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GSLV-D5 launch puts India in 'cryo club'

First step towards building rockets that can carry heavier payloads

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) on Sunday successfully launched the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-D5 (GSLV-D5), carrying communication satellite GSAT-14, from Sriharikota, about 80 km from Chennai.

With this, India joined the “cryo club”, a select group of spacefaring nations having the crucial cryogenic engine technology, which is necessary to carry heavy satellites. Countries which have such a capability are the US, Russia, France, Japan and China.

Chairman K Radhakrishnan said: “I am extremely happy and proud to say that Team Isro has done it. The Indian cryogenic engine and stage performed as predicted, as expected for this mission and injected precisely the GSAT-14 communication satellite into the intended orbit.”

He said this was an important day for science and technology and for space technology in the country. “Twenty years’ efforts in realising the cryogenic engine and stage have now been fructified... toiling of 20 years, excruciating efforts of the past three-and-a-half years after we had the first test flight of this cryogenic engine and stage and all the efforts put by Team Isro for the last few years.”

Radhakrishnan lauded professor U R Rao, who in 1992 decided that Isro should have an indigenously developed cryogenic engine and stage for the GSLV programme.

Until now, India has had to depend on other countries to launch satellites of more than three tonnes, shelling out huge money.

According to a senior Isro official, India has been paying $85-90 million (around Rs 500 crore) as launch fee to foreign space agencies for sending communication satellites weighing up to 3.5 tonnes. The successful launch of this rocket was crucial for India as this was the first step towards building rockets that can carry heavier payloads. The launch was also the first mission of the GSLV after two such rockets failed in 2010 and an August 2013 launch was aborted at the last minute following leakage of fuel from the second-stage engine.

Isro said the second-stage engine has now been replaced with a new one, built with a different metal, and some of the critical components were also replaced in the four strap-on motors of the first-stage as precaution. One of the GSLV rockets was fitted with the Indian cryogenic engine and the other with a Russian engine.

The GSLV is a three-stage engine rocket. The first stage is fired with solid fuel, the second with liquid fuel and the third is the cryogenic engine. GSLV-D5, launched on Sunday, is 49.13 metres tall and weighs 414.75 tonnes. Several design changes were incorporated into the rocket for a safe blast-off and design changes were also made in the lower shroud (cover), that protects the cryogenic engine during the atmospheric flight; wire tunnel of the cryogenic stage, to withstand larger forces during the flight; and the revised aerodynamic characterisation of the entire rocket.
 
GSLV is capable of launching 2,000-kg-class satellites into the geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). GSLV Mark-III, which can place 4,000-kg class satellites into the GTO, is under development. India has developed and commissioned Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and GSLV. PSLV can launch 1,850-kg class remote-sensing satellites into a 480-km polar orbit. It can also place a satellite weighing 1,150 kg into GTO or a 3,500-kg class satellite into low earth orbit.

Isro has carried out 68 launches since 1975, out of which 26 were from locations outside India.

K Sivan, project director, GSLV, said GSLV has been a “naughty boy” till now and has become an “obedient boy” now. He said the first thousand successful seconds come as a fruit of a thousand sleepless nights before the launch.
 
So far India has to depend on other countries to launch heavy weight (more than 3 tonnes) and has been shelling out huge money. According to a senior Isro official India has been paying around $85-90 million (around Rs 500 crore) as launch fee to foreign space agencies for sending upto a 3.5 tonne communication satellites
 
The successful launch of this rocket was crucial for India as this is the first step towards building rockets that can carry heavier payloads.
 
Today’s launch was the first mission of the GSLV after two such rockets failed in 2010 and last August launch was aborted at the last minute as the fuel started leaking from its second stage or engine.
 
Isro said that the second stage was replaced with a new one built with a different metal and some of the critical components were also replaced in the four strap-on motors of the first stage as a matter of precaution, according to an Isro official.
 
One of the GSLV rockets was fitted with the Indian cryogenic engine and the other with a Russian engine.
 
The GSLV is a three-stage/engine rocket. The first stage is fired with solid fuel, the second is the liquid fuel and the third is the cryogenic engine.
 
Several design changes were incorporated into the rocket for a safe blast-off and design changes were also made in the lower shroud/cover that protects the cryogenic engine during the atmospheric flight; wire tunnel of the cryogenic stage to withstand larger forces during the flight; and the revised aerodynamic characterisation of the entire rocket.
 
The 49.13-metre tall rocket, weighing 414.75 tonnes was launched today and the GSLV safely delivered GSAT-14 to augment the Indian transponder - receivers and transmitters of signals - capacity.
 
GSLV is capable of launching 2000 kg class satellites into GTO. GSLV Mark-III, to place 4000 kg class satellites in GTO, is under development.
 
India has developed and commissioned Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle.
 
PSLV can launch 1850 kg class remote sensing satellites into a 480 km polar Orbit. It can also place a satellite weighing about 1150 kg in Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) or a 3500 kg class satellite in Low Earth Orbit.
 
Out of the 68 launches by Isro from April 1975, 26 launches were carried out from locations outside India.
 
Quick rewind:
 
December 26
GSAT 14 Communication Satellite integration with the refurbished completed successfully.
 
December 28
* The Mission Readiness Review (MRR) team and the Launch Authorisation Board (LAB) have cleared the GSLV-D5/GSAT 14 launch
* The vehicle is moved from the vehicle assembly building to the umbilical tower (the launch pad) in the morning
 
December 30
GSLV D5 being moved from Vehicle Assembly Building to Second Launch Pad
 
January 4
A 29-hour countdown commenced at 11.00 hrs (IST)
 
January 5
GSLV-D5 successfully launched

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