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india Updated: Jul 11, 2006 00:59 IST

GSLV follows Agni-111 into sea

A DAY after the Agni-III missile failed, the Bay of Bengal became the grave for another ambitious Indian mission: the launch of Insat 4C.

At 5.38 p.m. on Monday, the Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F02) blasted off with the Insat 4C satellite from the new launchpad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre. A minute later, the vehicle deviated from its flight path.

A strap-on motor of the rocket had failed and mission controllers were forced to destroy the vehicle even as it began to break up and fall into the sea.

Insat 4C, a 2,168-kg communications satellite, was the heaviest in its class and meant to boost direct-to-home telecast. Monday's was the first launch of an Insat for commercial purposes from an Indian pad.

ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair said one of the four strap-on motors had failed to develop pressure to boost the rocket. "The pressure dropped to zero which led to the launch vehicle deviating from its flight path by more than 10 degrees," he said. "Since only a deviation up to 4 degrees is acceptable, the safety officer gave the destruct command to safeguard the population in the area."

He called the failed mission "one of the rarest phenomena": ISRO's 12 previous launches had been successful.

Soon after the failure of the mission, ISRO officials put the entire system on "emergency condition". The jubilation among the scientists at the control station of the Space Centre immediately after the launch soon turned into despair as the launch vehicle hurtled down into the Bay of Bengal.

The INSAT-42 launch debacle came a day after the Agni-III nuclear-capable ballistic missile with a range upto 3,500km, failed to hit its target off the coast of Orissa and splashed into the sea.

This was the first launch of GSLV from the Rs 350-crore sophisticated launch pad, commissioned in May 2005.