Faulty Turbopump Caused April Rocket Crash In India

Rocket Failure A Major Setback for Indian Space Program
An Indian Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) lifting off. (Image credit: ISRO photo)

BANGALORE, India - A turbo pump malfunctionis being blamed for the April 15 launch failure of India?s GeosynchronousSatellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).

The rocket veeredfrom its flight path nearly five minutes after liftoff and crashed into theBay of Bengal along with a communications satellite.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)said Friday that investigators tracedthe failure to a turbo pump malfunction that abruptly stopped the flow ofliquid hydrogen fuel to the thrust chamber of the rocket?s domestically builtthird stage just 2.2 seconds after its ignition.

ISRO officials said in a statement thatinvestigators do not know for sure why the turbo pump failed but suspect thatexcessive pressure built up and thermal stresses produced ?gripping at one ofthe seal locations? that caused a rotor to seize and rupture the turbinecasing. A series of ground tests are planned to confirm the scenario, theyadded.

The launchfailure is a setback for India?s plans to attain self-sufficiency incryogenic propulsion development. ISRO spent 3.3 billion rupees ($70.5 million)to develop the engine.

ISRO aims to flight test the upper-stageengine within a year ?after incorporating necessary corrective measures,? thestatement said. The next two GSLVs, meanwhile, will use Russian cryogenicstages.

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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.