The Indian Space Research Organisation added another feather to its much-decorated cap by launching into space its heaviest rocket ever.
Precisely at 5:28 pm on Monday, June 5, 2017, India’s heaviest rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III), blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, with the 3136 kg communications satellite, GSAT-19, strapped to it. And just over 16 minutes into its flight, it slung the GSAT-19 perfectly into the Low Earth Orbit.
It was a picture perfect launch, with each stage of the three-stage GSLV-Mk III performing as expected. GSAT-19 is projected to bring about sweeping changes in the communications structure of the country.
The GSLV-Mk III, weighing 640 tonnes and standing 43.43 metres tall, is capable of lifting payloads of up to 4,000 kg into the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) and 10,000 kg into the Low Earth Orbit.
The mission’s success will empower India to launch heavy, four-tonne satellites on its own rocket, which it was getting done from foreign space agencies, after paying huge amounts of money.
The GSLV-Mk III is a completely home-grown rocket, developed entirely from scratch by ISRO scientists. The rocket was launched by the high-thrust cryogenic engine CE-20, also completely indigenous.
A cryogenic engine involves a lot of complicated technology, using liquid hydrogen at -253 degrees Celsius and oxygen at -183 degrees Celsius as fuel and oxidiser. Only five other space agencies, those of the US, China, Japan, Russia and the European Space Agency have mastered the ultra-advanced technology.
The launch marked a successful culmination to the dream that was visualised by the ISRO in the 1970s. Over thirty years of research, tireless efforts and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears later, India witnessed the inauguration of its indigenously built, high-tech cryogenic engine.
Until now, ISRO had to pay through its teeth to get its heavy satellites launched by foreign space agencies. Additionally, its efforts to buy a cryogenic engine, in order to engineer its own heavy satellite launches, were stymied by the USA and the sanctions placed on India under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in the 1990s.
“If there was no sanction, we would have operationalized GSLV Mk-II in 1999. By 2003-2004, we would have launched what we would be witnessing on Monday,” said former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan, who was the project director for the development of cryogenic engine in the early 1990s.
This delay strengthened ISRO’s resolve to master the technology required to build its own cryogenic engine.
A cryogenic engine is crucial to launching heavy rockets into space. Monday’s spectacularly successful launch finally brought ISRO’s efforts to fruition.
The triumphant launch of the cryogenic engine and the GSLV-Mk III will set the ball rolling for ISRO’s future missions, namely the Chandrayaan-II- ISRO’s second Moon mission, Aditya- the mission to send a probe into the Sun’s atmosphere, and the manned mission into outer space.
It will also enable India to get a major foothold in the global heavy payload market. This achievement will propel India to the forefront in space endeavours.