India's GSLV is third time lucky

Monday, 6 January 2014 - 1:56pm IST | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA
Sunday's launch has put India in an elite orbit. Here's all you need to know about the nation's pride.
  • PTI

The successful launch of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) powered by the indigenous cryogenic engine has put India in elite group of nations that can launch heavy satellites.

The launch vehicle, which has the capability of placing 2,000 to 2,500 kg into geosynchronous transfer orbit, will reduce if not completely stop India’s dependence on foreign launch vehicles.
Currently, Indian satellites of this category (2,000 – 2,500 kg and above) is launched by foreign space agencies like the Arianespace.

The space agency spends about Rs500 crore for the launch of heavy weight satellites by a foreign space agency. But if Isro could launch these satellites onboard its own launch vehicle, like the GSLV, it can be done at nearly half the cost.

That apart, some of the space agency’s forthcoming ambitious missions like the lunar expedition Chandrayaan-2 and the Human Space Flight Programme bank heavily on the GSLV.

However, prior to launching the Chandrayaan-2 mission, Isro will have to complete at least two successful launches using the GSLV.

Similarly, for the human space flight mission that envisages the development of a fully autonomous orbital vehicle carrying two crew members to about 300-km low earth orbit and return to earth after a week, Isro will be using the GSLV Mk III, a more powerful launch vehicle from the GSLV family.

The GSLV Mk III is currently under development and it is capable of launching satellites weighing 4,500 to 5,000 kg.

This launch vehicle can also enhance the capability of the country to be a competitive player in the multimillion dollar commercial launch market.

Cryogenic engine 

Only a select few countries in the world like the US, Russia, France, Japan and China have mastered the cryogenic engine technology. With the Sunday’s successful launch, Isro joins this elite club.

India had been denied this technology for many years in the past and had to depend on the Russian technology during the previous GSLV launches.

The cryogenic stage is technically a very complex system compared with solid or earth-storable liquid propellant stages owing to its use of propellants at extremely low temperature and the associated thermal and structural problems.

However, with Sunday’s successful launch, India has proved that the Indian cryogenic stage is fully capable of replacing the stage procured from Russia and used in previous GSLV flights.

GSLV launches through the years
April 18, 2001: The first flight of GSLV launched the 1,540 kg GSAT-1

May 8, 2003: GSLV-D2 carrying GSAT-2 successfully launched

September 20, 2004: GSLV-F01 carrying, EDUSAT, country’s first dedicated educational satellite successfully launched

July 10, 2006: GSLV programme experiences first failure with GSLV-F02

September 2007: The GSLV-F04 carrying the INSAT–4CR injected into the orbit by rocket with enhanced Russian Cryogenic engine

April 15, 2010: GSLV-D3 plunges into the Bay of Bengal within minutes after its launch

December 25, 2010: GSLV-F06 rockets falls into the Bay of Bengal within minutes after its launch

August 19, 2013: Launch of GSLV-D5 carrying GSAT-14 abandoned due to a leak observed in the fuel system of the liquid second stage

January 5, 2014: GSLV-D5 carrying GSAT-14 with Indian cryogenic engine successfully launches the satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit

Technology, in A gist

The GSLV operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is capable of placing 2,000 – 2,500 kg of payload into the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).

The GSLV is a three stage vehicle. It is 49 m tall with 414 t lift off weight. It has a maximum diameter of 3.4 m at the payload fairing.

First stage comprises S125 solid booster with four liquid (L40) strap-ons. 

Second stage (GS2) is liquid engine and the third stage (GS3) is a cryo stage.

The vehicle develops a lift off thrust of 6,573 kN.

Cryogenic rocket stage
A Cryogenic rocket stage is more efficient and provides more thrust for every kilogram of propellant it burns compared to solid and earth-storable liquid propellant rocket stages.

ISRO’s Cryogenic Upper Stage Project (CUSP) envisaged the design and development of the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage to replace the stage procured from Russia and used in GSLV flights.

The main engine and two smaller steering engines of CUS together develop a nominal thrust of 73.55 kN in vacuum. During the flight, CUS fires for a nominal duration of 720 seconds.

The GSAT-14 is the 23rd geostationary communication satellite of India built by Isro. After its commissioning, GSAT-14 will join the group of India’s nine operational geostationary satellites.

The main objectives of GSAT-14 mission are to augment the in-orbit capacity of Extended C and Ku-band transponders and provide a platform for new experiments.

GSAT-14 has a lift-off mass of 1,982 kg and the dry mass of the satellite is 851 kg, and some of the new experiments being flown on GSAT-14 are Fiber Optic Gyro, Active Pixel Sun Sensor, Ka band beacon propagation studies, Thermal control coating experiments. The 12 communication transponders onboard GSAT-14 will further augment the capacity in the INSAT/ GSAT system.

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