India's space programme, which has achieved major successes in the recent times, suffered a major setback when its ambitious GSLV-D3 launch vehicle failed and tumbled down into the Bay of Bengal off Sriharikota on 15th April, 2010 (yesterday).
On test was the indigenously developed cryogenic engine which powered the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. The vehicle itself was not destroyed as it landed harmlessly into the Bay of Bengal.
This launch was crucial for the Indian Space programme. If it had been successful, then India would have achieved self-sufficiency in cryogenic engine technology. Previously, Russian built cryogenic engines were used in the five GSLV flights from 2001 to 2007. The cryogenic technology is essential in putting heavy satellites (GSAT-4 in the present case) into a geo-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 36,000 km. ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) had been working tirelessly for more than 17 years to develop a cryogenic engine.
ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan, is reported to have said "We are not sure whether the cryogenic main engine did ignite. We have to confirm this after looking at various parameters that were monitored during the flight". However prima facie, it appeared that the problem lay with the ignition of the cryogenic engine, which after firing for 720 seconds, would have put the GSAT-4 into orbit.
With this failure, the fructification of the Indian dream of an indigenous cryogenic engine has been postponed indefinitely!