India Intelligence Report

   GSLV Fails, INSAT 4-C Lost



  • Freak failure causes GSLV to fail destroying most sophisticated INSAT-4C

  • The program was not insured and loss of time and equipment more than actual loss

  • ISRO plans to launch another more sophisticated satellite later this year

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) failed to place the most sophisticated satellite it has created as the rocket carrying the INSAT-4C veered off its trajectory due to a strap-on motor failure forcing controllers to abort the mission and destruct the rocket. The rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) was to have placed INSAT 4-C with 12 high-power Ku-band transponders in a geo synchronous transfer orbit to provide direct-to-home television services, facilitate video picture transmission, and digital satellite news for the National Informatics Centre (NIC). Remarkably, in a total of 21 launches, the ISRO has failed only 5 times and this is the first failure in 13 years, after the failure of the PSLV-D1 in September, 1993.

Strangely, the satellite was not insured and the Government has to absorb the Rs. 256 crore (USD 55 million) expenses. While most papers seemed focused on this lapse, the bigger loss is time, morale, and television and video infrastructure. Traditionally, the ISRO uses the French satellite service to launch the INSAT series but continued successes seemed to have encouraged it to consider using its own launch services. In fact, the ISRO has placed satellites in Geo synchronous orbit.

In a nation where failure is not acceptable and the pressure to show success, if not achieve success is high, this loss to ISRO is significant. A somber ISRO Director Madhavan Nair said that this failure “comes after eleven continuous successful launches” almost apologizing for the failure. Nair asserted that “There was nothing wrong with the GSLV or the SLP. There is no relation between the weight of the satellite and the rocket failure. We have been upgrading the payload capacity systematically over the years.” He vowed to “find a solution for the problem” after the scientists “pinpoint what went wrong” based on “data and video.” Nair also revealed that the ISRO is building another heavier INSAT-4 series satellite and “will have a successful launch within a year” from Kourou in French Guiana. India plans to enter the satellite launch business in a big way to earn at least USD 400 million a year.

But this is where the nation needs to mature and grow. Instead of harping on the failure and pin the blame, it needs to find what caused the failures of the GSLV and the

Agni-III launches and fix the process to achieve higher results in the future. Since most of the politicians are hardly erudite and the media focused on sensationalizing events, the attention is directed towards the failure and the lack of insurance. The scientists themselves need to look beyond and the bureaucracy needs to help them set their sights forward. Most importantly, the political class should not politicize this event and instead try to chalk out a clear roadmap to the ISRO.

Scientists and engineers thrive on encouragement—monetary, consistency, and facilities. The focus should be on getting them those that drive them to higher ground.