Bangalore, India (AFP) April 15, 2010
Indian space engineers lost contact with a rocket showcasing new indigenously built booster technology on Thursday soon after launch, in a major blow to the country’s space ambitions.
The launch of the first India-made rocket powered by cryogenic motors, a complex technology mastered by just five countries, failed soon after lift-off from India’s space centre at Sriharikota in southeast Andhara Pardesh state.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Radhakrishnan told reporters that the rocket began tumbling soon after launch “indicating the controllability was lost.”
Cryogenic boosters use super cooled liquid fuel and the technology has only been successfully developed by the US, Russia, France, Japan and China.
India had previously imported seven cryogenic engines from Russia, using five of them to launch heavy satellites over the last decade.
The technology is intended to launch heavier Indian satellites into high orbits, about 36,000 kilometres (22,000 miles) from the earth. Scientists say the mission failed because control of the two engines controlling the satellite was lost, resulting in loss of altitude and velocity.
Journalists at the scene of the launch said that scientists in the mission control area at Sriharikota in eastern India initially clapped and rejoiced after what appeared to be a successful launch – but their disappointment was apparent as the rocket deviated from its course.
India began developing cryogenic technology after Russia reneged on a deal to supply cryogenic engines in 1993 – following pressure from the United States, which believed India was using the technology to power missiles.
India hopes to emerge as a global player in the multi-billion dollar satellite launch market.