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India's return to space fails after first locally built cryogenic engine experiences 'anomaly'

Upper stage didn't ignite, Earth observation satellite likely lost

India's return to space has failed, after the upper stage of a Thursday launch went awry.

The Register tuned into see the launch of GSLV-F10, which soared to an altitude of over 120km after its main booster and four auxiliaries performed admirably, then the second stage did likewise.

But around seven minutes into the flight, things went awry. The live stream of the launch became rather tense. Live commentary ceased, and viewers were offered a view of increasingly glum-looking officials.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) officials soon admitted that the launch had failed, as the upper-stage cryogenic engine did not ignite properly.

At 48:30 in the live stream an announcement was made about the failure:

"Attention all stations, this is range operations director. Performance anomaly observed in the cryogenic stage. Mission will not be accomplished fully."

At the time of writing, ISRO has issued a tweeted statement to explain the situation.

Today's mission, GSLV-F10, carried an Indian Earth observation satellite. It was the 14th launch of the GSLV rocket – a three-stage affair that previously used Russian tech for its cryogenic upper stage.

India hasn't been entirely comfortable with that arrangement since the mid-1990s and therefore sought to develop its own cryogenic engine.

The result was the CE-7.5 used in today's launch.

India prides itself on being able to launch into space with its own tech and at a price few nations – or private operators – can match. The nation has also embarked on a self-sufficiency drive, both to nourish local industry and to create export opportunities. Today's launch, ISRO's first since late 2020, was seen as an exemplar of India's capabilities and post-COVID resilience.

Those aims were not met today. Worse yet, the rocket's cargo was intended to assist future emergency management efforts. ®

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