New Delhi: When the most powerful Indian-made rocket was lifting off on June 5, nearly a hundred scientists who were crowded into the control room at the space centre in Sriharikota were feeling the pressure.
- India's most powerful home-made rocket launched this week
- Carried satellite weighing over 3 tonnes into space
- Rocket dubbed Baahubali after blockbuster movie
Maiden launches have not gone down well for the Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO - the debuts of earlier home-made rockets had flopped. Now, here was this giant beast, as heavy as 200 adult elephants, on which rode the country's hopes of winning a bigger share of the more than $300 billion global space industry.
"I was like an expectant father looking at whether the delivery will be satisfactory or not," described Dr AS Kiran Kumar, the top boss at ISRO.
The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk III was dubbed Baahubali in popular parlance after the blockbuster movie. It allowed India to place its heaviest satellite yet in space, weighing 3,136 kilos and the height of the rocket was that of a 13-storey building.
The United States, Russia, China, Japan and European Space Agency have the capability to launch satellites weighing more than three tonnes. India has now joined their group.
In 2014, scientists first flew the GSLV Mk III and ran checks on a human crew module on board, suggesting that it would be the launch platform for a human mission in future. The rocket used a cryogenic engine, developed in India after the United States leaned on Russia in the 1990s not to supply such a powerful engine in case it was used for missiles.
"On the cryogenic engine, we had conducted some 199 tests on different models and systems, hence we had high confidence. Baahubali delivered very well, both rocket and satellite performed magnificently," said Dr Kumar.
In May, India launched a communications satellite for smaller neighbours like Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh to share, part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's efforts to build goodwill in the region.
A 2015 Space Foundation report pegged the global space industry at $323 billion. India's share of global launch services industry is about 0.6 percent, government data shows.