Indian scientists prepare new rocket for takeoff in June
India already has two operational rockets. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) can hoist 1.5 tonnes of satellites into space.india Updated: Jun 16, 2017 14:12 IST
Indian scientists are preparing to launch a new rocket capable of carrying two times more weight into space than its predecessors. If all goes according to plan, the rocket could one day be used for India’s first human space mission.
Designed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), the new rocket costs an estimated Rs 300 crore, but could result in equally high savings if it allows India to rely on locally manufactured technology to launch communication satellites. India currently uses French Ariane-5 rockets launched from Kourou in South America.
“We are pushing ourselves to the limits to ensure that this new fully self-reliant Indian rocket succeeds in its maiden launch,” said Isro chairman AS Kiran Kumar. The group is aiming for a launch date of June 5.
India already has two operational rockets. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) can hoist 1.5 tonnes of satellites into space. It was used for India’s first missions to the Moon and to Mars. It failed on its maiden launch but has supported 38 successful missions since.
The second rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark II (GSLV Mk-2), can carry two tonnes of satellites. Because of its repeated failures, it has been dubbed ‘the naughty boy of Isro’.
Space travel is a risky business. Rocket launches by the United States, Russia, Japan, and new private companies have all failed. Last September, a Falcon-9 rocket owned by SpaceX, a company led by billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, caught fire and exploded on its launchpad.
Using its older rockets, Isro has performed 50 successful launches. It earned a world record in February after successfully placing 104 satellites in orbit.
The Isro’s new rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk-3), is the heaviest rocket it has made, weighing in at 705 tonnes, roughly equal to 200 full-grown Asian elephants. This is 1.5 times heavier than the GSLV Mk-2 and almost double the PSLV.
The GSLV Mk-3 has a new cryogenic engine that is being tested on a fully functional rocket for the first time. Mastering this technology, which relies on liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, took more than 15 years for Indian scientists.
The Isro has already prepared plans for sending a human crew into space as soon as the government approves a budget of three-to-four billion dollars. India would become only the fourth country after Russia, the US, and China to have successfully launched a human space flight program.