The launch of the Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F06) from here on Saturday ended in a failure, with the vehicle losing control 47 seconds after its flight, breaking up into pieces and erupting into a ball of flame.

As the vehicle veered off the safety corridor and the flaming debris could have fallen on the residential areas around Sriharikota, Range Safety Officer (RSO) V.K. Srivastava pressed the “destruct” button and the explosives around the vehicle ignited and destroyed it.

The destruct command was given 63 seconds after the lift-off.

When the vehicle disintegrated over the Bay of Bengal, it had reached an altitude of eight km and 2.5 km from the Sriharikota coastline. Gloom engulfed the Indian Space Research Organisation's engineers as they saw disaster striking the vehicle.

ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan said at a press conference: “The controllability of the vehicle was lost after 47 seconds because we found that the command to control it did not reach the actuator system in the first stage of the vehicle… We suspect that a connector chord, which takes the signal down, has snapped.”

Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvanthapuram P.S. Veeraraghavan explained that the command to control the vehicle from the Equipment Bay, the electronic brain of the vehicle resident atop the rocket, did not reach the actuators in the first stage. “So it was not basically a design problem but a problem of the connector snapping.”

The GSLV-F06, carrying communication satellite GSAT-5P, had a flawless lift-off at the appointed time of 4.04 p.m. It climbed majestically into the sky as the four strap-on booster motors around the core first stage and the first stage itself ignited on time.

The vehicle performance was normal up to 50 seconds. Soon afterwards, it lost control, went here and there, exploded into a ball of fire, and then it was destroyed. White, reddish orange and dark grey smoke filled the sky even as the flaming debris, like shooting stars, rained down.

Four GSLV failures

The previous GSLV flight in April 2010 also failed. Out of seven GSLV flights from 2001, four, including the latest one, have failed.

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