Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO): successfully launches India’s most powerful rocket today: GSLV-Mk III

Indian Space Research Organisation, today, launched its monster rocket, Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III), with 3,136 kg communication satellite GSAT-19 from second launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, in Andhra Pradesh at 5.28pm.

The 43.43 metre tall, 640 ton rocket, will, just over 16 minutes into its flight, sling the GSAT-19 at its intended orbit at an altitude of 179 km.

ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar said: “It is a historic day. The entire team has worked since 2002. The vehicle carried the next generation satellite. We are looking forward to getting the satellite operational.”

The three-stage vehicle was propelled by an indigenously designed and developed cryogenic engine CE-20, in its upper stage (C25 stage) before it ejected the satellite into its orbit. GSAT-19’s propulsion system will be later used for the satellite to reach its geostationary orbital home.

Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre director Dr K Sivan said, “It is the commencement of two complex technologies – a vehicle that can carry twice the payload weight and a high throughput satellite. It is the continued efforts of the team and industry contribution.”

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-Mk III), nicked named ‘fat boy’, has a capacity to hurl four-tonne communication satellites into a higher orbit. It also has the potential to carry a 10-tonne capsule for a manned mission to space.

The GSLV MKIII is a beast capable of carrying of payloads up to 4,000kg into what are called geosynchronous transfer orbits (GTO, or 35,000km above the earth’s atmosphere) and upto 8,000kg into the low earth orbits (600km above). It follows ISRO’s nearly 30-year journey to put a heavy launch vehicle in operation.

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle or (GSLV) Mk III will lift off from the Sriharikota space centre, ISRO or the Indian Space Research Organisation says.

The 640-tonne rocket weighs as much as 200 full-grown Asian elephants or five Jumbo jets. The rocket will carry a satellite now and it is expected that one day, perhaps in seven years, it will carry astronauts to space.

The rocket was developed over 15 years at a cost of Rs. 300 crore. The “Monster Rocket”, as it has been dubbed by scientists, is as high as a 13-storey building and can launch satellites as heavy as 4 tonnes that is 4,000 kg.

Today, it will carry a 3,136 kg satellite. Not only will GSLV make India self-reliant, it will also open the way to attracting foreign customers.

The rocket is powered by an indigenous cryogenic engine that uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as propellants.

GSAT-19 is be powered for the first time with indigenously-made Lithium-ion batteries. These batteries have been made so that India’s self-reliance quotient can increase. In addition, similar batteries can then be used to power electric vehicles like cars and buses.

The GSLV-MK III, development of which had been delayed by nearly a decade, will help ISRO reduce the use of foreign launchers for its heavier satellites.

Till now, ISRO has contracted Arianespace, the French space agency, to launch its four- to six-tonne satellites used for communication and direct-to-home TV telecast.

The design and development of GSLV-Mk III are based on ISRO’s rich experience in handling solid, liquid and cryogenic rocket propulsion technologies. The engine is also less complex than the ones influenced by Russian designs.

December 2014, ISRO tested a miniature version of the GSLV-Mk III without a cryogenic engine to demonstrate the design. In a sub-orbital flight, the rocket carried a 3,775-kg crew module atmospheric re-entry experiment to prove a technology that would be used during manned missions in the future.

In order to build a heavy launch rocket, ISRO needed to perfect multi-stage cryogenic engines (engines that use gases liquefied and stored at very low temperatures). Cryogenic engines powered a lot of NASA’s successes during the age of space race between the US and the erstwhile USSR, including America’s journey to the moon.

However, restrictive international embargoes meant that ISRO did not get access to any of that technology. With complete lack of international support, ISRO did what it usually does best build from scratch and build indigenously.

It took five years for ISRO to taste its first success with GSLV Mk II after the engine failed 800 milliseconds into ignition in its first flight on April 15, 2010. The vehicle was carrying GSAT-4 satellite.

In 1993, India launched the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket which was a major milestone that redefined India as one of the top space faring nations.

Today’s launch, by all measures, is an equally important milestone. It positions India among an elite group of nations that have the self-sufficiency to carry large, powerful satellites into space. It also opens up the lucrative parts of the multi-billion dollar satellite launch market to Antrix, ISRO’s commercial arm

The Indian space agency has already developed critical technologies for a human space mission. The space suit is ready and a crew module was tested in 2014.

The space agency has suggested that the first person to fly into space from India could be a woman.

The space agency has suggested that the first person to fly into space from India could be a woman
Image Courtesy: Hindustan Times

“The success of GSLV Mk III will usher a new era of our self- reliance in the context of launching our own four ton class of satellites for geosynchronous missions,” said former ISRO Chairman Dr K Kasturirangan.

Satish Dhawan Space Centre director P Kunhikrishnan said, “ISRO has made it a habit to execute complex jobs in the most professional way. This has culminated in yet another successful event in Sriharikota.”

Kunhikrishnan said integration for the next launch PSLV C38 is going on in the first launch pad simultaneously. “It is planned in the next half of the month. The next GSLV Mk III will be integrated in the new vehicle assembly coming up which will be three times bigger,” he said.

It has also laid a strong foundation for its ambitious future projects, including Chandraayan-II and a manned mission, besides venturing into the global heavy payload market.

The ISRO has asked the Centre for Rs. 12,500 crore for its mission to put humans in space. If approved, the work is expected to take roughly seven years. The Indian space agency has already developed critical technologies for a human space mission. The space suit is ready and a crew module was tested in 2014.

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