The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) first small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV) with the Earth observation satellite EOS-02 and the student satellite AzaadiSAT as co-pilots did not run as planned on Sunday.
The mission went awry when SSLV-D1 placed the satellites in an elliptical rather than circular orbit, rendering them “unusable,” ISRO later said in a statement.
In its statement, ISRO said: “SSLV-D1 placed the satellites in a 356 km x 76 km elliptical orbit rather than a 356 km circular orbit. Satellites are no longer usable. The problem is reasonably identified. The failure of logic to identify a sensor error and initiate salvage action caused the deviation.”
(1/2) SSLV-D1/EOS-02 Mission Update: SSLV-D1 placed the satellites in a 356 km x 76 km elliptical orbit instead of a 356 km circular orbit. Satellites are no longer usable. The problem is reasonably identified. Failure of logic to identify sensor failure and perform salvage action
— ISRO (@isro) August 7, 2022
We’re investigating what went wrong with the satellite launch.
At 9:18 am on Sunday, ISRO’s first Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) lifted off from Sriharikota.
The space agency’s mission was aimed at scoring a bigger pie in the small launch vehicle market as it could launch the satellites into low-Earth orbit.
According to a report published in The cable, the problem seemed to be the SSLV’s final stage, called the Velocity Trimming Module (VTM). According to the launch profile, the VTM should have burned for 20 seconds at 653 seconds after launch. However, it only burned for 0.1 seconds, denying the rocket the altitude boost it needed.
The two satellites on board the rocket – the primary Earth observation satellite EOS-2 and the secondary AzaadiSAT student satellite – were separated from the vehicle after the VTM burned. This means they also likely missed their intended orbit, entering an elliptical orbit instead.
The space agency tweeted at around 11:43 a.m. Sunday while announcing the launch that “all stages were operating normally. Both satellites were injected. But the orbit achieved was less than expected, making it unstable.”
At 2:48 p.m. ISRO had stated that it had identified both the mission as a failure and the cause of the failure.
Later, ISRO Chairman S. Somanath said in a video statement: “The vehicle took off majestically with the first stage firing and the subsequent S2 and S3 performed very well. The mission’s performance was very good and when it finally reached orbit at an altitude of 356 km, the satellites separated. However, we later noticed an anomaly in the placement of the satellites in orbit.”
The Chairman further explained that when a satellite is placed in such an orbit, the satellites cannot stay on course for long and crash. “The satellites have already come down from this orbit and are no longer usable,” Somanath said.
According to ISRO, “The failure of the logic to detect a sensor error and initiate a salvage operation caused the deviation. A committee would analyze and recommend. With the implementation of the recommendations, ISRO will come back with SSLV-D2 soon.”
Not the first failure
This is not the first time that ISRO has suffered a setback when launching a mission.
The Polar Satellite Vehicle Launch (PSLV), now considered reliable workhorses by ISRO, was unsuccessful on its first flight on September 20, 1993.
ISRO suffered its first defeat on August 10, 1979, when the country’s first test flight of SLV-3 with Rohini technology payload failed to place the satellite in its intended orbit.
ISRO experienced its biggest setback on September 7, 2019, when instead of making a soft landing on the lunar surface, the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter crashed and was destroyed along with the rover. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was present at the space agency to witness the historic mission, later offered his condolences to the ISRO staff and said that what they had achieved was no small feat.
— ANI (@ANI) September 7, 2019
Later in August 2021, the launch of GISAT-1, an Earth observation satellite aboard the GSLV Mk 2 rocket, failed just under 350 seconds after its launch from the Indian Cosmodrome. According to ISRO’s initial analysis on launch day, this was caused by “a technical anomaly in the cryogenic phase.”
With contributions from agencies
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