In a major disappointment for the Indian space establishment,the geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) mission with an indigenously built cryogenic stage at its heart had to be called off just over an hour before its scheduled launch on Monday evening after a fuel leak was detected in the second stage of the rocket.
The 29-hour countdown that began on Sunday progressed smoothly till about two hours before the scheduled launch at 4:50 pm,when the leak was detected during the liquid fuel stage. The final call to postpone the launch was taken about 74 minutes before the launch time.
We need to make an assessment of the cause of the leak and the action to be taken before further preparation for the launch, said K Radhakrishnan,ISRO chairman.
The rocket will be taken to the vehicle assembly building for inspection after draining the leaked liquid fuel and detaching the strap-on motors and the cryogenic engine.
Besides the payload communications satellite GSAT-14 there was much riding on this mission. Unlike the PSLV,the launch vehicle that has made Sriharikota a global spaceport of choice for lightweight satellites,the GSLV has a cryogenic stage. The liquified oxygen and hydrogen fuel offers much more thrust,which is necessary to ferry heavier payloads across the gravity barrier.
The mission was crucial for testing the homegrown cryogenic stage the first test after its failure three years ago to give the country the capability for launching big telecommunication satellites and 3,000 kg plus payloads.
Indias efforts to acquire the cryogenic technology have been stymied by the US which objected to Russia transferring know-how. Since then,it has struggled to replicate PSLVs success in GSLV.