ISRO’S GSLV will be on regular run from later this month. The GSLV-F05 flight coming up on August 28 or 29 will be its first regular, full-service or ‘operational’ one.
When launched, it will be the culmination of more than two decades of hard work — punctuated with jinxes and tribulation — for developing an indigenous medium-lift satellite launcher.
GSLV-F05 will be the fourth flight powered by the Indian cryogenic stage and its preceding two in the last two years have been successful. F05 will carry the roughly 2,000-kg weather satellite, INSAT-3DR, follow-on to INSAT-3D which entered space in 2013.
The first six GSLVs starting with D1 of 2000 used the Russian cryogenic engines in the third and last stage and were called GSLV-MarkI. The first GSLV propelled by an Indian cryogenic engine and distinguished as MarkII, was tested about ten years later, in April 2010, but flight D3 failed.
“The flight of GSLV-F05 will be truly significant milestone in our launch vehicle programme. It signals India’s feat of developing its own cryogenic technology for its launchers. The technology is so complex and our success signifies the confidence of handling this tough challenge,” said a senior official in the Indian Space Research Organisation.
GSLV-Mk2 however can put only satellites weighing up to 2,200 kg into geostationary space. At least four more of them are in the making now. ISRO, meanwhile, has moved towards 3,000-kg class communication spacecraft with an eye on making 4,000-kg satellites.
These heavier ones need to be put into space on a foreign launcher such as the European Ariane. GSAT-18, due in October and next year’s GSAT-17 are confirmed while the heavy 4-tonne GSAT-11 will also need a foreign launch.
Another official said the plan is to do two GSLV launches a year from next year, apart from doubling the PSLV rate to ten or a dozen a year.
He agreed that “Ultimately, GSLV-MarkIII [that is under development to do handle 4,000-kg spacecraft] is more important to us than Mark-II.”
It will mean that all ISRO satellites can be launched from within the country.
Test flight in December
The first test flight of Mark-III, also knows as LVM3, is slated for December and it will take a few more flights and years to become regular.
As the GSLV numbers go up, the official said it increases the onus on suppliers in public and private industry, especially for cryogenic engines, tanks and rocket stages. Indicatively, the smaller PSLV gets about 80 per cent of its supplies from industry.