Snag snuffs out space bazaar splash
Let down by tried and tested motor
Mamata apology for Sonia confession
Bengal gets pass marks, just
Calcutta Weather

 
 
SNAG SNUFFS OUT SPACE BAZAAR SPLASH 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
Sriharikota, March 28: 
“And we have lift off!” exclaimed the Doordarshan commentator, as the engines of the rocket that would have put India in the elite space club ignited.

Seconds later, flames leaped up the side of the craft. The voice came on again: “The mission is aborted.”

A stunned Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said the mission to launch geosynchronous satellites had been postponed indefinitely after the setback caused by a technical fault.

India had hoped that a successful lift-off of the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, or GSLV-D1, would end the country’s reliance on foreign launch vehicles for its home-grown satellites and eventually establish it as a player in the lucrative space market.

India has in the past relied on Europe’s Arianespace to launch its big satellites.

A successful launch would have put India alongside the United States, Russia, Japan, China and the European Space Agency, which can all fire hefty satellites deep into space.

“These are all part and parcel of this kind of game,” a dejected Isro chairman K. Kasturirangan told a news conference at the Sriharikota space port, 100 km from Chennai, after the failed mission.

“We have decided that the mission is cancelled for the time being,” he added.

The first developmental flight of the GSLV-D1 was due to blast off from the southern coast at 3.47 pm. The lift-off was to have been followed by a televised address by the Prime Minister.

Cries of “Come on GSLV!” went up from a crowd of people standing on terraces beside the Bay of Bengal as they waited for the rocket to emerge from behind a deep wood of eucalyptus trees and shoot into the overcast sky.

But there was no lift-off.

“Once the liquid strap-ons were ignited, we found that within about three seconds, the automatic safety mechanism on the vehicle got activated and the system was shut down by itself,” Kasturirangan said.

He explained that one of the engines did not burn enough to give the “required thrust” for the lift-off. “How big is the problem, we have to assess in greater detail,” Kasturirangan said.

The Isro chief said he had called Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and informed him about the mishap. Vajpayee comforted him, saying it was part of the game and told him not to get frustrated.

Kasturirangan said he assured Vajpayee that all follow-up and remedial measures would be taken to launch the flight “at the earliest”.

He said the only silver lining was that the safety mechanism worked perfectly and protected the propellants. “The vehicle is safe,” Kasturirangan said.

The 161-foot rocket, weighing 401 tonnes, carried an experimental satellite weighing 1,540 kg. The GSLV would eventually be able to place heavy loads of around 2,000 kg in an east-west orbit synchronised with the Earth.

That would be a big jump from its predecessor, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, which could hoist around 1,000 kg in a north-south orbit along the poles.

More than 150 private and public companies have been involved in the making of the GSLV, a 10-year project which cost Rs 14 billion.

India began studying and experimenting with imported rockets in 1963. But a key aspect of the GSLV was its use of a Russian engine that uses liquid hydrogen as a fuel.

New Delhi’s attempt to import the technology to operate the engine from Russia was blocked by US sanctions following the nuclear blasts of May 1998 and it eventually bought only the engine from Russia.

   

 
 
LET DOWN BY TRIED AND TESTED MOTOR 
 
 
FROM G.S. MUDUR
 
New Delhi, March 28: 
Something went wrong today with the very first critical event in the launch of the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, India’s heaviest to date.

The first event, seconds before the intended take-off, was the simultaneous ignition of four rocket motors strapped to the first of the three-stage GSLV, each motor loaded with 40 tonnes of liquid rocket fuel.

A heavier rocket motor loaded with solid propellants, also on the first stage, was to ignite 4.6 seconds after the first event. Onboard computers use the short interval to confirm that each of the four liquid rocket motors is working normally.

As one of the four liquid rocket motors malfunctioned today, the take-off was aborted. The reason for the motor failure may only be explained after an analysis of the events during the ignition.

The 4.6-second gap between the ignition of the four liquid strap-on motors and that of the core solid motor is also intended to confirm that each of the four liquid motors has developed adequate thrust for lift-off.

The advantage of first firing the liquid rocket motors and then the solid motor is that the liquid motors can be shut down and the launch aborted. That leaves much of the launch vehicle intact and ready for another test launch.

Analysts said the malfunction cannot be dubbed entirely unanticipated. Nevertheless, the glitch is surprising because it has involved liquid rocket motor — a component of launch vehicles with which India has had much and successful experience.

The liquid strap-on rocket motors on the GSLV have been used for long on India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, a highly successful machine that is engaged in commercial operations.

The PSLV has emerged a workhorse launch vehicle to carry 1,000-kg satellites into 1,000-km orbits. The GSLV is designed to carry satellites weighing 1,500 to 2,000 kg into geostationary orbits, around 36,000 km above Earth.

The GSLV is without doubt the most challenging technological mission undertaken by the Indian Space Research Organisation. However, the malfunction today occurred right on the ground, and not during the most challenging phase of the GSLV flight’s mission sequence.

The several hundred sub-systems aboard the GSLV would have had their most rigorous tasks cut out during the intended 1,040-second flight into space.

   

 
 
MAMATA APOLOGY FOR SONIA CONFESSION 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, March 28: 
The Congress and the Trinamul Congress have worked out a compromise formula that will see Mamata Banerjee “apologise” to the electorate for her alliance with the “corrupt and communal BJP” and Sonia Gandhi admit her “folly” of being soft on the Left.

Sonia, who returned from Hong Kong tonight, will be briefed by general secretary Kamal Nath who plans to leave for Calcutta tomorrow after identifying seats for the Congress.

Sonia is keen on meeting Mamata to provide an “extra push” to the alliance. While no date has been fixed, sources said the Trinamul leader wants it to be held after the seat-share deal is finalised.

The prospect of a tie-up with Trinamul has enthused the Bengal Congress so much that at least a dozen “serious candidates” have cropped up for each Assembly segment. In Murshidabad alone, party leaders are eyeing all 19 seats. They want Mamata to vacate Vidyasagar and Srirampur, where the daughter of former state Congress president Gopal Das Nag is in the fray as Trinamul candidate, on the ground that the Congress has a sitting MLA.

The state Congress wants to claim 102 seats, but Nath presented a more pragmatic figure of 55-60. The breakup of 102 goes like this: in the 1999 general elections, the Congress finished ahead of the Trinamul in 53 Assembly segments, Congress MLAs retained control in 24 seats and one or two seats each in 18 districts.

Bengal Congress leaders spent considerable time debating whether seats that fell vacant after the death of party MLAs should belong to them or Trinamul. Mamata has long been claiming that these Congressmen had leanings towards her party. On the other hand, an overwhelming majority of Congressmen favoured the party staking claim to the seats where their colleagues had won in 1996.

State Congress leaders said Sealdah would be a “prestige seat” for them but Mamata is still trying to obtain it for Tapas Roy. Mamata told Congress leaders she had “nothing against” sitting MLA Somen Mitra and she would ensure a safe seat for him.

But the state Congress is unwilling to barter Sealdah. Sources close to Somen also rejected a proposal to consider him for the Rajya Sabha. “There will be no Rajya Sabha election for the next one-and-a-half years,” they said.

Nath, who chaired today’s meeting, said partymen were enthusiastic about the alliance, leading to a mad rush for tickets. “Suddenly we have a situation where in each seat, there are many aspirants. In the absence of seats going to the Congress quota, each leader has his/her own assessment,” Nath said, insisting that the party would not settle for less than “40 winning seats”.

BJP ends alliance

Accusing Mamata of stabbing the “Vajpayee government in the back”, the BJP today formally snapped ties with Trinamul. Breaking the 16-month alliance, BJP vice-president Kailashpati Mishra said: “We have closed our doors on Mamata and will fight the Assembly elections with some NDA partners and small parties.”    

 
 
BENGAL GETS PASS MARKS, JUST 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 28: 
The census verdict is clear: Bengal is nowhere near the top. At best, it is just better than average.

Bengal, with its policy of education for the masses, has a literacy rate of 69.22 per cent. It ranks 11th among states with Kerala at the top with a 90.92 per cent literacy rate. Tripura, too, is ahead of Bengal with its 73.66 per cent literacy rate.

Bengal’s sex ratio at 934 females per 1,000 males — a notch above the national average (excluding Union territories) of 933 — has again put the state behind 11 others.

The state can, however, draw comfort from the sharp drop in population growth at 17.84 per cent over the decade 1991-2001 compared with 24.73 per cent in the previous 10 years.

Releasing the 14th census report on Bengal for 2001, Vikram Sen, director of census operations, said the state recorded a 12 percentage point increase in the literacy rate over the past 10 years. The census, he said, was carried out between February 9 and February 28.

But school education minister Kanti Biswas would not comment on the report as he had yet to see it.

“But in the 1991 census,” the minister said, “we had ranked 18th in literacy rates among all states, including minor ones like Mizoram. According to another Central survey in 1997, our women’s literacy rate was the highest among major states, second only to Kerala.

According to the 1997 report, Bengal had the third largest number of literate persons among the major states after Kerala and Maharashtra.”

The state’s 69.22 literacy rate is largely due to a high 81.31 per cent rate in Calcutta, 78.49 per cent in North 24-Parganas and 77.64 per cent in Howrah.

In Calcutta, 77.95 per cent of the women were literate as on March 1, 2001, compared with 72.09 per cent in 1991. For men, this year’s figure is higher at 84.07 per cent against 81.94 in 1991.

But the census, while putting Calcutta’s population at 45,80,544 in 2001, up from 43,99,819 in 1991, has found that more and more people are moving to the suburbs with flats and commercial complexes coming up in the North and South 24-Parganas.

“There is a tendency among the middle- and lower middle-class people to buy flats and move to North and South 24-Parganas. We have noticed the same trend in Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad. We are trying to calculate the number of people commuting daily to Calcutta,” Sen said.

The census found Bengal was the most thickly populated state in the country with a population density of 904 per square km. The most densely populated districts after Calcutta are Howrah, North 24-Parganas and Nadia.

Calcutta has a population density of 24,760 per sq km. Howrah, North 24-Parganas and Nadia lag behind at 2,913, 2,181 and 1,172 respectively.

The census put the population of Bengal at 8,02,21,171 as on March 1 against 6,80,77,965 a decade ago. Midnapore remained the most populous district, comprising a little over 12 per cent of the total population.

North 24-Parganas and Burdwan ranked second and third respectively at 11.13 per cent and 8.63 per cent.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 35.8°C (+1)
Minimum: 25.9°C (+3)

Rainfall:

Nil

Relative humidity

Maximum: 95%,
Minimum: 53%

Today

Partly cloudy sky. Maximum temperature likely to be around 36°C.
Sunrise: 5.36 am
Sunset: 5.46 pm
   
 

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