Thursday, May 5, 2011

Serious concerns on India's GSLV

Neelam Mathews
May 5, 2011
Time: 9:36 PM IST

Arianespace’s third Ariane 5 mission of 2011 has entered the final phase in French Guiana following the heavy-lift launcher’s transfer for the integration of its ST-2 and GSAT-8 dual-passenger payload. The launch is scheduled for May 19.
While ISRO’s 15 consecutive successes with its workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), have allowed India to launch Remote Sensing satellites into sun synchronous orbits, the persistent unreliability of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is raising concerns of delays to the planned second moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, and the future three-stage 629 ton launch vehicle GSLV-Mk III, will be delayed.
GSAT-8 uses Indian Space Research Organization’s  I-3K satellite bus with a liftoff mass of 3,100 kg.  Its payload of 24 transponders will augment India’s Ku-band relay capabilities, while the two-channel GAGAN (GPS and GEO augmented navigation) system will support India’s implementation of a satellite-based augmentation system for aircraft navigation over the country’s airspace and in adjoining areas.
The recent GSLV failure in Dec. last year could delay future ISRO announcements. "This is quite likely because of successive (second) launch failure ......corrective actions and their validation are likely to require additional time. The Failure Analysis Committee is expected to perform a deep dive into the anomaly with review of all available data, before reaching a conclusion," says Ramesh Gupta, Vice President, Satellite System Planning and Engineering, Reston, VA-based wholesale wireless broadband network provider Lightsquared.
The GSLV or Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle was developed by ISRO to launch INSAT-type satellites into geostationary orbit to make India less dependent on foreign rockets. The three-stage GSLV improved on the performance of the PSLV with the addition of liquid strap-on boosters and a cryogenic upper stage supplied by Russia, having ordered 7 upper stages. ISRO has now only one of the seven Russian cryogenic engines it had bought from Russia following US sanctions in 1992, left in its inventory.
Only two of the seven Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) launches of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) have achieved complete success. Since a GSLV of the same class is needed to put Chandrayaan-2 into orbit, it is not clear how long it will be before India either gets its own upper stage cryogenic working or that it may seek Russian help. ISRO remains non-committal on the decision.
With only one cryo engine left with ISRO, “the development effort for the cryo must be accelerated to meet the aggressive launch schedules that have been announced previously........ If the problems in successive GSLV failures are not related to the same failure mechanism (which appears to be the case), the quality assurance process would require streamlining with multiple checks and balances," adds Gupta.
With weight of satellites being gradually stepped up, there could be an intrinsic design issue in the GSLV, says a space scientist. ISROs policy of choosing the lowest bidder for parts has been denounced by vendors who say cheap is not always quality.
The project for development is challenging and has not moved well. “This is a direct result of the bottlenecks ISRO is facing with regard to  bureaucratic managerial issues….If India aspires for a seat to the UN Security Council, we will need to advance and accelerate,” says a space scientist.

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