The failure of the GSLV-F06, meant to launch India's heaviest communications satellite and the failure of a satellite launch earlier this year, could offer serious setbacks to the country's domestic space agenda. The failure could mean more dependence on foreign players.
Both the failed satellites used the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GLSV), a launch rocket developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), an answer to costly European counterparts.
The current generation GSLV is designed to launch satellites that weigh up to 2,500 kilos, the next generation will be able to take up to 5,000 kilos into space. But these rockets have struggled to lift the heavier satellites for which they were intended.
Despite the two failed launches in the past year, India is still relying on GSLV. There are three GSLV-powered launches planned for the next two years. At least, one of these will carry a domestic satellite, Chandrayaan-II, India's second lunar mission.
Several Indian scientists have downplayed the Christmas Day technical failure as a one-time event, and part of the growing pains of any space program.
UR Rao, a former ISRO Chairman, said, "I do not call it a setback as failures are common in space missions."
India would hardly be the first country to suffer dramatic or even recent failures. Earlier this month, Russia — a major player in the world commercial satellite launch market — decided to put an upcoming launch on hold after the state space agency lost control of a rocket during a launch.