Launch of GSLV-F10

Early morning on Thursday, August 12, 2021, the GSLV-F10 rocket carrying Earth Observation Satellite EOS-03 successfully blasted off from the spaceport at Sriharikota. As the 26-hour countdown for Thursday’s launch concluded, the 51.70-metre tall rocket lifted off majestically at 05.43 am from the second launch pad at this spaceport. The Earth Observation Satellite would provide real-time images of the country and also be able to quickly monitor natural disasters. The objective of the mission was to provide near real-time imaging of large areas at frequent intervals, for quick monitoring of natural disasters, episodic events and obtaining spectral signatures for agriculture, forestry, water bodies as well as for disaster warning, cyclone monitoring, cloud burst and thunderstorm monitoring.

Issue: 10-2021By Air Marshal B.K. Pandey (Retd)Photo(s): By ISRO


The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Indian national space agency founded on August 15, 1969 by the famous scientist Vikram Sarabhai. With its headquarters in Bengaluru, ISRO is controlled by the Department of Space (DOS) which comes directly under the office of the Prime Minister of India. The Chairman of ISRO is also an executive of the DOS.

ISRO is the primary agency in India to handle tasks related to space exploration as also the development of related technologies. On the global scene, ISRO is one of six space agencies in the world that are controlled by the respective governments and which possess full launch capabilities, can deploy cryogenic engines, have the capability to launch missions into space and control a large number of satellites launched by them that are in orbit around the Earth. As of now, ISRO has undertaken over 110 missions into space and has plans for several more that would include new missions under the Gaganyaan programme the aim of which would be to demonstrate the capability to send humans to low earth orbit onboard an Indian launch vehicle and bring them back to Earth. ISRO has also undertaken missions to insert satellites into Mars orbit. The next mission designated as Mars Orbiter Mission 2, is planned for 2025. A highly complex mission for landing a space vehicle on the Moon designated as Chandrayaan-2 that was undertaken by ISRO in 2019, proved to be a partial success. ISRO now has plans to send a human being into space hopefully by 2023.

Prior to the launch of the GSLV-F10 rocket carrying Earth Observation Satellite EOS-03, in November 2020, ISRO had launched EOS-01, the first in the series of new Earth Observation Satellites that bear a new generic naming system. It was launched by Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), the third generation launch vehicle produced by ISRO. The EOS-01 was intended for applications in agriculture, forestry and for supporting disaster management. In February this year, ISRO had launched the Earth Observation Satellite Amazonia-1 and 18 co-passenger satellites on behalf of Brazil. The launch of the GSLV-F10 rocket that was carried out on August 12 this year, was initially planned to be undertaken in April or May this year. Unfortunately, on account of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic all across the globe, the date for launch was rescheduled for August this year.

The launch of the GSLV-F10 rocket carrying the Earth Observation Satellite EOS-03, is the second launch this year for the Indian space agency. The EOS-03 which is a new generation Earth Observation Satellite, was designed to provide almost real-time images of large parts of the country. The images received could be used for monitoring natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, water bodies, crops, vegetation and forest cover. The next mission into space after the launch of the GSLV-F10 rocket carrying the EOS-03 will be the launch of the Radar Imaging Satellite designated as RISAT 1A. This satellite will have the capability to capture images of the Earth during both day and night. Its cameras have the capability to capture images of the Earth through cloud cover as well.

Rather unfortunately for ISRO as well as for the nation, the mission into space with the GSLV-F10 rocket carrying the Earth Observation Satellite EOS-03, was not a total success. The failure of this high profile mission was attributed to a problem encountered about five minutes after the lift-off with the third stage of the GSLV-F10 rocket, which is powered by a Cryogenic engine produced indigenously. The GSLV-F10 rocket was supposed to insert the satellite in the geostationary transfer orbit from where the satellite’s onboard propulsion system would have guided it into a geostationary orbit around 36,000 km from the surface of the Earth. Apparently, the third stage of the GSLV-F10 rocket failed to ignite.

ISRO experienced failure of the GSLV-F10 rocket carrying the Earth Observation Satellite EOS-03 after 16 missions carried out successfully since the year 2017. The launch of GLSVF10 was expected to signify the restoration of normalcy in space exploration missions by ISRO that had been severely disrupted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from the loss of a crucial satellite, the failure of the GSLV-F10 rocket it is likely to have an adverse impact on the schedule of some high profile missions in the future. ISRO would have to analyse and establish precisely the cause of the failure. It would also be necessary for ISRO to take appropriate measures to rectify the fault to ensure success of missions in the future. ISRO must learn from the adage “Failures are the pillars of success”.