India Sunday joined the select league of space-faring nations with indigenous cryogenic engine technology, successfully launching its rocket – endearingly called the naughty boy for its earlier waywardness – that put a communication satellite in orbit. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed it “yet another important step”.
The successful launch of India’s heavier rocket – the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-D5 (GSLV-D5) – not only means the indigenous cryogenic engine has performed well but would also pave way for sizeable savings for the country in future launch costs.
It also opens up a window to earn foreign exchange from launching heavier foreign satellites.
The communication satellite will be used for telemedicine and tele-education services.
The Indian space scientists’ toil of around two decades in conceiving the more efficient cryogenic engine technology, which provides more thrust for every kilogram of propellant, spending around Rs.400 crore has come to fruition with the delivery of the GSAT-14 in the outer space.
At precisely 4.18 p.m., GSLV-D5 rocket with a deep roar rose into the sky on a tail of an orange flame, breaking away from the second launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here.
Around 17 minutes into the space flight, the 49.13-metre tall, 414.75-tonne GSLV-D5 rocket slung the 1,982-kg GSAT-14 in the intended orbit.
Manmohan Singh described it as “yet another important step that the country has taken in the area of science and technology”.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was to launch this rocket last August but aborted the blast-off just hours before the deadline as fuel started leaking from its second stage or engine.
ISRO’s scientists at the mission control centre were visibly happy with Sunday’s blast-off. They back-slapped and hugged one another.
ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishan said: “The Indian cryogenic engine and stage performed as predicted and as expected for the mission and injected GSAT-14 in its intended orbit.”
“We have paid back all our debts to the country.”
Radhakrishnan said that “20 years of efforts and toil in developing cryogenic engine and stage has paid off. The excruciating efforts of the past three years has been realized”.
An ecstatic S.Ramakrishnan, director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, said: “At ISRO we used to call GSLV as naughty boy. But today the naughty boy is a very obedient boy.”
The reference was two earlier attempts to launch the GSLV in 2010, which failed.
As the rocket zoomed away, a former space scientist could barely contain his joy in Kerala.
“I am really happy… Now the sky is the limit for India. We should now have an overall plan and am sure scientists are working on it as this cryogenic engine is the best of its kind,” said S. Nambinarayanan.
In 1991, it was S. Nambinarayanan, one of country’s foremost space scientist, who was working as project director for the development of cryogenic technology. He was later arrested following allegation that India’s space programme was sold, with the help of two Maldivian women.
The Sunday launch success is sweet for the Indian space fraternity as it comes after successful launch of Mars Orbiter last year.
The GSLV is a three stage/engine rocket. The core of first stage is fired with solid fuel while the four strap-on motors by liquid fuel. The second is the liquid fuel and the third is the cryogenic engine.
Radhakrishnan has told IANS that the country pays around $85-90 million or around Rs.500 crore as launch fee for sending up a 3.5p-tonne communication satellites. The cost of satellite is separate.
He said the cost of GSLV is Rs.220 crore.
The ISRO can send smaller communication satellites – weighing around two tonnes – till such time it gets ready an advanced GSLV variant – GSLV-Mark III – that can lug satellites weighing around four tonnes.
While that is for the future, Radhakrishnan said ISRO has lined up several satellite launches for the current GSLV rocket version.
Other than the flight testing of cryogenic engine, 2014 will be an important year for ISRO.
According to ISRO, several design changes were incorporated in Sunday’s rocket after studying the past GSLV rockets and the issues faced in them.
ISRO officials told IANS that though the rocket’s rated carrying capacity is around 2.2 tonnes, it was decided to carry a sub-two tonnes satellite with minimum number of transponders (receivers and transmitters of communication signals).
The cuboid shaped Rs.145 crore GSAT-14 is India’s 23rd geostationary satellites built by ISRO. It has a life span of 12 years.
It carries six extended C-band and Ku-band transponders (receivers and transmitters of signals), and two Ka-band beacons.