Isro will test launch India's souped-up rocket - GSLV Mark III - from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh between December 15 and 20 to test the atmospheric stability of the launch vehicle.
Once Isro masters heavier launch vehicles capable of putting four tonne satellites into orbit, India will not have to depend on France to put its bigger satellites into orbit and save precious foreign exchange, besides getting more business.
The test flight of GSLV Mark III will also carry a crew model to test its re-entry characteristics. "It is purely an experimental flight," said MYS Prasad, director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, while briefing media persons.
The main objective of the Rs 155 crore mission is to test the atmospheric characteristics and stability of the rocket on its way up. The mission will also test the crew module, which will eventually be used in manned space missions in the future, he said.
The GSLV Mark III experimental flight will not have the cryogenic engine that can power the vehicle to carry four tonne satellites into orbit. "The cryogenic engine is under development and will take two years to be ready," said Prasad. Since engines for the other stages are ready, Isro decided to go ahead with this mission to test the rocket performance and stability while going up.
On the crew capsule, which is designed to take three crew members, Prasad said it is mainly to test the safety parameters of the capsule when it re-enters the atmosphere. Though it is called crew capsule, it will not carry any humans, at least for now, he said.
The rocket will go up to an altitude of 126 km before the crew capsule will blast off and then will descend and fall in the Bay of Bengal, 20 minutes after blast off.
The descending crew module would be controlled by three parachutes. It would touch down in the Bay of Bengal, 600 km from Port Blair and 1600 kms from the space station.
Personnel of the Indian Coast Guard and Navy would recover the module and bring it back to Sriharikota.