Fuel leak halted blastoff for Indian rocket: reports

Indian Space Research Organization's satellite launch vehicle carrying Chandrayaan-2 stands at Satish Dhawan Space Center after the mission was aborted at the last minute at Sriharikota, in southern India, on July 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Updated 16 July 2019

Fuel leak halted blastoff for Indian rocket: reports

  • The launch would have been the third to the moon this year; China put its Chang’e 4 mission on the lunar surface in January
  • Israel’s $100 million Beresheet crash-landed when it sought to become the first privately funded mission in April

SRIHARIKOTA, India: A fuel leak in the rocket engine forced India to abort the launch of its landmark Moon mission less than one hour before liftoff, media reports said Tuesday.
A committee of experts was looking into the causes of the problem that put back the bid to become just the fourth nation — after Russia, the United States and China — to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
Having halted the countdown 56 minutes and 24 seconds before the scheduled launch of Chandrayaan-2 — or Moon Chariot 2 — the Indian Space Research Organization gave no explanation for what it called a “technical snag” in the rocket nor a date for a new attempt.
“As a measure of abundant precaution Chandrayaan-2 launch has been called off,” ISRO said.
However, the Times of India quoted a senior mission scientist as saying there had been a leak in the GSLV-MkIII rocket’s helium fuel component.
“After filling helium, we found the pressure was dropping, indicating there was a leak,” the unnamed scientist said adding that it was possible there were “multiple leaks.”
“We were lucky that the mission did not enter the automatic launch sequence else all would have been lost,” the Hindustan Times quoted a senior ISRO official as saying.
The report added that scientists were “racing to plug the leak” in time for a new launch window at the end of July.
Experts said Indian mission chiefs would be cautious about trying a new liftoff.
“If the launch does not happen in the next 48 hours, it could be postponed for a few months until we get an opportune launch window,” said Ravi Gupta, a scientist formerly with the state-run Defense Research and Development Organization.
India has spent about $140 million on Chandrayaan-2, with most of it home-made. It is one of the cheapest in the crowded space race.
The launch would have been the third to the moon this year.
China put its Chang’e 4 mission on the lunar surface in January, while Israel’s $100 million Beresheet crash-landed when it sought to become the first privately funded mission in April.
A soft landing on the Moon would be a huge leap forward in India’s space program.
National pride is at stake as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to launch a crewed space mission by 2022.
It follows another high-profile but low-cost Indian mission — Mangalyaan — which put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars in 2014 at a fraction of the cost of comparable projects by established space powers like the United States, which often cost billions of dollars.
The Indian mission involved a 2.4-ton orbiter that will circle the Moon for about a year taking images and testing the atmosphere. A lander named Vikram was to take the rover to the surface near the lunar South Pole.
The rover that was to be put on the surface on September 6 was to spend 14 days sending back data on rocks and soil.
India’s first lunar mission in 2008 did not land on the Moon but orbited it searching for water using radar.
New Delhi also has ambitions to land a probe on Mars, following the success of the Mangalyaan orbiter.
Lunar exploration has been in focus in recent months with the looming 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon, and US President Donald Trump giving NASA a 2024 deadline to return astronauts to the lunar surface.
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India reimposes movement curbs on parts of Kashmir’s main city after clashes

Updated 30 min 25 sec ago

India reimposes movement curbs on parts of Kashmir’s main city after clashes

  • There were violent overnight clashes between residents and police in which dozens were injured
  • India has been fighting a revolt in which at least 50,000 people have been killed

SRINAGAR: Indian authorities reimposed restrictions on movement in major parts of Kashmir’s biggest city, Srinagar, on Sunday after violent overnight clashes between residents and police in which dozens were injured, two senior officials and eyewitnesses said.
In the past 24 hours, there has been a series of protests against New Delhi’s Aug. 5 revocation of the region’s autonomy. This followed an easing in curbs on movement on Saturday morning.
The state government has said that it has not imposed a curfew over the past two weeks, but on Sunday people were being turned back at multiple roadblocks set up in the city in the past few hours. Security forces at some roadblocks have told residents there is a curfew.
Two senior government officials told Reuters that at least two dozen people were admitted to hospitals with pellet injuries after violent clashes broke out in the old city on Saturday night.
Representatives in the Jammu and Kashmir government in Srinagar and the federal government in New Delhi did not immediately return calls asking about the latest clampdown or seeking an assessment of the number of injuries and clashes.
One of the official sources said that people pelted security forces with stones in around two dozen places across Srinagar. He said that the intensity of the stone pelting protests has increased over past few days.
The heavy overnight clashes took place mostly in Rainawari, Nowhetta and Gojwara areas of the old city where Indian troops fired tear smoke, chilly grenades and pellets to disperse protesters, eyewitnesses and officials said.
Chilly grenades contain very spicy chili pepper, and produce a major eye and skin irritant, as well as a pungent smell, when they are unleashed.
The officials, who declined to be identified because they aren’t supposed to talk to the media, said clashes also took place in other parts of the city including Soura, a hotbed of protests in the past two weeks.
A senior government official and hospital authorities at Srinagar’s main hospital said that at least 17 people came there with pellet injuries. They said 12 were discharged while five with grievous injuries were admitted.
The hospital officials and a police officer told Reuters that a 65-year-old man, Mohammad Ayub of Braripora, was admitted to the hospital after he had major breathing difficulties when tear gas and chilly grenades were fired in old city area on Saturday afternoon. He died in the hospital on Saturday night and has already been buried, they said.
Javed Ahmad, age 35 and from the wealthy Rajbagh area of Srinagar, was prevented from going to the old city early Sunday morning by paramilitary police at a barricade near the city center. “I had to visit my parents there. Troops had blocked the road with concertina wire. They asked me to go back as there was curfew in the area,” he said.
Telephone landlines were restored in parts of the city on Saturday after a 12-day blackout and the state government said most telephone exchanges in the region would start working by Sunday evening. Internet and cell phones remain blocked in Kashmir.
More than 500 political or community leaders and activists remained in detention, and some have been flown to prisons outside the state.
For 30 years in the part of Kashmir that it controls, India has been fighting a revolt in which at least 50,000 people have been killed. Critics say the decision to revoke autonomy will cause further alienation and fuel the armed resistance.
The change will allow non-residents to buy property in Jammu and Kashmir, and end the practice of reserving state government jobs for local residents.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has said the measure is necessary to integrate Kashmir fully into India and speed up its development.