New Delhi: As the countdown progressed at the Sriharikota Space Centre for the launch of India's heaviest rocket, some 100 engineers and scientists at ISRO or the Indian Space Research Organisation had reason to be nervous. Till now, most first launches of India's rockets have ended in failure.
But the GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle ) Mk III had a perfect lift-off, allaying concerns of the ISRO about its gigantic home-grown rocket. The 640-tonne rocket weighs as much as 200 full-grown Asian elephants or five Jumbo jets. It is expected that one day, perhaps in a little more than seven years, it will carry astronauts to space.
India's space agency ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) has a dismal record when it comes to maiden rocket launches.
In 1979, the launch of the Satellite Launch Vehicle-3 or SLV-3 ended in failure.
In 1993 the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV ended in the sea on its launch.
In 2001, the maiden launch of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle ended in failure.
The GSLV, too, had its share of failures. Of the 11 times it had been launched earlier, only the last five had been successful. The rest of the rockets had ended up in the sea. Because of its repeated failures, the GSLV was dubbed the "Naughty boy". Some had even disparagingly interpreted the abbreviation GSLV as a "Generally Sea Loving Vehicle".
The PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) has had 39 successful launches.
ISRO, say scientists, has learnt from its mistakes. Much rides on a successful launch - including more foreign business in the lucrative heavier segment of the satellite business. Till date, India could launch only smaller satellites. For the launch of heavier satellites like the 3,130 kg GSAT-19 the GSLV carried today, it had to approach other nations.
The government has been promoting the home-grown space programme as a demonstration of low-cost technology.