FAILURE: Indian GSLV fails during launch with GSAT-5P satellite

by Chris Bergin

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) GSLV-F06 launch vehicle has suffered another failure, when it exploded around 60 seconds into ascent. The vehicle was carrying the GSAT-5P telecommunications satellite on Christmas Day, lifting off at 10:34am GMT from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Shriharikota. The launch was originally rescheduled due to a leak in the Russian cryogenic engine on the third stage of the vehicle.

Indian Launch:

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is capable of placing the INSAT-II class of satellites (2000 – 2,500 kg) into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).

The standard GSLV is a three stage vehicle GSLV is 49 m tall, with 414 t lift off weight. It has a maximum diameter of 3.4 m at the payload fairing. First stage comprises S125 solid booster with four liquid (L40) strap-ons. The second stage (GS2) is liquid engine and the third stage (GS3) is a cryo stage. The vehicle develops a lift off thrust of 6573 kn.

The first flight of GSLV took place from SHAR on April 18, 2001 by launching 1540 kg GSAT-1.

It was followed by four more launches; GSLV-D2 on May 8, 2003 (GSAT-2  1825 kg), GSLV-F01 on September 20, 2004 (EDUSAT 1950 kg), GSLV-F02 on July 10, 2006, GSLV-F04 on September 2, 2007 (INSAT-4CR  2130 kg) and GSLV-D3 on April 15, 2010.

Two of its last three flights have ended unsuccessfully, most recently with the April 15 launch of GSAT-4 – caused by an anomaly on the Fuel Booster Turbo Pump (FBTP) of the third stage.

Saturday’s failure leaves the ISRO with three failures from their last four launches, an extended record of four failures, one partial success and two successes from their previous seven launches.

The vehicle launching GSAT-5P was taller by two metres and heavier by four tonnes as compared to its standard configuration. The Russian made cryogenic engine was powered with 15.2 tonnes of fuel (liquid hydrogen as fuel and liquid oxygen as oxidizer), an increase of around three tonnes, and the engine’s length also increased.

The rocket had a larger fairing – four-metres in diameter and made of fibre reinforced plastic (FRP) – as compared to the standard configuration of 3.4-metre diameter fairing made from aluminium alloy metal.

Although the current GSLVs are mixed in their fortunes, ISRO are still pressing ahead with the development of the GSLV Mk III – which is scheduled to debut in 2012. This vehicle is designed to make ISRO fully self reliant in launching heavier communication satellites of INSAT-4 class, which weigh 4500 to 5000 kg, via mission launch capability for GTO, LEO, Polar and intermediate circular orbits.

GSLV-Mk III is designed to be a three stage vehicle, with 42.4 m tall with a lift off weight of 630 tonnes. First stage comprises two identical S200 Large Solid Booster (LSB) with 200 tonne solid propellant, that are strapped on to the second stage, the L110 re-startable liquid stage. The third stage is the C25 LOX/LH2 cryo stage. The large payload fairing measures 5 m in diameter and can accommodate a payload volume of 100 cu m.

GSAT-5P – with 24 C-band transponders and 12 extended C-band transponders – was meant for augmenting communication services currently provided by Indian National Satellite System (INSAT). It is meant to boost TV, telemedicine and tele-education, and telephone services.

The satellite, developed by ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore, was the fifth in the GSAT series. It had a designed mission life of 12 years.

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