HYDERABAD, India -- India's space program suffered a setback July 10 when a domestically built rocket carrying a television broadcasting satellite failed shortly after liftoff.
The Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), which was making its second operational flight, was ordered destroyed when it veered out of control 40 seconds after lifting off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. The launch debris, including the $20 million Insat-4C communications satellite, fell into the Bay of Bengal.
The mishap occurred just one day after India's Agni-3 intermediate range ballistic missile, designed to cover 3,500 kilometers, failed in its first test launch due to a stage-separation glitch.
In televised interviews, Gopalan Madhavan Nair, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), said the exact cause of the GSLV mishap would be known only after launch telemetry data are fully analyzed. But sources in ISRO, who did not want to be named, said there appears to have been a problem with one of the vehicle's four liquid-fueled strap-on boosters.
Nair said the incident is "not a major setback" and that other space programs, including India's lunar orbiter set for launch in early 2008 and any contracted commercial launches, "will not be affected." In response to questioning, he said mishaps in space programs are not unusual and noted that "even the space shuttle" has had problems. "We too have to face such a problem and we will solve it," Nair said.
At 2,180 kilograms, Insat-4C would have been the heaviest payload sent to space from Indian soil. It is also the first of ISRO's Insat series of communications satellites to be launched using the domestically produced GSLV. All previous Insat satellites have been launched by American or European rockets.
Equipped with 12 Ku-band transponders, Insat-4C was expected to boost direct-to home television broadcasting in India.
In addition, Sri Lanka's state-owned broadcaster Rupavahini had booked a capacity aboard the satellite, becoming the first foreign client for Indian satellite broadcasting services other than Intelsat, which has leased 11 Insat transponders.
The GSLV was declared operational after two developmental test flights conducted in April 2001 and May 2003. The payloads on those missions were the 1,530-kilogram GSat-1 and 1,825-kilogram GSat-2 experimental satellites, respectively.
In its first operational flight in September 2004, the vehicle successfully launched the 1,950-kilogram Edusat to support distance-learning programs.
The three-stage GSLV stands 49 meters tall and weighs 414 tons. It has a solid-fueled first stage augmented by four liquid-fueled strap-on boosters; a liquid-fueled second stage and a cryogenic upper stage supplied by Russia.
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