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ISRO forced to call off GSLV launch due to fuel leakage

August 19, 2013 18:35 IST

The launch of a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle was called off by the Indian Space Reasearch Organisation at the eleventh hour on Monday due to a fuel leak in its second stage -- in a setback to the mission to test its homegrown cryogenic engine -- after its failure three years ago.

The first mission of the rocket in three years today was crucial for testing the cryogenic engine to give the country the capability for the launch of big telecommunication satellites and 3,000 kg plus payloads after failures of the earlier GSLVs in 2010 -- one with indigenous cryogenic engine and another Russian made.

The much awaited launch process from Sriharikota, for which ISRO had commenced a 29-hour countdown on Sunday, was suspended 74 minutes ahead of the scheduled launch time of 4.50 pm after officials noticed fuel leak in the second stage of the rocket.

"The countdown progressed well and a few minutes ago, we observed a leak in the fuel system of the second stage of the vehicle. And because of this, we are calling off the launch," ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan announced at a press conference at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

A new date will be announced later, he said.

An ISRO scientist said there was no problem with the cryogenic engine of the rocket which was to have carried the 1,982-kg GSAT-14 satellite.

"Immediately, our teams have been put on action to drain out the liquid propellents from the second stage, before L40 strap-ons and the cryogenic stage," Radhakrishnan said.

He said the vehicle would be moved to the Vehicle Assembly building soon to assess the cause of the leak.

"We need to make an assessment of the cause of the leak and the actions we need to take before further preparations of the launch. A new date will be announced later," he said.

This was the second attempt by the ISRO to flight test the indigenous crygonic stage after the unsuccessful launch of the previous mission GSLV-D3 on April 15, 2010.

The next GLSV flight with a Russian cryogenic stage also failed in December 2010.

Four of the GSAT-14s predecessors were successfully launched by GSLV during 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2007 respectively. The main objective of today's GSAT-14 mission was to augment in-orbit capacity of Extended C and Ku-band transponders and provide a platform for new experiments.

The GSLV is a three stage/engine rocket. The first stage is fired with solid fuel, the second is the liquid fuel and the third stage is the cryogenic engine. Geosynchronous satellites are placed in orbits 36,000 km above the earth.

Vijay Karthik
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