The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) on Monday will launch its most powerful rocket, the GSLV-Mk III, which can hurl a four-tonne communication satellite into a higher orbit than previous launch vehicles.
More significantly, the rocket also has the potential to carry a ten-tonne capsule for a manned mission to space.
The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III (GSLV-Mk III), which has been nicknamed ‘Fat Boy’, will demonstrate Isro’s mastery in designing a homegrown solution for heavier rockets from scratch.
Isro has built the capability to hurl a two-tonne satellite using the GSLV-MkII, which has a cryogenic upper stage built with heavy design influence from Russian rockets.
For the GSLV-MKIII rocket, Isro has used a gas combustor cycle in the third stage, which is powered by CE-20 — a homegrown design that has been developed by the space agency’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre in Mahendragiri. The engine is also less complex than the ones influenced by the Russian design.
“This (GSLV-MKIII) will increase our capability to launch satellites manyfold,” says Isro Chairman A S Kiran Kumar, adding, “It is completely indigenous.”
The GSLV programme has had a chequered history. India had initially signed a deal with Russia to source cryogenic technology, which was scuttled by the US citing the missile technology control regime (MTCR) in the early 1990’s. Later, Russia relented and leant around six cryogenic engines without technology transfer. Ironically, India entered the MTCR regime last year.
Isro assembled the first GSLV rocket with the Russian engine and launched it in 2001, but the thrust produced during launch was not enough to place the satellite in its orbit. Since then, Isro has worked on its own cryogenic stage, albeit influenced by Russian technology, and launched several GSLV Mk-II rockets, before making it operational last year. So far, Isro has launched 10 GSLV rockets, including three with a cryogenic stage that it built on its own.
In December 2014, Isro tested a miniature version of the GSLV Mk-III without the cryogenic engine to demonstrate the design. In the sub-orbital flight, the rocket carried the 3,775-kg Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment as its payload as proof of concept for technology that would be used for future manned missions.
The GSLV-MKIII’s development has seen delays with the space agency behind schedule by nearly a decade.
However, despite the delays, the GSLV-MKIII will help Isro to reduce the usage of foreign launchers for its heavier satellites. So far, it has contracted Arianespace, the French space agency, to launch its 4-6 tonne satellites used for communication and direct-to-home TV telecast.
The rocket will also help Isro to earn revenue if it can tap global opportunities to send two-four tonne communication satellites for other nations.
It is already a preferred vendor for launching small and mini satellites into low earth orbit with its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.
On Monday, the GSLV-MKIII will be carrying a 3,136-kg GSAT-19 satellite with communication transponders. The satellite will also test technologies such as miniaturised heat pipe, fibre optic gyro, micro electro-mechanical systems accelerometer, Ku-band TTC transponder, as well an indigenous Lithium-ion Battery.
If Monday’s mission is successful, the single GSAT-19 satellite will be equivalent to having a constellation of 6-7 older communication satellites in space.
Currently, out of a constellation of 41 in-orbit Indian satellites, 13 are communication satellites, according to reports.
By: Business Standard
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