SCIENTISTS of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had noticed the leak of helium, a fuel in the fourth stage of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), an hour 'before' take-off on September 29, a senior rocket scientist involved in the programme has told Outlook .
But ISRO's big bosses decided to overlook the leak, hoping that the third and second stages would offset the problem. However, the second stage too malfunctioned—one propellant is suspected to have run out before the other—placing the IRS-1D in a wrong orbit, sparking panic. "The leak was visible to anyone who watched the live telecast of the launch. There were reddish-orange fumes coming out near the fourth stage," says the scientist. ISRO bosses, he feels, decided to go ahead as prime minister I.K. Gujral had flown down to witness the "prestigious" event.