India’s ambitions of entering the market for heavy satellite launches suffered a setback when GSLV-F06, the rocket carrying a 2,130 kg communication satellite, exploded 63 seconds after taking off from Sriharikota, off the Andhra Pradesh coast, at 4.04pm on Saturday.
Indian Space Research Organisation chairman K Radhakrishnan said preliminary findings indicated that ground control at the Satish Dhavan Space Centre here lost control of the rocket when four connectors that conveyed messages from one onboard computer to another snapped 47 seconds after launch.
Radhakrishnan issued the “abort mission” order to destroy the rocket within 16 seconds. The debris fell safely into the Bay of Bengal.
“We will study the flight data in detail and come out with a detailed report within a day or two,” he said. The rocket was carrying the GSAT-5P communications satellite, which was to replace the INSAT-2E satellite, launched in 1999. GSAT-5P, like INSAT-2E, was a telecommunications and weather forecast satellite.
Now, India will have to hire transponders on foreign satellites – till it launches a replacement for the doomed GSAT-5P – to ensure that these two vital sectors do not suffer “Such failures are part and parcel of space launches. The morale of our scientists remain high,” Radhakrishnan told reporters soon after the crash.
Though India has established itself as a reliable service provider for the launch of light satellites (up to 2 tonnes), it has not been able to replicate this success with heavy satellites.
And Saturday’s failure will further delay ISRO’s ambitions of muscling into this $20-billion (Rs 92,000 crore) a year market on the strength of its lower cost profile. The cost of Saturday’s failed mission (including both the launch vehicle and the satellite) was Rs 325 crore.
NASA, Arianne or any other major satellite launch service provider charge more than double that for a similar launch.