INSAT-4C goes down in smoke
Sriharikota, July 10
India’s space technology programme suffered a huge setback as ISRO’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-FO2) carrying the INSAT-4C communication satellite, which was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, 80 km from Chennai, today veered off the projected trajectory and came crashing down.

It was a sad day for India’s space and defence research as after the failure of Agni-III missile only yesterday, the launch of INSAT-4C today also failed.

There was initial euphoria among the scientists in the control room here as the rocket carrying INSAT-4C successfully took off at 5.38 pm, but soon there was a sense of shock and disbelief as within seven seconds it veered from its projected path and the graph on the computer in the control room showed it was going down.

ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair said, “There has been a mishap in the first stage. Things have gone wrong in the stage of separation. We have to analyze the data to find out what went wrong.”

According to a PTI report addressing a press conference an hour after the failure of the mission this evening a visibly disappointed Mr Nair attributed the failure to sudden drop in pressure to ‘‘zero’’ in one of the four strap on motors during the first stage.

Scientists here said probably the strap on booster engines meant to synchronise the thrust which are liquid propelled failed.

Mr Nair said the collapse and disintegration of the vehicle was also due to deviation in angle. The normal divergence of an angle that a vehicle could withstand was four degree, but in this case, the divergence was 10 degree.

A high-level investigation by the country’s top scientists will be undertaken to identify the cause of the failure and to ensure that the next launch of the GSLV programme is successful.

All stations at the space centre here have been put on a state of emergency while the control room keenly watched the rocket, worth crores of rupees, go down into the Bay of Bengal.

The four strap-on rocket engines were supposed to kick up the INSAT-4C 13 seconds after the blast but the snag occurred within seven seconds when the vehicle was around 70 to 100 km from the surface of earth.

After the text-book type launch the rocket had gone up to around 70 km into the atmosphere but then it spiraled off its path and came crashing back to earth.

It is certainly a catastrophic failure in India’s space programme but it is not unusual as other super powers like the USA and former Soviet Union too have experienced such failures in the past.

Out of 21 launches from India since August, 1979, including the one today, there had been only five failures. While first launch on August 10, 1979 had failed the three GSLV launches from here since April, 2001 had been successful the last being on September 20, 2004.

This was the first failure after 12 successful launches for the ISRO. This was also the first setback for ISRO Chairman Nair, who had been tasting success, ever since he assumed office in September 2003.

Had the INSAT-4C launch been successful India would have become a big player commercially in the world of communication as it could have allotted 175 transponders worldwide to private television channels, including our own Doordarshan and All India Radio and also for tele-medicine and tele-education.

New India, French partner to pick tab 

• New India Assurance and French reinsurance partner Space Co to pay for INSAT-4C loss 

• ISRO paid nearly Rs 150 crore premium for satellite’s launch and one year of orbit life 

• In case of complete loss, satellite was insured up to Rs 900 crore, depending on different stages of flight 

• Launch vehicle was not insured, claim may not be as high as total insured amount 

• ISRO may have to pay higher premium next time 

• Along with premium, New India also passed on risk to Space Co which has so far reinsured 10 ISRO programmes 

• Direct-to-home (DTH) plans of Sun TV take a hit as it had booked 7 of 12 transponders on INSAT-4C 

• Lankan TV too had booked transponders in satellite 


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