In another booster to India's space programme and braving major technological challenges, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) successfully demonstrated its capability to launch its heaviest rocket GSLV-Mark III on Thursday at 9.30am from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
GSLV Mk-III carrying the crew module lifted off from the second launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
The crew module was separated from the launch vehicle, at an altitude of 126 km for re-entry into the earth's atmosphere. It then descended further in ballistic mode followed by an uncontrollable re-entry trajectory. It was then recovered from Bay of Bengal near Indira Point by coast guards
The first developmental flight will come into force in another two years. The launch also tested India's capability for re-entry of crew module, which can also be a prelude towards human space flight.
This new rocket is capable of doubling the capacity of payloads India can carry into space.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congralutated the Isro team for the successful launch.
"Successful launch of GSLV Mk-III is yet another triumph of brilliance & hardwork of our scientists. Congrats to them for the efforts. @isro," Modi posted on Twitter.
This comes less than three months after Isro successfully launched Mangalyaan – a spacecraft orbiting Mars – catapulting India to the elite league of nations who have successfully sent missions to the red planet.
After 730 seconds the parachutes were deployed when the crew module was at a height of 5 km with a velocity varying between 5-7 meter/second. The final touch down began at around 1050 seconds in Bay of Bengal.
GSLV Mk-III is conceived and designed to make India fully self reliant in launching heavier communication satellites of INSAT-4 class, which weigh 4,500 to 5,000 kg. It would also enhance the capability of the country to be a competitive player in the multimillion dollar commercial launch market.
"It is an experimental mission of GSLV Mk-III towards launching heavier satellites. The performance was as expected. The unmanned crew module to test the re-entry characteristics was also successful," Isro chairperson K Radhakrishnan told HT.
It is designed to be a three stage vehicle, with 42.4 m tall with a lift off weight of 630 tonnes.
"This is a suborbital flight, carrying a crew module which will go up to a height of 120 km and then descend," Space Applications Centre director Dr Kiran Kumar said: "The test flight had a crew module as a dummy payload and cryogenic engine for weight simulation. The experimental flight with the crew module in a spacecraft will test whether its heat shield can survive very high temperatures during its re-entry into the atmosphere".
The Mk-III will also test the recovery of a dummy crew module from sea. The success of the module will be the core for a future Human Space Project.
A few years back Isro had carried out a similar experiment on a smaller scale in which the module had orbited around the earth for 15 days before entering back.