- ISRO to test the GSLV Mk-III rocket on June 5
- If tests successful, the GSLV Mk-III could be used for manned missions
- Only Russia, US and China have capability for manned missions currenty
Standing tall on the rocket port at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh is the country's latest rocket called the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III or GSLV MK-III. It is the heaviest rocket ever made by India and is capable of carrying the heaviest satellites made till date.
With this rocket, ISRO will have the potential to enter the world's multi-billion dollar launch market. "We are pushing ourselves to the limits to ensure that this new, fully self-reliant Indian rocket succeeds in its maiden launch," said ISRO chairman AS Kiran Kumar.
The GSLV MK-III, which was earlier named the Launch Vehicle Mark-3 or LVM-3, will make its maiden launch in June. It will be tested at least half a dozen times. If successful, it could become India's vehicle of choice to launch "Indians into space, from Indian soil using Indian rockets". The rocket is capable of placing up to 8 tons in a low Earth orbit, which is enough to carry India's crew module.
ISRO has already prepared plans of hoisting a 2-3 member human crew into space as soon as the government gives it a sanction of about 4 billion dollars. Should the plan for a manned-mission materialise, India would become only the fourth country after Russia, United States and China to have a human space flight program. ISRO has said that the first Indian to go into space (from an Indian launch) could be a woman astronaut.
"In principle, it will be the GSLV MK-III or its variant that will be human rated in future," Mr Kumar said.
The rocket port in Sriharikota is buzzing with activity as engineers from ISRO get set to launch the new indigenously-made rocket. It is the heaviest fully-functional rocket to reach the launch pad - weighing 640 tons or almost 5 times the weight of a fully loaded Jumbo Jet airplane.
The new rocket is capable of carrying satellites of four ton class into the geosynchronous orbit and opens a whole new window through which ISRO can now explore the universe. It is estimated that the new rocket costs around Rs 300 crore.
India already has two operational rockets -- the workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV that can hoist satellites of 1.5 tons into space and was the preferred vehicle for India's maiden mission to Moon and Mars.
The second -- the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-II that can hoist 2-ton class of satellites.
Between them, ISRO has done over 50 launches and recently even earned a world record by successfully placing 104 satellites in orbit.
The new GSLV Mk-III is an all new vehicle designed and developed in India and in 2014 a sub-orbital successful test of this vehicle was conducted to understand how it performs in the atmosphere.
The rocket never went into space but helped test India's future astronaut capsule. It had a dummy cryogenic engine and was a single stage vehicle.
Even though the GSLV Mk-III is just 43 metres in height, making it the shortest of the three big Indian rockets, it carries a huge punch as it weighs almost 1.5 times heavier than India's next biggest rocket the GSLV MK-II and almost twice as heavy as India's PSLV.
The new cryogenic engine is being tested on a fully functional rocket for the first time and it is the development of this technology that uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as propellant is what took more than 15 years for scientists to master.
(With inputs from PTI)