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August 3, 2020

Chandrayaan 2 launch called off: 5 reasons why rocket launches get delayed

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Chandrayaan 2

ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 Mission on Hold&nbsp

Key Highlights

  • Chandrayaan 2 launch has been called off due to a technical snag
  • If a small technical snag is even resolved in a matter of minutes, it still pushes back the launch schedule
  • Earlier, rocket launches have been called-off due to bad weather, strong winds and unfavourable temperature

Chandrayaan 2 is India’s most ambitious foray into deep space which was originally scheduled for lift off at 2:51 am today. However, a last-minute technical snag ensured the much-awaited launch did not take place and the expected September 6-7 deadline for India’s dream to reach the south pole of the Moon has been delayed for now. 

Although the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has not given a new date for the launch, it has through a tweet confirmed that a revised launch date for the launch will be announced later.



While the news has understandably dismayed a lot of people who had made way to the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota — and tens of thousands more who were following the launch live online and on TV — the fact remains that this is not the first rocket launch to have been called off at the last minute. 

In fact, it is quite common for rocket launches to be delayed because of existing or potential problems. While the reasons for this remain plenty, all of them are primarily a consequence of the singular reality that rockets are rather expensive and relatively fragile machines which need to be used quite cautiously. 

Chandrayaan-2 mission called off: Here are major reasons why rocket launches get delayed at the last minute. 

Bad weather

While not the case last night, unfavourable weather is the most common cause behind the delay in rocket launches. This is because rockets are quite heavy and fly at immense speed, and as such, manoeuvring them past the atmosphere and into space is not an easy task. 

And what makes this task even more difficult is the slightest of bad weather. 

Big launch vehicles such as the GSLV MK III — the launch rocket carrying the Chandrayaan 2 to outside the Earth’s outer orbit — cannot take off while any form of precipitation is falling. Because of the highly flammable fuel they carry, they are also susceptible to lightning when passing through disturbed clouds. So scientists try avoiding rocket launches on cloudy days. 

Strong winds

Such launches also get called off quite often because of heavy winds as they can disrupt the trajectory of the rocket, which flying at extremely fast speeds could be thrown off by more than a few degrees and hundreds of kilometers because of strong winds. 

Low temperatures

Apart from this, temperatures also play a big part in delaying rocket launches, with scientists generally avoiding launching shuttles when the mercury drops below 10 degrees Celsius.

Technical issues

Technical issues — such as the one faced ISRO before the launch of Chandrayaan 2 — also play a big role in delaying shuttle launches. 

As we mentioned above, rockets are extremely fragile and expensive machines, and launching them into the sky is dependent on a number of smaller machines coming together to work together in sync. While things do go according to plan mostly, at times because of the complexity of the machine, even a little technical issue could delay the launch. 

Now because these technical snags aren’t always easy to find, the countdown counter is either stopped, or the launch delayed indefinitely altogether in such cases to give the team enough time to fix the issue at hand. 

Missing launch windows

Another thing to note is that if a small technical snag is found and even resolved in a matter of minutes, it still pushes back the launch schedule for the rocket, which could see the rocket entirely miss its launch window, forcing scientists to call off the launch for the time. 

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