India's Test Launch of New Missile Fails

HYDERABAD,India -- India's space program suffered a setback July 10 when a domesticallybuilt rocket carrying a television broadcasting satellite failed shortly afterliftoff.

TheGeostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), which was making its second operationalflight, was ordered destroyed when it veered out of control 40 seconds afterlifting off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. The launchdebris, including the $20 million Insat-4C communications satellite, fell intothe Bay of Bengal.

The mishapoccurred just one day after India's Agni-3 intermediate range ballisticmissile, designed to cover 3,500 kilometers, failed in its first test launchdue to a stage-separation glitch.

Intelevised interviews, Gopalan Madhavan Nair, chairman of the Indian SpaceResearch Organisation (ISRO), said the exact cause of the GSLV mishap would beknown 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 withone of the vehicle's four liquid-fueled strap-on boosters.

Nair saidthe incident is "not a major setback" and that other space programs, includingIndia's lunar orbiter set for launch in early 2008 and any contractedcommercial launches, "will not be affected." In response to questioning, hesaid mishaps in space programs are not unusual and noted that "even the spaceshuttle" has had problems. "We too have to face such a problem and we willsolve it," Nair said.

At 2,180kilograms, Insat-4C would have been the heaviest payload sent to space fromIndian soil. It is also the first of ISRO's Insat series of communicationssatellites to be launched using the domestically produced GSLV. All previousInsat satellites have been launched by American or European rockets.

Equippedwith 12 Ku-band transponders, Insat-4C was expected to boost direct-to hometelevision broadcasting in India.

Inaddition, Sri Lanka's state-owned broadcaster Rupavahini had booked a capacityaboard the satellite, becoming the first foreign client for Indian satellitebroadcasting services other than Intelsat, which has leased 11 Insattransponders.

The GSLVwas declared operational after two developmental test flights conducted inApril 2001 and May 2003. The payloads on those missions were the 1,530-kilogramGSat-1 and 1,825-kilogram GSat-2 experimental satellites, respectively.

In itsfirst operational flight in September 2004, the vehicle successfully launchedthe 1,950-kilogram Edusat to support distance-learning programs.

Thethree-stage GSLV stands 49 meters tall and weighs 414 tons. It has asolid-fueled first stage augmented by four liquid-fueled strap-on boosters; aliquid-fueled second stage and a cryogenic upper stage supplied by Russia.

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Contributing Writer

Dr. Killugudi S. Jayaraman holds a PhD in nuclear physics from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. According to the Biotech Times, Dr. Jayaraman played a critical role in Indian science journalism, placing Indian science on a global platform. He was the first Science Editor of the Press Trust of India (PTI), editor of Nature India and Science Editor with IANS. His work can be found in many Indian and international publications.