After more than two hours of tension, space launcher GSLV on Sunday successfully placed in orbit the communication satellite INSAT-4CR. Weighing 2,130 kg, it is the heaviest payload to be placed in orbit by an Indian launcher.
With the failure of the last GSLV mission in July 2006 on their minds, Indian Space Research Organisation scientists had readied the present launch in a record 13 months. But the GSLV-F04 kept them on their toes well beyond the planned schedule time. The launch was delayed by a day due to a sudden change in weather. On Sunday, 15 seconds before lift-off at 4.21 p.m., the launch was once again put on hold. It wasn’t till two hours later that the problem—a failed communication link between the third cryogenic stage and ground link — was rectified and the space vehicle soared in a darkening sky.
The drama wasn’t over yet. Thirteen minutes into the flight path, mission control lost contact with the vehicle. Thankfully, it came back on and a hugely relieved ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair was heard muttering “thank god”.
Seventeen minutes after blast-off, as the satellite injected into the slotted transfer orbit, the smiles were back on the faces of the ISRO brass. “It was a dramatic mission with a lot of anxiety but something that gave us immense satisfaction when everything went off successfully. Team ISRO has done it,” said Nair.
B.N. Suresh, director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, which designed the vehicle, said: “It was a small communication glitch.”
Nair said that though mission control had the option of postponing the launch by 48 hours, they were confident the launch sequence was in place. “The perfect and precise launch confirmed our confidence in the system and our team.”
This launch marks the third by ISRO in 2007 with two more scheduled.