BANGALORE, India (AFP) – An Indian space rocket carrying a communications satellite exploded Saturday after lifting off from southern India, live TV footage showed.
The rocket exploded in a plume of smoke and fire moments after taking off from the Sriharikota launch site, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the city of Chennai, state-owned Doordarshan TV showed.
The United News of India (UNI) said the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) veered from its intended flight-path and disintegrated seconds after lift-off.
The Christmas Day launch had originally been scheduled for December 20 but was postponed after engineers discovered a leak in one of the Russian-designed engines of the GSLV, the news agency added.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) officials who conducted the unsuccessful launch were not immediately available for comment.
UNI, quoting unnamed ISRO officials, said a technical snag caused the rocket to malfunction.
In July, an Indian rocket successfully put five satellites into orbit, three months after the country’s space ambitions suffered a setback when a rocket crashed on lift-off.
India aims to launch its first manned space mission in 2016 and wants to grab a larger share of the multi-billion-dollar market for launching commercial satellites.