GSLV Success Opens Up New Skies for ISRO
By Shyam Balasubramanian | Published: 06th January 2014 07:35 AM |
The monitors showing the ground trace and other flight parameters of the GSLV-D5 could have easily been mistaken for a PSLV. The mission succeeded with the sort of precision that gave ISRO enough reason to celebrate wildly. The success not only places critical space technology in ISRO’s hands, but has also given it a launch vehicle platform that has significantly expanded its abilities and opportunities.
The GSLV-D5 injected the GSAT-14 communications satellite into orbit. It achieved the targeted 179 km perigee (point of orbit closest to Earth) spot on, and registered a miniscule deviation of 50 km from the targeted apogee (point of orbit farthest from Earth) of 36,000 km. It also achieved the target with deviation in the second decimal, the targeted 19.3° inclination.
This was a major leap forward for ISRO, which has been struggling to get the GSLV programme up and running. Before Sunday, ISRO had launched seven GSLV missions, of which three failed — one was a partial failure and three succeeded. Even the GSLV-D5 has had its share of troubles. On August 19 last year, when it was originally scheduled for launch, the mission had to be aborted about an hour before lift-off after a fuel leak was detected.
The troubles with the GSLV also meant ISRO had to rely on foreign launch vehicles to place a majority of its communications satellites into orbit. The space agency has said it needs only one more flight to ensure that GSLV becomes a reliable launch vehicle.
This would not only reduce ISRO’s reliance on expensive foreign rockets, but would also open up the opportunity to use the GSLV for commercial launches. ISRO is already an established player in the small satellite launch market, thanks to PSLV. It now has a shot at expanding its own operations.
Further, the success of the GSLV-D5 holds great significance for future missions. Primary among this would be Chandrayaan-2 moon mission, which would need the GSLV.
The success with the cryogenic technology is also a major boost to ISRO’s plans to develop a high-thrust cryogenic engine for the GSLV-Mark III, the more powerful variant which the space agency is developing. ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan announced that the first experimental flight of the GSLV-Mark III would be launched in a matter of months.