While the nation rejoices on the successful launch of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) on 18 April, very few remember that the same vehicle had earlier given the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) a big fright. The Rs. 150-crore uninsured vehicle and satellite escaped serious damage due to a faulty component.
Thanks to the precise functioning of the sophisticated computer systems, the launch was aborted with the automatic shut down of the main rocket engine just a second before the actual blast off. That too after the four liquid propulsion strap-on boosters started burning.
The automatic shut off system was activated when it sensed that one of the strap-on boosters did not develop the required thrust. The vehicle was immediately disarmed.
Based on the detailed analysis of the data obtained during the five-second operation of the four strap-on motors, the tear down analysis of the disassembled engine and the extensive simulations carried out, it was established that the fault was in the defective plumbing in the oxidiser flow line.
According to ISRO officials, the anomalous engine was replaced with a standby engine for the relaunch on 18th.
Had anything untoward happened, the country's space research programme would have got delayed further. Moreover, any damage to the launch pad would have affected the successful Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) flights for sometime, as the SHAR Centre does not have a second launch pad.
Luckily, nothing of that sort happened and the GSLV successfully ejected GSAT 1 over Indonesia on 18April.