Hardware defect suspected in GSLV failure

First Published : 26 Dec 2010 10:45:50 PM IST
Last Updated : 26 Dec 2010 11:11:03 PM IST

BANGALORE: Initial analysis of the data from Saturday’s aborted launch of an Indian rocket indicated a hardware defect might have forced the destruction of the geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV-F06), a senior space agency official said late Sunday.

“Experts analysing the voluminous data are of the view that a hardware problem or defect has led to the snapping of the four connectors (signal chords) resulting in the blowing up of the rocket in the first stage itself,” the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) official told IANS.

Hinting at what might have happened after a perfect lift-off in less than a minute, the official said that the mission failed after the link got snapped resulting in the 418-tonne rocket going out of control and forcing the mission control centre to give the destruct command.

“The signals are transmitted from the flight control system in the equipment bay to various propulsion stages to control the rocket. In this flight, the data shows that signal link got snapped. The moment we noticed the rocket breaking up, the destruct command was given to ensure that the debris did not fall on the land but in the sea,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Seventh in the GSLV series, the 51-metre tall rocket, carrying the 2.3-tonne advanced communications satellite (GSAT-5P) with 36 transponders, exploded barely a minute after it blasted off from the spaceport of state-run ISRO at Sriharikota, about 80 km northeast of Chennai.

According to initial reports, the launch vehicle lost control and began to wobble due to heavy structural loads gushing up earlier than anticipated when it was at an altitude of 8 km in space and 2.5 km from the spaceport coastline over the Bay of Bengal.

It burst into flames 63 seconds after lift-off.

“Though the four strap-on motors in the first stage and the solid stage propellant fired as programmed, the rocket began to deviate from the flight path and wobble. Initial results showed that the connectors that take control commands and signals from the on-board computer did not reach the electronics actuation stage,” the official pointed out.

Saturday’s launch was originally scheduled for Nov 20 but was aborted a day earlier after a leak was detected in one of the valves of the rocket’s Russian-made cryogenic engine.

Meanwhile, ISRO director S Satish said the data analysis of the aborted mission was continuing to ascertain what went wrong in the rocket’s flight control system.

“The experts are hopeful of getting a clear picture in a day or two to submit the initial report on the accident in space,” Satish said.

After studying the report, the space agency will constitute a failure analysis committee (FAC) later this week to go into the exact causes that led to the rocket failure in the first stage itself and make recommendations for preventing their recurrences in the forthcoming missions.

“As in the case of any mission failure, it is customary for the FAC to ascertain the reasons behind the disintegration of the rocket and the corrective measures that have to be taken for ensuring a successful launch of the satellites,” Satish noted.

The Rs 300 crore project was meant to retire the INSAT-2E satellite, sent up in 1999. The failure comes nine months after the previous rocket – GSAT-D3 – failed April 15.

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