Why ISRO’s launch of Earth-watching satellite failed?

Source: Mint, India Express, The Hindu

What is the news?

Recently, ISRO’s attempt to put EOS-03 satellite using GSLV-F10 into the orbit failed.

What went wrong?

The upper stage, powered by a cryogenic engine fuelled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen at very low temperatures, failed to ignite. The rocket lost the power to carry on & most likely fell off somewhere in the Andaman Sea.

Cryogenic stage

This stage uses a cryogenic engine to generate thrust to reach the desired location in space.

  • Cryogenic engine uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen which takes rocket into the orbit. It is more efficient than solid stage and liquid stage since it generates more thrust and higher specific impulse.
Challenges in cryogenic stage

Cryogenic stage is very challenging because it involves a very complex system.

  • Maintenance of very low temperature: The fuel (liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen) needs to be kept at very low temperatures. The fuel is then pumped by using turbo pumps running at around 40000 rpm.
  • Complex ground support system needed: It also requires complex ground support system, making Cryogenic stage a challenging procedure.

Note: GSLV Mk-II and GSLV Mk-III both uses cryogenic engine while GSLV Mk-III  uses an indigenously-developed cryogenic engine in the upper stage.

  • On future missions: Missions like Gaganyaan and Chandrayaan-3 will be launched on GSLV Mk-III, which is more advanced version of the GSLV rocket designed to carry much heavier payloads into space. The cryogenic engine used in GSLV Mk-III, called CE20, uses a different process to burn fuel which is simple and ISRO scientists have a much better grip on its technology. Therefore, it might not directly impact the schedule of Gaganyaan or Chandrayaan-2
  • On NISAR mission– It is a collaboration between NASA and ISRO for a joint earth-observation satellite. It is the most important mission till date, involving the GSLV Mk-II rocket. The recent failure is a setback to this mission, and is likely to force a thorough investigation into the cryogenic stage of the GSLV Mk-II rocket.

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