ISRO chief S. Somanath interview | ‘An anomaly for 2 seconds led to SSLV mission’s underperformance’

ISRO chief S. Somanath interview | ‘An anomaly for two seconds led to SSLV mission’s underperformance’

2022-08-11 20:58:31

In contrast to Chandrayaan-2, the orbiter in Chandrayaan-3 is not going to have payloads to carry out experiments, says Somanath

In contrast to Chandrayaan-2, the orbiter in Chandrayaan-3 is not going to have payloads to carry out experiments, says Somanath

S. Somanath, chairman, Indian Area Analysis Organisation (ISRO), is a daring man and if he’s upset that ISRO’s Small Satellite tv for pc Launch Car (SSLV), in its debut mission from Sriharikota on August 7, put the Earth Statement Satellite tv for pc (EOS-2) and college students’ AzaadiSAT within the fallacious orbit, he doesn’t present it. ISRO mentioned the SSLV put the satellites right into a 356 km X 76 km elliptical orbit as an alternative of a 356-km round orbit. “Satellites are now not usable. Concern is fairly recognized. Failure of a logic to determine a sensor failure and go for salvage motion triggered the deviation”, ISRO defined.

The SSLV is a three-stage rocket and all its phases are powered by stable propellants. It’s designed to place a 500-kg satellite tv for pc into orbit.

Editorial | Area to be taught: On the failure of ISRO’s maiden small satellite tv for pc launch car mission

The identical night, Dr. Somanath gave an interview to The Hindu in Chennai and mentioned “an anomaly” for 2 seconds in one of many accelerometers within the launch car led to the mission’s underperformance. He defined at size what went fallacious and answered a spread of questions.

Dr. Somanath took over as ISRO chairman on January 14, 2022. He’s Secretary, Division of Area and Chairman, Area Fee. He was director, Vikram Sarabhai Area Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, earlier than he grew to become ISRO Chairman. He’s a reputed rocket technologist and performed a key position within the growth of ISRO’s GSLV-MkIII which weighs 640 tonnes. Excerpts:

The place was this logic which didn’t determine the sensor failure? Was it within the newly launched velocity trimming module?

It’s not the logic of the rate trimming module. This can be a logic of the launch car. When one thing isn’t working very nicely, the rocket can have a salvage possibility. Principally, we have a look at the varied failures that are doable in a rocket. We’re ready for failures, what we must always do with failures. One such situation known as the accelerometer failure. There are accelerometers and sensors round which measure the rocket’s acceleration within the ahead course. Supposing considered one of these accelerometers is a failure, what ought to we do subsequent? There are algorithms sitting within the aspect. The accelerometer can fail simply after lift-off… Nonetheless, it’s designed to place the satellite tv for pc within the appropriate orbit.

On this case, what occurred is that the measurement of the accelerometer confirmed some anomaly simply on the level of the separation of the second stage. When it confirmed such an anomaly, the interior laptop felt that the accelerometer had failed. Then it triggered one thing known as the salvaging operation.

What it is going to do subsequent is as an alternative of closed loop steering, it is going to provoke what known as the open loop steering. That’s, from that time [of failure] to salvaging, it is going to work in an open loop steering. There’s already a path written within the laptop that you must undergo this path to achieve the satellite tv for pc. … So it doesn’t search for acceleration knowledge however [the rocket] will merely go in that path. As soon as it’s going like that, the flexibility to place the satellite tv for pc within the appropriate orbit is barely diminished.

So what occurs is that on the finish of the following stage firing, the pc believes/assumes that “I can’t go additional however by some means separate the satellite tv for pc after the burning of this motor is anxious.” This stage isn’t a liquid stage [that is, not fuelled by liquid propellants]. It’s a stable rocket [fired by solid propellants].

However the stable motor can’t be stopped halfway. The pc will wait till the firing of the stable motor, at the moment firing, is accomplished. The anomaly occurred on the finish of the second stage. So the pc needs the third stage firing to finish. As quickly as it’s accomplished, the satellites are injected into orbit. It did that.

It did what it’s purported to do. However in that course of, it was wanting a small velocity. However this scarcity may be very pricey to the entire system. If the rate [with which the satellites should be injected into orbit] is 7.3 km per second, it has nearly reached 7.2 km per second or one thing. It’s now wanting 40, 50 or 60 metres per second. That is 7,300 metres per second versus 7,200 metres per second. This distinction is essential as a result of in that orbit, from a peak of 356 km… the perigee will come all the way down to the extent that its peak might be lower than the atmospheric peak. So the peak of the perigee we’re getting now’s 76 km.

As soon as the satellite tv for pc strikes in such an elliptical orbit, there’s an atmospheric drag and this drag will make the satellite tv for pc come down very quick. Inside 20 minutes or so, the satellite tv for pc will lose its orbit. So that is what actually occurred.

The problem we confronted right here is all the things within the rocket labored. All of the phases labored. All of the propulsions labored. All of the sequences labored. The one difficulty right here was that as a result of an anomaly within the accelerometer, the pc inside determined that the accelerometer had failed, therefore “I ought to save the car.” So it triggered a salvaging possibility which put the satellite tv for pc right into a fallacious orbit. So there was actually no difficulty with the accelerometers. They had been wholesome even afterwards.

Why the pc discovered that the accelerometers had a small difficulty is one thing we don’t perceive. There might be an precise downside within the sensor. Or there might be a logic downside within the sensor. However this can be a normal system that exists in all ISRO rockets. Wherever there’s an accelerometer of this nature, it is going to do precisely like this. So there’s nothing fallacious in the way in which it did it. However the sensor did this for this specific time.

At any time when the rocket phases are separating, there might be a transient. A small jerk might be there. On this jerky factor [this time], the accelerometer stage barely exceeded. So we must always relook whether or not the method to isolate or to not isolate may be suppressed.

You don’t need to declare it a failure. You possibly can look ahead to a bit of extra time after which have a relook at it. We’ve got considered it.

For 2 seconds this anomaly existed. After two seconds, it got here again to regular. Sadly, the pc declared that it was a failure inside these two seconds.

Two seconds?

There’s an unknown factor residing on this complete algorithm. Why two seconds? If it had been three seconds, the mission wouldn’t have been like this. If the extent of isolation was a bit of increased, it might not have occurred. There might be many causes. We’ve got to grasp why such issues occur. There might be a {hardware} failure, a software program glitch, an exterior set off or the shock of the transient was barely increased than what we anticipated as a result of it’s a new rocket. No matter now we have certified is for a brand new rocket. In a brand new rocket, the behaviour of this sort might be totally different. Most likely, if we had modified the edge ingredient, the mission may have been saved.

So it was not as a result of the SSLV was carrying satellites, weighing about 500 kg collectively, which had been heavier than it may carry?

No. Completely no difficulty with the car’s aerodynamics. Management techniques, all labored very nicely.

Is the car’s configuration alright?


Within the final PSLV flight in July 2022, ISRO carried out novel experiments utilizing the fourth stage of the launch car. The fourth stage didn’t come down after placing the three Singaporean satellites in orbit. You used it as a platform in orbit to conduct some experiments.

It was not the primary time we did it. We had carried out it earlier with the PSLV’s fourth stage.

Sure, you had carried out it earlier.

The fourth stage requires energy. In a rocket, the ability comes solely from the battery. In a satellite tv for pc, the ability comes from the photo voltaic panels. You want a pc which is operating in an everyday rocket. That laptop is a rocket initiation laptop. It can’t do that when the rocket is in orbit. So one other laptop is required. We change over from the launch laptop to the orbit laptop. It requires low energy and can be utilized in orbit.

The rocket takes its reference from the earth. The satellite tv for pc takes its reference when it’s in orbit. So now we have star sensors to assist it to search out its place by itself.

Lastly, what’s essential is we made the platform [the fourth stage] a managed one. Earlier, we made an uncontrolled one. It’s now able to altering its orientation by trying on the star sensors. It will probably obtain instructions from the earth. We’ve got a commanding functionality from the bottom to show, change on, change off and make the platform look in numerous instructions. It may be commanded in numerous orientations. So that is the great thing about what we did.

With this functionality, we will host payloads. So we hosted payloads on the platform from others in addition to from ISRO.

Chandrayaan-3 is not going to have an orbiter.

No. It’ll have an orbiter. We can’t go to the moon with out having an orbiter within the present configuration. The orbiter is there. We name it propulsion module this time as a result of the sooner orbiter had totally different payloads. So what we’re doing now’s we aren’t doing any experiments utilizing the orbiter’s payloads. The orbiter’s solely job is to take the lander as much as the moon’s orbit.

The orbiter in Chandrayaan- 3 is not going to have any payloads?

It is not going to have any payloads. The payloads are solely within the lander. For the lander to speak with the Earth, we want the orbiter. In any other case, the lander can’t talk instantly with the Earth. First, the lander will talk with the orbiter, the mom ship, and the mom ship will talk with the Earth. That’s the reason the mom ship, which might be orbiting across the moon, is important.

The lander and the rover…

The lander and the rover are already there. The orbiting ingredient can also be there. In contrast to Chandrayaan-2, the orbiter in Chandrayaan-3 is not going to have payloads to carry out experiments. It’s a mere relay station.

At what stage is ISRO’s Human Area Flight (HSF) or the Gaganyaan programme? There might be two unmanned flights first.

There are totally different missions deliberate. The at the beginning is the abort mission. So we’re planning on doing a take a look at car flight… There are 4 abort flights we’re planning on doing. Two of them might be carried out instantly. After that, we’ll do the primary GSLV-MkIII unmanned flight. After that, we’ll do two extra abort missions. Then we’ll do the second unmanned mission for the Gaganyaan. Solely after these six flights, we’ll do the manned mission.

Have our astronauts accomplished their coaching in Russia?

They’re right here.

No info is accessible on who these Indian astronauts are. Earlier, within the Nineteen Eighties, we knew that ISRO’s P. Radhakrishnan and N.C. Bhat had been to fly into area on board the U.S. area shuttle. Their names had been introduced and knowledge was obtainable about who they had been. However this time, we have no idea who our astronauts are and whether or not they belong to ISRO or the IAF.

They’re Indians (laughs).

They’re IAF take a look at pilots?

They’re Indians. That’s crucial information you must know.

Will two or three go within the first flight?

That may be a choice we’ll take a bit of later. Presently, we’re coaching 4 folks. The selection of flying one, two or three, that call we’ll take a bit of later.

Is their coaching full?

Their coaching isn’t full. It’s a course of. Till they go, the coaching will proceed. Their sensible coaching in Russia, theoretical coaching right here, simulator coaching and flight coaching — all these will proceed. It’s a part of their life.

How lengthy will they keep in orbit? What sort of experiments will they carry out?

The unique intent was to maintain them in orbit for no less than seven days and do some experiments associated to micro-gravity. This was the plan… However the experiments are they themselves and their car itself is an experiment. So they’ll conduct psycho-physiological measurements, the entire system validation and so on.

However then, seven days are an extended interval. It’ll want a variety of sources together with water, oxygen and different issues. It’s not a really large habitat [the crew module]. It’s a compact habitat. So positively, we is not going to enterprise into one week within the first mission. It will likely be for a short while. The entire goal is to point out that it’s doable to take folks there and convey them again safely. In direction of that, the length might be fastened. It will likely be fastened based mostly on varied components, how they’ll have the ability to talk, from what location we can get better them and so on… The length might be a lot shorter than one week on this mission.

The primary SRE (Area Capsule Restoration Experiment) mission in January 2007 was a giant success. You had been in a position to convey again the satellite tv for pc which was in orbit, it splashed down within the sea close to Ennore, Chennai and also you recovered it. ISRO introduced again the crew module within the Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) from orbit and recovered it from the ocean close to the Andaman archipelago. The Reusable Launch Car- Expertise Demonstrator (RLV-TD) was a hit. All these missions demonstrated that ISRO has mastered the re-entry know-how. So that you have to be raring to go forward with the Gaganyaan mission of sending our astronauts into area and bringing them again.

Sure, positively. This work is known as a excessive danger enterprise. On this dangerous enterprise, the one possibility is to constantly do exams of assorted nature to realize confidence. The one method we will develop confidence is by processes, by creating {hardware}, software program testing, anomaly testing, safety towards anomalies, like what you noticed on this SSLV. So no matter logic we’re occupied with, whether or not they’re working or not, now we have to truly put them to check. In Gaganyaan, now we have to truly create situations that are known as for within the flight and take a look at them. That is the distinction between an everyday rocket mission and a human area flight. So our choices are now we have to proceed doing the exams many numbers.

Will the manned flight be in 2024?

Our try is to do it by the tip of 2023 or in 2024.

What are the missions lined up within the coming months?

Our subsequent mission might be a GSLV-MkIII flight. It will likely be a business mission. We’re preparing for the PSLV-C54 mission, which can launch the Oceansat. It’s an earth commentary satellite tv for pc. We need to launch the following developmental flight of SSLV (SSLV-D2) in November. These are the quick launches earlier than November.

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