GSLV-F06 flight unsuccessful

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 26, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

The seventh flight of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) designated F06 ended when the launch vehicle was destroyed by a manual self-destruct button activated by the Range Safety Officer. The destruct button was used when the first stage suffered a “technical glitch” and the vehicle started veering off its designated path.

At a press conference, ISRO Chairman Dr. Radhakrishnan explained:

Its performance was normal for 50 seconds after the lift-off. “Soon afterwards, the vehicle’s attitude was increasing, leading to heavier structural loads, higher angle of attack and breaking up of the vehicle.” The Range Safety Officer in the Mission Control Centre gave the ‘destruct’ command to the vehicle 63 seconds after the lift-off from its second launch pad and it was destroyed.

Although I told Srinivas Laxman and am quoted as saying that I would want the whole vehicle to undergo testing again, VSSC Director P S Veeraraghavan said that the fundamental vehicle design was good and it was possibly the connector snapping that caused the mission failure.  I would say such a comment is still premature. We should still wait for the Analysis Report to come out before making comments. Radhakrishnan is quoted as saying in the same article that the entire GSLV programme will be reviewed.

Prof U R Rao, former ISRO Chairman commented in the Times of India that the programmes such as Chandrayaan-II and Human Spaceflight will not be affected since they are different vehicles, perhaps alluding to the fact that GSLV Mk-III may be used for these.

I believe that ISRO must work on a different stack for the 2 – 6 tonne class satellite launch vehicles. Perhaps, a downgraded version of GSLV Mk-III architecture can be used or a 4-stage GSLV are can be used for this class of launch vehicles. Two failures in six months does not provide sufficient confidence in trusting the vehicle with precious cargoes such as Chandrayaan-II or humans. That, or the whole configuration must be tested again. This may cost more money but it is much better than loosing payloads to accidents.

I am really confident with the scientists and their work in ISRO but this should also encourage them to encourage budding rocketeers in the country. Fields like amateur rocketry will give them a large and experienced talent pool of do-ers who can then easily be upgraded to scientists working on Indian launch vehicles programme. ISRO has done service by encouraging the next generation of satellite engineers through work at nano and cube satellites.

Spaceflight Now cleared some of the doubts I had about how a 12.5 tonne engine could be made to accomodate 15.3 tonnes of cryogenic fuel in the third cryogenic stage:

GSAT 5P’s weight forced Russian and Indian engineers to modify parts of the rocket to lift the satellite, which is the heaviest spacecraft ever orbited by ISRO. The Russian third stage was lengthened 3.6 feet to fit an extra 6,000 pounds of propellant inside. The additional cryogenic hydrogen and oxygen was designed to permit the upper stage engine to burn about two minutes longer than on previous flights.

It is this sort of attention-to-detail that was missing in Indian media. They also continually said that the Indian satellite exploded, referred to the weight of the GSAT-5P as 2130 kg instead of 2310 kg and repeatedly called “scientists” space experts. Many of the said space experts were also forced to comment on a situation without much data being made available and were then sensationalized as banner and news ticker stories.

It is also now clear that the helium gas leak was fixed rather than found to be within acceptable risk limits. It is also wrong to claim that it was the Russian cryogenic engine which caused trouble and that ISRO should have checked it as was ripe in the initial minutes after the scenes of disaster played itself out on television screens. It is easier to blame and much difficult to fix. As Prof. Rao says there is a huge amount of data needs to be checked to identify all the various points that seem to/could or have failed.

GSLV-F06 Launch on Dec 25, 2010

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 24, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

On Christmas Day, India will launch its GSLV-F06 with GSAT-5P satellite on board. Since December 20, 2010 when the delay in the launch was announced, ISRO has been working with Russian engineers by conducting several tests on the leaked valve in the Russian cryogenic engine.

It has now been ascertained that the launch could go on. It is still not sure if the leak was fixed or whether it was found whether the leak was within acceptable limits.  ISRO has just posted a note on its website saying the launch has started.

There have been several mis-leading reports in Western blogs stating that this is the Indian cryogenic engine. This is wrong. This is one of the two spare engines that ISRO obtained from Russia.

The 2310 kg GSAT-5P is the heaviest satellite that an Indian launch vehicle will carry. Hence the cryogenic engine has been uprated. It now carries 15.3 tonnes of fuel as against 12.5 tonnes and has a payload fairing diameter of 4 metres instead of 2.8 metres. This uprating enables the GSLV Mk-I to carry 2310 kg instead of the 1900 kg capability. GSAT-5P itself is to replace INSAT-2E’s services and upgrade television, tele-medicene, tele-education and telephony services.

GSLV-F06 Launch Postponed

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 20, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

I only got around to writing this now after a day of BlogCamp:

The launch of GSLV-F06 with  GSAT-5P Satellite onboard, scheduled for December 20, 2010 has been postponed due to a minor leak in one of the valves of the Russian Cryogenic stage, observed during the pre-countdown checks.
The 29-hours countdown sequence planned to commence at 1100 hrs today (Dec 19th ) has not been authorized by the Launch Authorisation Board that met this forenoon to review the results of pre-countdown checks.
The revised schedule for launch will be firmed up after ascertaining the cause for the leak, remedial actions and due verifications.
Well, hope they get to fix the problem as soon as they can. Checks  are carried out before the launch to ensure that all systems work perfectly. Minor defects are not tolerated since its failure can lead to the failure of the whole system. Will keep you posted on the developments of this GSLV flight.

GSLV-F06 launching the GSAT-5P on December 20

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 16, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

I had earlier written about the possible launch date of GSAT-5P as being December 20. This is now confirmed. Yesterday, ISRO posted photos and descriptions [PDF] about the GSLV-F06 and the GSAT-5P.

A little bit on the satellite. Unlike the satellite it is replacing, the GSAT-5P is a pure communications satellite. It does not have the meteorological payload that INSAT-2E had. The 2310 kg satellite will be placed in a geosynchronous transfer orbit by the GSLV-F06. The satellite with its C-band transponders will provide continuity of telecommunication services.

The importance of this launch is not because of its payload but rather because of its launch vehicle. The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is a completely new launch vehicle unlike the PSLV, which has now been tried and tested over the years. It is tasked with launching 2-4 tonne class satellites that the PSLV is not designed to handle. The problems facing the programme have been faced by other rockets in its class and are not un-precedented. However, it has been worrying ISRO because it has impacted ISRO’s strive for self-reliant systems. The delay will cause India to fall back on support on Astrium’s Ariane launch vehicles.

For the technical personnel, such times are uncomfortable. Questions are raised on the personnel’s capability by the management and it is a difficult time for all concerned. However, this is how people learn in rocketry and science. In a recent interview, I was informed that the way the Sriharikota spaceport works right now it is capable of doing only 3-4 launches per year. ISRO has been working to improve this launch rate with its Chairman making the claim in early 2010 that they hoped to do 10launches this year. The same claims have been carried forward to 2011. I wonder if this has impacted ISRO’s ability to test the rocket without a payload or with dummy payloads like SpaceX did. I had raised this question earlier as well when ISRO’s GSLV with indigenous cryogenic engine failed and fell into the Bay with its payload.

GSLV is a machine with contributions from many people each one providing critical components. The failure of even one component amongst the bunch can lead to the catastrophic results. Before this launch, I have depressed myself a little. I hope and pray for the team of GSLV-F06. Godspeed!

GSAT-5P to be launched on December 20

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 13, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

On December 20, 2010, India will replace the ageing INSAT-2E communications satellite. The satellite has served India since 1999 by providing telecommunication, television broadcasting and meteorological services.

The launch of GSAT-5P which is to take place from Sriharikota will use the Russian cryogenic engine for the third stage of the GSLV. Hence, this is designated as the GSLV Mk-I. The vehicle is already on the launch pad and was moved there and anchored on Sunday. Last week, the satellite, GSAT-5P was placed inside the heat shield.

The significant events before launch between 4 and 4:30 pm 5:30 pm on December 20, include a full systems check today, followed by a launch rehersal without the liquid and cryogenic fuel on December 17.

There has only been one successful PSLV and one failed GSLV that has taken place this year in Sriharikota this year. I am guessing scientists will be anxious to get this launch right. This is another reason why the spotlight is falling back on this launch. The GSLV has been a programme with mixed results with 3 successes and 3 failures.

Once ISRO updates its website with more information I will carry more detailed article on the subject here.

[This post is based on this news report.]