With GSLV Grounded, India Looks Abroad for Launches

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India’s Space Commission has cleared the basic design of the country’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), which suffered two consecutive failures in 2010. However, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) does not expect to launch the GSLV again before 2012, a decision that has prompted ISRO to look abroad for launch accommodations for a pair of government satellites.

ISRO spokesman S. Satish said June 2 that the commission, at its May 24 meeting, reviewed and approved the findings of a failure analysis committee ISRO appointed to investigate GSLV’s botched launch attempts and determined what, if any, design changes were needed. The investigators, led by former ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair, said in their final report that they “could not find any design deficiency” in GSLV and any changes needed are of “minor nature.”

On April 15 last year, a GSLV powered by an Indian-built, cryogenic upper-stage engine failed to place a communications satellite in orbit. On Dec. 25 another GSLV with a Russian-built  upper-stage engine was destroyed about a minute after liftoff after veering off course. Satish said that while the committee found that the basic GSLV design had no deficiency, “the indigenous cryogenic stage required more ground testing” before being used as a substitute to the Russian-supplied stage.

Satish did not elaborate what minor changes the failure analysis committee concluded are needed for GSLV. But until the changes are made, he said, ISRO has decided there will be no GSLV launches this year. Additionally, GSAT-7 and Insat-3D, two Indian satellites originally planned to be launched by GSLV, will now be launched on non-Indian rockets under contracts yet to be awarded, Satish said.