SRIHARIKOTA: It was no ordinary launch. Despite labouring for 25 years to master the complex cryogenic technology and spending 15 years on development of GSLV MkIII, space scientists were nervous like an expecting parent.
During the post launch conference, Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar confessed that he was having butterflies in stomach. Excerpts:
What was going through you mind sitting in Mission Control Room when the cryogenic stage was about to ignite?
The general mood was upbeat. In 2014, we had completed testing of S200 solid motor, L110 liquid engine. We made some modifications because of which we were confident that we had solved all the issues. As far as the cryogenic stage is concerned, nearly 200 tests had been done. But, no matter what you do, you have to wait for the event to happen. It was a situation like of an expected parent. Until delivery happens you are tentative. There were butterflies in stomach.
Can we call GSLV MkIII as operational?
This was the first development flight. As per original plan, two developmental missions are to be carried before declaring the vehicle operational. Another developmental flight is being planned within an year after which GSLV MkIII will become fully operational.
Does this mean India has become self-reliant in launching 4 tonne class satellites?
It all depends on the vehicle’s reliability. For example, since 1995, we have not approached foreign agencies to launch our low earth orbiting satellites. With regard to communication satellites, our current capability is only 2.2 tonnes. The next launch on June 28 is of GSAT-18 (3.3 tonnes), we are getting it done from Ariane. Then there is a 5.8 tonnes GSAT-11, which will also be flown from Ariane.
For future mission, GSLV MkIII will slowly be made operational. Even 6-tonne satellites can in principle can be launched using electric propulsion. We have already started building our electric propulsion system. For example, GSAT-9 carries electric propulsion engine.
What is the status of the Third Launch Pad?
We haven’t taken any concrete action on the Third Launch Pad yet. At this point of time, our focus is to maximise the capability of two launch pads, which are 12 PSLV launches per year, two GSLV MkII launches and one GSLV MkIII. From now on, we should be able to do that.
What is the status of interplanetary missions?
Currently, Aditya and Chandrayaan-2 missions are approved and work is in progress. There are other missions in consideration also for which discussions are on.