Deal terms stymied checks on Russian engine health

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    Deal terms stymied checks on Russian engine health


    ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan on Saturday said weakness in a particular component of the Russia-supplied cryogenic engine, which had led to the GSLV-F06 blowing up shortly after launch last December, was an inherent problem and that the Russians have also admitted to it now.
    On a specific query on whether ISRO conducts independent examinations on the condition of the engines supplied by Russia, he said: “The contractual norms prevents us from doing that. We get the engines that are certified by Russian agencies, and integrate them in the presence of Russian representatives and launch the vehicle.”

    This episode, besides problems with Russian hardware, has also thrown up an issue that the ISRO will have to address –– a probable revisit of the kind of agreements it has with other agencies.

    So far, ISRO has been accepting the hardware, particularly the cryogenic engines, in a sealed condition and the question is whether another round of examination from the Indian organisation can help detect such problems.

    Stating that a weak ‘shroud’ in the Russian engine was the reason the launch vehicle had failed last December, Radhakrishnan said: “We are now informed that the problem also existed during the launch of GSLV-F04 in 2007, but it had not manifested, thereby, allowing a successful launch.”

    Issues undetected

    He was quick to explain that there were chances of some issues going undetected and sometimes they were only known after a failure like GSLV-F06.

    “It was only after the analysis of the failure of the engine of the GSLV-F06 did the Russians and we became aware of the problem,” he said, but did not comment on whether there was any form of compensation from their Russian counterparts for the loss incurred by India.

    The problem was detected and communicated to the Russians by the Failure Analysis Committee (FAC) headed by former ISRO Chairman Madhavan Nair.

    In the backdrop of the successive failures of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) programme, ISRO has, on priority, decided that it will do a complete audit of the programme before launching further satellites on the platform, Radhakrishnan said. And this has directly impacted other future programmes like the Chandrayaan-II and the ambitious Human Space Programme, to be launched on the GSLV platform.

    On the status of the two missions, Radhakrishnan said: “...Our first priority is to set right the issues with GSLV. However, both Chandrayaan-II and the manned mission are on schedule.”

    He said work on some critical technologies, including crew module, environment control and life support system and crew escape system for the manned mission, were progressing at the desired pace.

    While the FAC and GSLV Review Committee headed by former ISRO Chairman Kasturirangan have submitted their reports in April, the findings and recommendations will now be vetted by a panel comprising G K Menon, U R Rao, Kasturirangan, Madhavan Nair and Abdul Kalam, among other people.

    This will then reach the Space Commission, the Department of Space and ISRO.​
     
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