked space for DSNG operations on two transponders while the National Informatics Centre had leased three for its VSAT connectivity.

Sri Lankan broadcaster Rupavahini is also said have booked space. The transponders were designed to provide DTH television services, facilitate video picture transmission and DSNG.

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K P Mohan in Sriharikota
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