GSLV MkIII cryogenic test a success 48 hours after ISRO's historic launch

In its very first attempt, the home-grown cryogenic upper stage (C-25 D) passed the long duration endurance test, becoming the sixth nation in the world to do so. 

Published: 18th February 2017 04:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th February 2017 08:41 AM   |  A+A-

ISRO chairman AS Kiran Kumar addressing mediapersons in Mahendragiri | Express Photo Service

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: Within 48 hours of breaking the world record with the launch of 104 satellites in a single mission, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Friday produced another stellar performance. 

In its very first attempt, the home-grown cryogenic upper stage (C-25 D) passed the long duration endurance test at ISRO Propulsion Complex, Mahendragiri, becoming the sixth nation in the world to have mastered the complex cryogenic technology.

The cryogenic stage capable of producing a thrust of 20 tonnes using a propellant loading of 25 tonnes on board is the first Indian turbo pump engine that is indigenously developed. It was conceived, designed, fabricated with the ISRO with external support of Indian industry. It draws its strength using liquid hydrogen (at 20 Kelvin temperature) and liquid oxygen (at 90 Kelvin temperature) as propellants.

The full stage was ignited and tested for 640 seconds from 5 pm like it is done during the actual flight scenario. The ISRO chairman AS Kiran Kumar told Express that the test was successful and fulfilled all the requisite parameters.

It was a static performance heat test and the results matched the predicted values of chamber pressure, liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen flow, injection pressure temperatures and other critical parameters. 
“It was carried out meticulously with zero error. We can now confidently go for the launch of first developmental flight of GSLV MkIII, which is being planned around April 20 tentatively,” said Kiran Kumar.

It took close to 15 years of hard work for the ISRO scientists to reach this point. The GSLV MkIII project began in October 2002 and with no reference cryogenic stage to bank on, the scientists toiled from the scratch. 

The industrial partners like Godrej, L&T and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) stood by the ISRO all along providing hardware and other critical components.

Kiran Kumar said the full duration endurance test by itself was an extremely complex task considering the fact that liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen had to be kept at their operational temperature of -2530C and -195 0C,  respectively, and they had to go from the tank to the thrust engine and all the sub-systems had to function at the right time initiating the ignition.

“Besides, there are several suction elements on the ground that play spoilsport like extreme heat, vibration etc. The actual thing happens in a vacuum, whereas here we are doing at an ambient environment,” he said. PV Venkitakrishnan, the director, ISRO Propulsion Complex, said this was the last in the series of tests that were conducted before attempting Friday’s full duration cryogenic stage test. 

To a query, Kiran Kumar said that GSLV MkIII suffered a little setback in 2010 when two GSLV MkII missions failed. The test facilities at IPRC were designed to suit the MkII testing once the space agency was able to overcome that hurdle, the IPRC facility was re-engineered to suit the MkIII cryogenic stage testing. 

The IPRC director said the final flight stage was getting ready and would be transported to Sriharikota in a month which would then be integrated with the GSLV MkIII rocket. Already other two stages with liquid core stage (L110) and solid strap-on motors (S200) had reached Sriharikota and integrated. Once the GSLV MkIII was fully operational, India could be self-reliant and would have the capability of launching 4 tonne class of satellite,” Venkitakrishnan said.

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