India’s Insat 4C launch – vehicle explodes

by Chris Bergin

India’s launch of their GSLV (Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) launch vehicle, carrying the the Insat 4C satellite, from Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Shriharikota island, ended with the vehicle exploding shortly after launch.

The launch – which was delayed during the day – saw the vehicle veer off course after the first stage failed to seperate, before an explosion was seen. The rest of the vehicle crashed into the sea.

The launch seemed to be going well until the vehicle reached around 12km – at which point the first stage should have separated.

However, the stage failed to fall away, pulling the vehicle off course, before an explosion was seen – possibly by range safety. The remaining stages and the Insat 4C then crashed into the sea.

Officials are noting a ‘design failure’ – which is set to be a major blow for India’s space ambitions.
The launch debuted their new ‘second’ pad at the facility, and it is thought that problems with the pad caused the delay, which was called shortly before the opening of its launch window.

The launch was to place India’s latest – and largest – communication satellite into orbit, weighing 2.2 tons, as part of the nations plans to continue the progress in making cheap payload launching routine.

‘An exhaustive analysis of the missile test launch telemetry data is being conducted by scientists to point out whether the flaw was in design, manufacture or assembly of the country’s 3,500 kms range missile’, highly placed DRDO sources said to The Hindu media site.

‘It is apparent that the separation of the first and second stage did not occur which led to the missile going haywire from target and plunging into the sea, far short of its intended target.

It was our first experiment with such a long range missile and in the next few days, we will analyse faults in order to rectify them.’

INSAT 4C was to be the first of 15 INSAT satellites, all to be launched by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization), each with a mission life of 10 years.

The ride to an elliptical geo-synchronous transfer orbit of 170 km by 36,000 km was to take around 17 minutes, with the orbit then circularised by firings of the liquid apogee motor on board the satellite.

‘A launch vehicle is a highly complex system. Preparing it for launch is not easy. During the countdown, various systems and sub-systems are checked [remotely] from the Mission Control Centre, and everything is timed precisely,’ ISRO officials told the media, without explaining fully on what the exact problem currently is when a delay was noted earlier.

The three stage vehicle stands 49 metres tall and weighs 414 tonnes. The first stage solid motor has four strap boosters, powered by hypergolic liquid propellants. The second stage also works from hypergols, with the third stage Russian built engine comprising of 12.6 ton of Liquid Oxygen and Liquid Hydrogen.

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