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Updated: January 1, 2011 02:00 IST

Snapping of connectors caused GSLV failure: ISRO

Staff Reporter
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The GSLV–F06 from Sriharikotta which ended in failure on Saturday. File Photo: V. Ganesan
The Hindu The GSLV–F06 from Sriharikotta which ended in failure on Saturday. File Photo: V. Ganesan

A Preliminary Failure Analysis Team constituted to study the flight data of GSLV-F06, which crashed seconds after its launch on December 25, said that the primary cause of the failure was “the untimely and inadvertent” snapping of a group of 10 connectors located at the base of the Russian Cryogenic stage.

The premature snapping of these connectors stopped the flow of control commands to the core First Stage control electronics, leading to the loss of control and breakup of the vehicle, said a press statement from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Friday. The precise cause of the snapping of this set of connectors — whether due to external forces such as vibration or dynamic pressure — is to be analysed further, the statement added.

Command signals

Some of these connectors carried command signals from the onboard computer located in the Equipment Bay (near the top of the vehicle) to the control electronics of the four L40 strap-ons of the First Stage. These connectors were intended to be separated only during a separation command at 292 seconds after lift-off.

The performance of the GSLV-F06 flight (with GSAT-5P Satellite onboard) was normal up to 47.5 seconds from lift-off. The events leading to the failure began at 47.8 seconds after lift-off. Soon, the vehicle started developing “larger errors” in its orientation “leading to build-up of higher angle of attack and higher structural loads,” according to ISRO. The vehicle broke up at 53.8 seconds from lift-off. A “destruct” command was issued from the ground at 64 seconds after lift-off as per the Range safety norms.

The Preliminary Failure Analysis Team was chaired by the former ISRO Chairman, G. Madhavan Nair, and analysed the flight data along with members of the Launch Authorisation Board, the Mission Readiness Review Committee as well as senior functionaries of the GSLV Project and experts.

The ISRO has now constituted a Failure Analysis Committee to carry out an in-depth analysis of the flight data of GSLV-F06 and data from the previous six flights of GSLV. The committee will establish reasons for the failure of GSLV-F06 and recommend corrective actions on the GSLV vehicle, including the remaining solitary Russian Cryogenic engine. The Failure Analysis Committee has 11 experts drawn from within ISRO and outside.

The ISRO has also constituted a Programme Review and Strategy Committee to look into the future of the GSLV Programme and the launches of the INSAT/GSAT Series, INSAT-3D and Chandrayaan-2. It will work towards the operationalisation of the indigenous Cryogenic Stage and come up with a strategy for meeting the demands of communication transponders in the immediate future, the statement said. This seven-member committee will be headed by K. Kasturirangan, former ISRO chairman.

These two Committees have been requested to submit their reports by the end of January 2011. The reports will be presented to eminent scientists and engineers, including A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, M.G.K. Menon, Yash Pal, U.R. Rao, K. Kasturirangan, Mr. Madhavan Nair, R. Chidambaram, and R. Narasimha.

“Internal exercise”

A panel chaired by S.C. Gupta, former member of Space Commission, will guide and facilitate an “internal exercise” by the ISRO chairman, and elicit “views from the ISRO community at all levels to gear up for the complex and challenging space missions ahead.”

The ISRO plans to complete these reviews and internal exercises by end of February 2011.

Keywords: GSLV failureISRO

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I would suggest ISRO to stop 'borrowing' technology from Russia and invest in it's own research. Why can't we make things without copying designs from other countries. The same kind of attitude exists in prominent companies like BHEL as well.

from:  Ravi Chandra
Posted on: Jan 4, 2011 at 03:28 IST

Snapping of the connector may be a cause of failure in secondary level (it cannot be primary cause). But what caused the connector to snap is more important. It requires physical forces to make this happened; it may be vibration level or some other forces. One may not ignore cause as sabotage. After finding the real cause, ISRO can able to take proper corrective action. Anyway wish all the best to ISRO for all future missions. We are sure ISRO will overcome this state and GSLV will be a successful rocket like PSLV.

from:  Sanjit Ghosh
Posted on: Jan 3, 2011 at 13:46 IST

@Kalyan - how can you assume that this came down to one set of wires? Do not equate reliability of space launches with the reliability of call centres. Absolutely nothing happens if a call centre drops a call. The customer or client will just pick up the phone and dial again. A lot of different systems and disciplines have to be integrated to launch a satellite or spacecraft, and there is no guaranteed success, simply because it is not easy to predict some situations. Do you think the ISRO, which is one of the best of Indian enterprises needs advice from rank outsiders working in call centres?

from:  B S Kumar
Posted on: Jan 3, 2011 at 12:25 IST

I strongly disagree with the comments of Mr. Martin. Nobody is cheap in this world. Everybody has the ability to rise up from the failures. No one country can claim dominance these years. What about Chandrayaan? Wasn't that a success?? If USA, which has more that 70 years of space exploration and research experience, could not avert the Columbia disaster, what right does anybody have to degrade ISRO?

from:  Divya
Posted on: Jan 3, 2011 at 09:36 IST

Ok, it's time to reconcile - I have been having this anguish at ISRO's recent failures too. Nothing can be achieved just by getting angry. It is a very positive step by ISRO to put a clear, time bound plan to undertake detailed 'Failure Analysis' and more importantly by involving the former experts of ISRO and Scientific community to review the findings - please take note of the agressive timelines they have committed to. It will be wrong to strip off ISRO of all it's successes for these few recent failures - however expensive they may be. Those who get angry and restless with these failures should read 'Bill Bryson's - Brief history of nearly everything'; it brings to fore the '99% failure rate' (at times as expensive as life of the scientists) of most of the discoveries and inventions. We are here to learn from failures of our own and others, so forget the past and start thinking of the future. All that we need is a 'vigilant' public eye and 'constructive' feedback and demand for 'time bound' plans. Having said that we do expect more stringent design and testing procedures from ISRO

from:  Ezhilan Ilanthiraiyan
Posted on: Jan 3, 2011 at 03:18 IST

One can paper over this loss and fill the ISRO folks with further enthusiasm for future success or one could take long hard look at our procedures and work culture and come out with some meaningful solutions and processes that ensure future successes. Few things I would like to put out for consideration for ISRO: Do not get taken by all the postive press that comes out. Modern news is all about ratings. They can and will make sensational news out of ice cream being served in the cafeteria. - Testing and retesting is good. But we need to know why something fails as much as why something works. Engineers need to know how to make things work. Scientists need to know how things work, don't work and fail. - High end science is not a cheap venture - Quality over cost. A vendor will charge a premium for a quality product. By paying them, you are doing yourself a favor.

from:  Kalyan
Posted on: Jan 2, 2011 at 19:05 IST

It's bad for all you pessimists and Clint in particular to have cast aspersions and doubts on a nation that thrives to do it's best with it's own homegrown effort. China has rocketed ahead of India at least for now because it has copied everything that it needed from the Russians and the Americans to stay ahead of India with a vengeance. India has done fairly well in a short time and all it needs is a boost to prop it ahead of China in the space race by putting a man on the moon. (no pun intended )

from:  Kumar Menon
Posted on: Jan 2, 2011 at 18:28 IST

If you cannot produce connectors that hold up in flight why claim so much of scientific progress. We are just a bunch of cheap corner cutters and our whole culture is the same - anything that is cheap cheap cheap. That is the reason all we produce is call centre and job work . Main exports LABOUR and low tech rubbish.

from:  Clint Martin
Posted on: Jan 2, 2011 at 12:01 IST

Has anyone seen the movie 'The Right Stuff' movie, about the American space program and the programs such as Gemini,Apollo and the Shuttle program. You will see how many failures these pilots/scientist and others had before they could put a man on the moon.The key is to have a good redundancy and testing program. It is critical that every minor component is tested, retested,re-retested for failure and a 'reliability model' applied. What are folks in IIT Reliablity departments and NITIE scientist doing in this effort to rectify the situation for future. Are the politician involved in this? If so then consider it doomed.

from:  Avichi
Posted on: Jan 2, 2011 at 10:32 IST

Saying that 'The snapping of the wires led to the rocket failure' is just an over simplification of the causes that led to the failure. A set of cables won't cost more than Rs 1000.00 whereas the entire rocket would cost an immense amount. I have tried to get them to use high quality materials, but their over-reliance on the principles of 'buying the cheapest' has led to the failure. It is more that they rely on archaic government feeling that 'They Know Best, and that they would continue in their ways'.

from:  Sridarre
Posted on: Jan 2, 2011 at 08:02 IST

Did ISRO check for controls before launch? How could connectors snap by themselves? If there are no foolproof techniques adopted for such basic structural issues, how could ISRO handle technically sophisticated, complex space technologies of the future? It seems unacceptable to me that that a Rs. 400 Crore machine has burnt into ashes because of snapping of connectors.

from:  Varma
Posted on: Jan 2, 2011 at 00:02 IST

@ Kalyan:The connectors were two infact, main and redundant. Both had got snapped blocking both main and redundant buses.

from:  Puneeth
Posted on: Jan 2, 2011 at 00:00 IST

O.K. Failures are stepping stones to success. But what about the crores of rupees spent on this kind of research. Can we, a country like India, afford this kind of expenses?

from:  S. RAVICHANDRAN
Posted on: Jan 1, 2011 at 21:59 IST

We know that failure is first step to the success. some failures can be excused, but repetitive failures can never be tolerated. It is well known fact that our government is not spending on R&D as rest of 5 nations, in this scenario success is inevitably important.!

from:  Surendra Salke
Posted on: Jan 1, 2011 at 21:09 IST

Failures are pathways to success, sure, but do we really have to repeat the failures of others? It does not make sense that single points of failure (SPOF's) (such as the connector in this case) are allowed to remain in a mission such as a rocket launch. Any datacenter manager insists on double if not triple redundancies to avoid SPOF's, not sure why the launch team chose to have only one set of wires for transmitting commands. The nation is expecting big things from ISRO.

from:  Kalyan
Posted on: Jan 1, 2011 at 19:01 IST

Failures are always the best ways to learn. The country has great faith and hope in ISRO and such incidents are not going to dent that faith. Best luck to the team and wishing them a great success ahead!

from:  Amol
Posted on: Jan 1, 2011 at 16:49 IST

The ISRO team will have to work hard and may have to develop better testing facilities.Best wishes for all their future endeavours.

from:  Viswanath
Posted on: Jan 1, 2011 at 16:10 IST

It is very nice to know ISRO could find out what is problem. I am sure with eminent scientist ISRO has, it can solve the issue and succeed in their next missions. Even technically advanced countries have failed. ISRO need not get disheartened by failures and criticism. Wish them all good luck in 2011.

from:  CVM Krishna
Posted on: Jan 1, 2011 at 09:48 IST

We should not be disheartened. Even Americans have failed after having half a century experience in Space tech. Every failure is a right route to success. Next time we will succeed.

from:  Sam Chopra
Posted on: Jan 1, 2011 at 06:41 IST
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