Crew Module Makes Textbook Return and Splashes Down In Calm Waters
SRIHARIKOTA: A shade under 20 minutes after it blazed a trail in the sky, ISRO's chief Dr K Radhakrishnan allowed himself a broad 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. Pride is an emotion that is difficult to contain, even if you're privy to some of the country's most cutting edge technology, "Everything went off as expected. This new launch vehicle performed very well and is a great success. We had an unmanned crew module to understand re-enetry characteristics. That also went off successfully and it has touched down in the Bay of Bengal," he said happily.
So what does this success signify? First and most excitingly, we're most certainly that 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 and we are pleased with the performance. This is a step towards manned space flight as the module that has been designed to carry astronauts has touched down safely. The coast guard ships that were 100 km away from the touchdown point lost sight of it briefly, but the module continued to communicate it's location to us," said Unnikrishnan Nair, the man behind the Manned Space Flight mission. Perhaps putting an Indian man (or women) in space in an Indian ship isn't such a difficult thing to imagine for 2017, after all.
The other thing is that India has a huge, payload carrying rocket that isn't at risk of coming apart, shaking off the stigma built by the unsuccessful GSLV launches of the past. "India you have a new launch vehicle," said S Somnath, Mission Director of LVM-3, grinning broadly, "The payload capabilities that we can now handle have been significantly enhanced. After the success of the dummy stage cry engine tested in this rocket, we will have greater confidence to put the cryogenic engine in it within 2 years," he added.
With an ability to carry in excess of 630 tonnes, there is an inherent hope that this vehicle will be a sign of increased business. "Very soon, countries who want to put satellites into space will be queuing up to use our vehicles," said SDSC-SHAR's Director M Y S Prasad. It is a well established fact that India's space agency spends a lot less on individual missions, making it lucrative for corporates and conglomerates who are currently dependent on American and Kazakh space agencies to launch vehicles. The question of a development cost and operational expenses is a separate issues altogether.