The maiden mission of India’s brand new rocket, the Rs 56 crore Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), on Sunday morning ended in a failure.
The failure of a small rocket in ejecting the two satellites into their intended orbit puts the focus on the safety of the India’s human space mission that will be carried out by Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mk III (GSLV-Mk III) with the tricky cryogenic engine stage.
Hours after the SSLV-D1 was launched with two satellites at about 9.18 a.m., the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said satellites are unusable as they were put into a different orbit than the intended one.
‘All the stages performed normally. Both the satellites were injected. But the orbit achieved was less than expected, which makes it unstable,’ ISRO said in a very brief statement about the mission.
‘SSLV-D1 placed the satellites into 356 km x 76 km elliptical orbit instead of 356 km circular orbit – 76 km is the lowest point close to the surface of the earth,’ ISRO Chairman S. Somanath said.
He said when the satellites are placed in such an orbit, they will not stay there for long and will come down.
‘The two satellites have already come down from that orbit and they are no longer usable,’ Somanath said.
Going forward, a set of experts will look into the failure and identify why it went into an unacceptable orbit. After carrying out the small corrections and revalidation of the corrections, the ISRO will go for the next SSLV-D2 launch soon, Somanath said.
Hoping to celebrate in advance the country’s 75th anniversary of Independence in style the ISRO launched its freshly minted rocket Small Satellite Launch Vehicle – Developmental Flight (SSLV-D1).
On its first developmental flight, the SSLV-D1 carried an earth observation satellite-02 (EOS-02), formerly known as microsatellite-2, weighing about 145 kg and the eight kg AZAADISAT built by 750 students of government schools facilitated by SpaceKidz India.
About 12 minutes into the rocket’s flight, ISRO announced the separation of EOS-02 and the AZAADISAT.
Soon after that a heavy silence came about that Mission Control Centre at the rocket port here with Somanath announcing: ‘The SSLV-D1 mission was completed. All the stages of the rocket performed as expected. There is some data loss in the terminal stage of the rocket.’
He said that data is being gathered to know the status of the mission.
‘The AZAADISAT got separated. We can know about the satellite only at night,’ Dr. Srimathy Kesan, Founder and CEO, SpaceKidz India told IANS.
At about 9.18 a.m. the rocket broke free of the first launch pad here and went up into a cloudy sky. The rocket’s progress was smooth with all its solid fuel powered engines performing well.
The three-staged SSLV-D1 is primarily powered by solid fuel (total 99.2 ton) and also has a velocity trimming module (VTM) powered by 0.05 ton of liquid fuel for precise injection of satellites.
India’s newest rocket was 34 metres tall and weighed 120 ton.
As per the flight plan, just over 12 minutes into its flight, the SSLV-D1 was to deliver into space the EOS-2 satellite and then the AZAADISAT a few seconds later. However, this did not go according to plan.
According to the ISRO, the SSLV is a ready to transfer rocket with modular and unified systems with standard interfaces for production by the industry.
The SSLV design drivers are low-cost, low turnaround time, flexibility in accommodating multiple satellites, launch-on-demand feasibility, minimal launch infrastructure requirements and others, ISRO said.
The commercial arm of ISRO, NewSpace India Ltd, was planning to transfer the SSLV technology for production in the private sector after a couple of successful missions.
The Indian space agency said the EOS-02 satellite is an experimental optical imaging satellite with high spatial resolution. The objective is to realise and fly an experimental imaging satellite with short turnaround time and showcase launch on demand capability.
Launch of small satellites will be a dominant factor in the global space sector with about 7,000 satellites expected to be up in the sky by 2027, V.K. Saraswat, member, Niti Aayog had said at a space seminar.
In all, about 7,000 small satellites are expected to be launched between 2018 and 2027 with a total value of $38 billion, Saraswat said.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at email@example.com)