Sunday, January 5, 2014

ISRO's GSLV-D5 Successfully Launches GSAT-14 Satellite

GSLV-D5 successfully launches GSAT-14 satellite. Credit: ISRO

After 20 years of toil, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Sunday took a quantum leap in mastering a rocket technology that puts it in the big league of space faring nations, following a demonstration of the first-ever perfect performance of its indigenously developed cryogenic engine in the course of a successful flight of its Geo Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). Seventeen minutes after liftoff at 4.18pm from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, the rocket successfully injected GSAT-14 communication satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan declared the mission a success. He said, "This shows the maturity of the team. We dedicate the proud moment for the country." "The launch has been so precise that the satellite was put just 40 metres within the 179km perigee and only 50km of the 36,000km apogee,"mission director K Sivan said.

ISRO achieved the feat after two failures earlier. While India has mastered the PSLV range of rockets with a string of 25 consecutive successes, GSLV, which can carry heavier payloads including humans to space, has remained a challenge.

In April 2010, ISRO tested its first indigenous cryogenic engine, but it failed a little less than a second after the cryogenic stage ignited. A refurbished GSLV-D5 was to be launched in August 2013, but a leak in the liquid fuel tank forced the mission to be aborted two hours before the rocket was to lift off. 

India had got seven cryogenic engines from Russia, and ISRO has used six of them. With no affordable supply coming from abroad, India felt the necessity to develop its own cryogenic engine, which uses liquid hydrogen as fuel and liquid oxygen and oxidizer.

Cryogenics, the science of extremely low temperatures, has posed a challenge to rocket scientists across the world. 

Congratulations to ISRO

Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today hailed the successful launch of GSLV D5 satellite as an important step in the area of science and technology and congratulated the ISRO scientists for the feat.

Ansari said that with this launch using the indigenous cryogenic engine, India has joined a select group of countries that have mastered this sophisticated space technology.

ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan declares the mission a success. Credit: Doordarshan National
ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan declares the mission a success. Credit: Doordarshan National

"All credit goes to our scientists and engineers for their competence, hard work and dedication. The nation is proud of them," he said in his message.

Singh, while congratulating the scientists, said the launch marked "another important step that the country has taken in the area of science and technology."

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, too, congratulated ISRO and its scientists for the successful launch.

Terming the GSLV-D5 launch as a remarkable step forward in the advancement of space sciences, Gandhi said the nation will look up with gratitude to the team of scientists behind the feat.

"By using an indigenous cryogenic engine, they have not only ended our reliance on other countries but smartly and effectively graduated from the PSLV range of space vehicles," she said.

GSAT-14 satellite

Today's launch is India's eighth flight of GSLV and also the fourth developmental flight of GSLV. During this flight, the indigenously developed Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS) was flight tested for the second time. GSAT-14 is India's 23rd geostationary communication satellite, as four of GSAT-14 s predecessors were launched by GSLV during 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2007 respectively.

Two halves of GSLV-D5 payload fairing surrounding GSAT-14 satellite. Credit: ISRO
Two halves of GSLV-D5 payload fairing surrounding GSAT-14 satellite. Credit: ISRO

GSAT-14 would join the group of India's nine operational geostationary satellites.The primary objective of this mission is to augment the in-orbit capacity of extended C and Ku-band transponders and provide a platform for new experiments.

The GSAT-14 will be positioned at 74 degree East longitude and co-located with INSAT-3C, INSAT-4CR and KALPANA-1 satellites.

Future launches

Enthused over its successful launch of GSLV D5, ISRO is planning a series of GSLV launches and an experimental launch of the advanced version GSLV Mark III soon from the spaceport. 

"We are going for a series of GSLVs after this succesful launch. GSAT 6, GSAT 7, GSAT 9, GISAT 7, Chandrayaan 2 and two more communication satellites. In the end of 2014 or in early 2015, we will have the next GSLV launch," ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan told reporters.

To a query on how many more successful launches would GSLV need to become reliable, he said "This launch has reached the level of maturity. However one more successful launch of GSLV would make it reliable."

GSLV-D5 successfully launches GSAT-14 satellite. Credit: ISRO
GSLV-D5 successfully launches GSAT-14 satellite. Credit: ISRO

With today's launch, ISRO is confident of launching satellites weighing up to 2.2 tonnes, he said, adding that the satellites from India weighing above the mark would have to be launched through other space agencies abroad. 

This implies that two-tonne satellites like GSAT-6, 7, 9 and 10 can be launched on board a GSLV, whereas 3.5-tonne satellites like GSAT-15,16,17 and 18 needed to be launched from abroad. 

To a query on the status of Chandrayaan 2, he said the lander and rover for the mission were being developed indigenously and it would be launched on board a GSLV. 

ISRO was also busy conducting a series of tests in developing the Mark III version of GSLV at Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu, he said. 

"We would also have an experimental launch of GSLV Mark III soon to understand the behaviour of the vehicle in flight," the chairman said. 

An ISRO team is examining the possibility of setting up a launch site at Kulasekarapattinam in south Tamil Nadu, he said, replying to a query. 

Another team headed by Prof Badri Narayanamurthy is studying the third launch pad at Sriharikota, since launch vehicles like GSLV Mark III can be launched only from the second launch pad, unlike PSLVs and GSLVs, he said. 

"We are also working on unified launch vehicle with booster stage series cryogenic engine," Radhakrishnan said. 

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