THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre director S. Somanath, the postponement of the launch of GSLV MkIII - M1/Chandrayaan -2 was not a challenging scenario. When he says so, he says it with conviction where this is not the first time he has experienced setbacks before the launch of a mission.
Just minutes after the successful launch of India’s second moon mission Chandrayaan – 2 which will explore the unchartered Lunar South Pole, he was at his ebullient self. He was one of the few space scientists who made the observation belonging to the mission control that it is not a good sign to launch the most powerful rocket GSLV-Mk0III-M1 from Sriharikota last week at the scheduled launch time.
There were around 50 – 60 space scientists and engineers when the mission team observed anomalies before the launch on July 15. But there were only five to six of them who knew precisely what went wrong. Certain confirmatory tests were done by Mr Somanath and his handful of team members, which proved that his assumption was right.
Immediately, he and his team alerted the mission director, Ritu Karidhal Srivastava, of a glitch that occurred in the launch vehicle system.
According to Mr Somanath, the sensors showed that helium gas was leaking from a bottle in the cryogenic upper stage of the rocket. The leak occurred after the propellant tanks in the cryogenic stage had been filled with liquid hydrogen, the fuel, and liquid oxygen, the oxidiser.
With the pressure not holding in the cryogenic chamber, mission control had no other option, but to call off the lift-off.
“I was not panicky when I observed that there are certain anomalies. We, space scientists, are in this industry for more than 30 years. This is not the first time we have experienced hiccups either. Only when you are ready for the launch, do we come to know that there are certain issues,” he told Deccan Chronicle.
He feels that after scores of mission launches, they are bound to experience hiccups of different natures. Sometimes, it will be a curve or a slight change in the graph which would see the launch being postponed. He prefers to compare the life of a space scientist with that of a cardiologist.
“When a cardiologist sees a change in ECG, will he panic? No, immediately the doctor will get into action. Likewise, we are engineers who are professionals equipped to handle any type of system failure,” he said.
The Rs 978 crore mission, which was rescheduled after scientists corrected the glitch in the rocket, was launched at 2.43 pm from the second launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.
Commenting on ISRO chairman Dr K. Sivan’s statement, ‘15 minutes of terror’, he said it was just an analogy used by him on the landing process on the moon which is definitely complex.