GSLV - Mark III – A Giant Leap for India

Mon, June 05, 2017 / Vinay Reddy G GSLV - Mark III – A Giant Leap for India

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is set to launch Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)-Mark III from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at 5.28 PM IST today. The GSLV-Mark III is the heaviest rocket from India. It is a human rated vehicle and is made indigenously thus it will be a major boost for India’s Make in India initiative. The GSLV Mark III will put India’s heaviest satellite, the GSAT-19 in orbit. GSAT-19 weighs 3,136 kilograms and is the heaviest communication satellite that India has developed so far. The satellite will be placed about 36 thousand kilometres away from earth and will lead to an improvement in VSAT (Very Small Apparatus Terminal), data connectivity and other applications across India. GSAT-19 will make use of multiple spot beams across India, which will then lead to better internet connectivity across the country. Some ground infrastructure also needs to be in place for making use of this functionality. After the satellite separates from the launch vehicle, it will reach its geostationary orbital home using its own propulsion system. Mr. AS Kiran Kumar, Secretary, Department of Space and Chairman of ISRO has called GSAT-19 a high throughput satellite with multiple applications.

GSLV-Mark III is the new generation launch vehicle developed by India. It can put satellites with weight of 4000 kg and more in orbit. Previously, India used Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) to put satellites with weight of 1000 kg in orbit and GSLV to put satellites with weight of 2000 kg in orbit. For heavier satellites, India used to incur a cost of 800 crores per launch and would rely on European Space Agency (ESA) for putting its satellites in space. Now, with GSLV-Mark III, India would be able to reduce the cost to 350 crores. The GSLV-Mark III will herald in a new era in India’s science and technology sphere and increase the country’s self-reliance. 

GSLV-Mark III has been under development since a couple of years. Its suborbital test flight was conducted in December 2014 and was a success. However, the rocket’s development was delayed due to GSLV-Mark II. The GSLV-Mark III can carry 10,000 kg in the lower earth orbit at 800 km and 4,000 kg in the geosynchronous transfer orbit at 36,000 km. It is a three stage vehicle with four liquid strap-ons. In the third stage, there is a Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS) that again has been developed indigenously by ISRO. CUS is difficult to develop as it uses cryogenic fuel or liquid gases stored at very low temperatures. The cryogenic fuel consists of liquid oxygen and hydrogen that result in maximum energy. However, because different temperatures are required to achieve oxygen in a liquid state and hydrogen in a liquid state, both gases are stored in different tanks at different temperatures. These temperature differences and other technological intricacies make cryogenic engines a feat that very countries have achieved. India has been trying to master it for quite some time and hopefully with GSLV-Mark III it has mastered this. GSLV-Mark III has other features as well that make it quite a marvel - advanced systems for navigation, guidance and control system and stage separation. Its performance and flight status can be measured with S-band telemetry and C-band transponder. 

GSLV-Mark III can be used for man manned missions and at present only Russia, USA and China have the capability to launch man manned missions. If the launch of GSLV-Mark III proves to be successful, it would be a major boost to the Indian space program in three main ways:-

  • The current space market is in need of launch vehicles that can put heavy satellites in space, thus this would henceforth be possible for India
  • It would provide India the capability to launch future man manned missions and make it an equal with USA, Russia and China in terms of the space program
  • Lastly it would increase the country’s self-reliance, reduce costs and contribute towards the ‘Make in India’ initiative.