SRIHARIKOTA: About 20 minutes after India’s heaviest rocket blazed a trail in the sky, ISRO’s chief Dr K Radhakrishnan allowed himself an indulgent smile. He even stepped up to the podium to pick up the shiny gold replica of the GSLV Mark III launch vehicle and place it more prominently so that the cameras would catch it.
“Everything went off as expected. The launch vehicle performed very well and is a great success. We had an unmanned crew module to understand re-entry characteristics. That too went off successfully and it has touched down in the Bay of Bengal,” he said, summing up ISRO’s first experimental launch in a while.
Bad weather is never a good thing, especially if it comes down heavily hours before you’re putting a rocket that costs `140 crore into orbit. But unlike the GSLVs of yore, this reinforced, super-powered Mark III is unfazed. “All our launch vehicles are completely waterproof and though the rain was quite heavy, there was no change in the launch sequence,” said an ISRO spokesperson at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. The whole exercise went off like clockwork. From the strap-on engines to the separation of the module from the rocket at an altitude of 126 km, there were very few anxious moments at the mission’s command centre.
So what does this success signify? First, we’re much closer to the dream of manned space flight. “As it made it’s way back into our atmosphere, the parachutes that brought it down really worked well. This is a step towards manned space flight nued to communicate its location to us,” said Unnikrishnan Nair, the man behind the Manned Space Flight mission.
The other thing is that India has a huge payload carrier that isn’t at risk of falling apart, shaking off the stigma built by unsuccessful GSLV launches of the past. “India, you have a new launch vehicle,” said S Somnath, Mission Director of LVM-3.