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GSAT-5P launch fails, satellite explodes mid-air

Sriharikota: In a jolt to India’s space programme on Saturday, the launch of a communication satellite aboard a homegrown vehicle failed after the rocket exploded midair minutes after the lift-off from the spaceport here.

The mission, aimed at putting India in a club of countries with the technology to put heavy satellites in orbit, failed when the rocket developed a snag soon after lift-off in the first stage itself.

GSAT-5P, carrying 24 C-band and 12 extended C-band transponders, was meant for augmenting communication services currently provided by the Indian National Satellite System. Built at Rs.125 crore, the satellite was to replace the INSAT-2E that was sent up more than a decade ago.

The rocket blasted-off at around 4 pm from the second launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at the end of the 29-hour countdown but was hit by a snag in the first stage itself, ISRO sources said.

“The incident occurred in the first stage itself”, the sources said, adding, details would be disclosed later.

This is the second failure this year for ISRO after the previous (Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle) GSLV mission with the country’s maiden cryogenic engine hit a snag and the rocket plunged into the Bay of Bengal on April 15 this year.

ISRO had postponed the December 20 launch of the Geo-Stationary Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F06), in its seventh mission, after a minor leak was noticed in the Russian Cryogenic engine during the pre-countdown checks.

The last GSLV mission (GSLV-D3) failed after the malfunctioning of indigenous cryogenic stage, dampening the country’s hopes of joining the elite club of five nations with such capability.

The GSLV rocket is 51 metres tall and weighs 418 tonnes.

ISRO has the following communication satellites in service – INSAT 2E, INSAT 3A, INSAT 3B, INSAT 3C, INSAT 3E, INSAT 4A, INSAT 4CR and INSAT 4B working at 50 percent capability.

ISRO launched two major satellites in 2010 – communication satellite GSAT-4 and remote sensing satellite Cartosat-2.

The GSAT-4 launch too had failed after the rocket crashed into the Bay of Bengal while Cartosat-2 was placed successfully in the orbit.

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