ISRO launches GSLV D5, India among heavyweights of rocket science

GSLV India successfully launched rejuvenated indigenous cryogenic engine- fitted GSLV-D5 carrying communication satellite GSAT-14 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre. (Courtesy: ISRO)

After 20 years of toil, the Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) on Sunday took a quantum leap in mastering a rocket technology that puts it in the big league of space faring nations, following a demonstration of the first-ever perfect performance of its indigenously developed cryogenic engine in the course of a successful flight of its Geo Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).

Dogged by setbacks and failure over the last six years, the heavy lift GSLV, which has the capacity to put satellites weighing over 2,000 kg in space, launched the 1,982 kg GSAT-14 communication satellite and put it in a near perfect orbit on Sunday.

The launch sequence of the GSLV, marred by a launch pad fuel leakage on August 19, 2013 and the failure to fire off the cryogenic stage on April 15, 2010, went perfectly as planned on Sunday, with the cryogenic upper third stage firing through a course of 12 minutes, with the predicted revolutions per minute to take the satellite to an altitude of 205 km with a velocity of 9,785 metres per second.

The significance of the success of the flight of the GSLV-D5 was evident from the jubilant cheers in the launch control room at Sriharikota as the cryogenic engine fired at 4 minutes and 53 seconds — after the rocket was ignited at 4:18 pm — and burned out at 16 minutes and 55 seconds.

The GSLV-D5 placed the GSAT-14 communication satellite in an orbit with an apogee (nearest distance to earth) of 179 km, against a targeted 180 km with a 5 km margin for error, and a perigee (furthest distance from earth) of 36,025 km against a target of 35,975 km with a 675 km margin of error.

The successful demonstration of the use of cryogenic engine technology in the upper stage of the GSLV puts India among a league five other nations — the US, Russia, France, Japan and China — that possess the technology that is considered the ultimate frontier in rocket science.

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