ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organization, saw its GSLV Mark 1 rocket begin to disintegrate about a minute after launch today. It was carrying the GSAT-5P telecommunications satellite. The launch was at 5:34 a.m. EST (10:34 GMT).
The launch started off well but just a minute after launch the rocket appeared to begin veer off course before it disintegrated. The problem appears to have been with the first stage. Of the three launches India has attempted this year, two have failed.
The GSAT-5P communication satellite was to provide wider coverage in uplink and downlink over Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe and was to have a mission life of approximately 14 years and would have been the fifth satellite to be launched in the GSAT series. This is second failed launch for India this year.
India's GSLV rocket consists of a large solid rocket first stage with four liquid fuelled strap-on boosters. Each of the boosters is powered by an Indian developed Vikas engine. The second stage is liquid fuelled and also uses a Vikas engine. The third stage is a Russian KVD-1M third stage cryogenic engine and it is this stage where a leak was discovered on December 19th which delayed the launch. However after conducting test ISRO was satisfied that the leak would not affect the launch and gave the green light for launch.
India which has seen its space program grow considerably with on average 20% yearly budget increases in the past three years is developing its own cryogenic engine as well man rating it's GSLV mark 2 and 3 rockets to eventually launch their own astronauts.
However the Indian space program has not been without its setbacks this year. Earlier this year a GLSV rocket with an Indian developed cryogenic upper stage on it's maiden voyage failed when it veered off course sending its payload into the ocean.
India which typically launches two to three rockets a year currently has a backlog of missions to launch. In fact, India has nine launches tentatively scheduled for next year. It remains to be seen if they can meet such an ambitious launch schedule.