Saturday, January 1, 2011

GSLV preliminary failure analysis report

       Six days after the unfortunate Christmas day failure of the GSLV carrying the heaviest India-made satellite Gsat-5P weighing 2301 kg, Isro on Friday confirmed an instant statement made by the space agency's chairman, K.Radhakrishnan, that the mishap was caused by the snapping of a group of 10 connectors.

        The report has raised important questions whether this snapping could have been the result of external forces like vibration or dynamic pressure. Infact BMM felt that vibration could perhaps be one of the contributing factors because a super book it is now reading about Voyager says that vibration during launch beyond the designed limits did result in some problems to the spacecraft. BMM in fact did mention this to secretary of India chapter of Moon Society, Pradeep Mohandas.

        Isro has now appointed a committee headed by former chairman, G.Madhavan Nair, to analyse the failure of the rocket and recommend corrective action. The appointment of Nair to head the committee is significant because he had sometime back expressed certain reservations about the overall performance of the GSLV.

         It seems Isro is really in a make over mode. What better proof of this than the fact that it has set up a programme review and strategy committee headed by former Isro chairman, K.Kasturirangan, to look into the future of the GSLV programme and assured launch of the GSat/Insat series, Insat-3D as well as Chandryaan-2; realisation and operationalisation of the indigenous cryogenic engine and strategy for meeting the demands of communication transponders in the immediate future.

        From this it is apparent that Isro is hell bent on launching Chandrayaan-2 with the somewhat unreliable GSLV. The question is whether the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roskosmos, will accept this rocket in view of the fact that the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, has laid emphasis on what he calls ``performance discipline,'' following the failure of a Proton rocket on December 5,2010, carrying three Glonass communication satellites. The Russian opinion could be important because a Russian lander with scientific instruments  is a part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission. Will India be able to launch Chandrayaan-2 in 2013 is now the big question?

        As stated earlier, if there is some problem with the GSLV, it is possible that Chandrayaan-2 could be carried with the highly proven PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle), but this will be with a reduced weight. Alternatively it could depend on a foreign launcher.

        With regards to the Indian cryogenic engine, Radhakrishnan had stated on April 15, 2010--the day the maiden flight of the GSLV failed with an Indian cryogenic engine---that within a year the rocket will lift off powered by the indigenous engine. This means that in three months ie in April 2011 it will take off. Will this engine ready for the flight by that time?

         Among the members of the second committee is R.Chidambaram, former chairman of atomic energy commission and now a member of the space commission. His appointment has raised eye brows in certain quarters because he admitted to BMM sometime back that his familiarity with the developments in the space sector is somewhat limited.

         When these reports are ready they should be fully accessible to the public, the tax payer, Atleast in this respect Isro should follow the example of Nasa by not concealing anything. There should be transparency. The reports should not be only through a diluted press release.
         We look forward to these documents in full.   


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