India Sunday joined the select league of space-faring nations with indigenous cryogenic engine technology, successfully launching its rocket that put a communication satellite in orbit.
The mission's success not only paves the way for the Indian space agency to save launch costs paid to foreign space agencies but also to launch more communication satellites augmenting the transponder capacity to earn more revenue.
The Indian space scientists' toil of around two decades in conceiving the more efficient cryogenic engine technology, which provides more thrust for every kilogram of propellant, spending around Rs.400 crore seems to have come to fruition with the delivery of the GSAT-14 in the outer space.
At precisely 4.18 p.m., the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Development 5 (GSLV D5) with a deep roar rose into sky with a thick orange flame at its tail, breaking away from the second launch pad here at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
Around 17 minutes into the flight, the 49.13-metre tall, 414.75- tonne GSLV-D5 rocket slung the 1,982-kg GSAT-14 in the intended orbit.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was to launch this rocket last August but aborted the blast-off just hours before the deadline as fuel started leaking from its second stage or engine.
ISRO's scientists at the mission control centre were visibly happy with Sunday's blast-off. They back-slapped and hugged one another once the rocket ejected the 1,982-kg GSAT-14 into the intended orbit.
ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishan said: "The Indian cryogenic engine and stage performed as predicted and as expected for the mission and injected GSAT-14 in its intended orbit."
He added: "We have paid back all our debts to the country."
Radhakrishnan described it as an important day for Indian science and space technology.
"Twenty years of efforts and toil in developing cryogenic engine and stage has paid off. The extruciating efforts of the past three years has been realized," he said.
An ecstatic S.Ramakrishnan, director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, said: "At ISRO we used to call GSLV as naughty boy. But today the naughty boy is a very obedient boy."
The Sunday launch success is sweet for the Indian space fraternity as it comes after successful launch of Mars Orbiter last year.
For Radhakrishnan, this is the first successful GSLV rocket launch as ISRO chief.
This was the first mission of GSLV during the last four years after two such rockets failed in 2010.
One of the GSLV rockets was fitted with Indian cryogenic engine and the other one with a Russian engine.
The GSLV is a three stage/engine rocket. The core of first stage is fired with solid fuel while the four strap-on motors by liquid fuel. The second is the liquid fuel and the third is the cryogenic engine.
For the country, ISRO perfecting the cryogenic engine technology is crucial as by launching communication satellites by itself it can help the country save precious foreign exchange.
Currently ISRO launches its heavy communication satellites by hiring the services of the European space agency Ariane.
Radhakrishnan has told IANS that the country pays around $85-90 million or around Rs.500 crore as launch fee for sending up a 3.5p-tonne communication satellites. The cost of satellite is separate.
He said the cost of GSLV is Rs.220 crore.
The ISRO can send smaller communication satellites - weighing around two tonnes - till such time it gets ready an advanced GSLV variant - GSLV-Mark III - that can lug satellites weighing around four tonnes.
While that is for the future, Radhakrishnan said ISRO has lined up several satellite launches for the current GSLV rocket version.
"We will be launching satellites GSAT-6, 7A, 9 using GSLV. We will also be using this rocket for our second Chandrayaan mission and for the launch of GISAT," he told IANS.
According to him, another communication satellite, GSAT-15, will be launched using the Ariane rocket.
Other than the flight testing of cryogenic engine, 2014 will be an important year for ISRO.
Radhakrishnan noted that in September, the Mars Orbiter will be injected into the Mars orbit while the test flight of GSLV-Mark III version will also include a crew module for characterisation of re-entry from the space.
"The GSLV-Mark III experimental mission will be in April this year. The rocket will have a passive cryogenic stage/engine. The main purpose of the mission is to study the aerodynamics and stability of the rocket," he said.
Radhakrishnan said the cryogenic engine for the next GSLV version will take around three years for being flight ready.
According to ISRO, several design changes were incorporated in Sunday's rocket after studying the past GSLV rockets and the issues faced in them.
ISRO officials told IANS that though the rocket's rated carrying capacity is around 2.2 tonnes, it was decided to carry a sub-two tonnes satellite with minimum number of transponders (receivers and transmitters of communication signals).
ISRO's earlier attempts to fly a GSLV rocket carrying slightly over two tonnes satellites have ended in partial/total failures.
The cuboid shaped Rs.145 crore GSAT-14 is India's 23rd geostationary satellites built by ISRO. It has a life span of 12 years.
It carries six extended C-band and Ku-band transponders (receivers and transmitters of signals), and two Ka-band becons. The satellite will be used for telemedicine and tele-education services.