While much of the space interested world is looking towards Cape Canaveral and the launch of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission this evening, doubtlessly casting a concerned eye over the charred remains of SpaceX’s mobile launch erector just a few miles away, it was a very different rocket launching from a pad much further away which has already recorded space history today.
The launch, which was of a GSLV, or Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, took place from the Second Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR (SDSC SHAR) situated on the Bay of Bengal.
Rising space power India has been on a bit of tear lately, bolstered by the continuing success of the small, but highly reliable PSLV booster, even as it looks towards a high tech future with a gradually emerging Reusable Launch Vehicle program which has seen two successful technology tests this year. Somewhere in-between is the nation’s problem child, the medium, and aspiring heavy class GLSV, which has been traveling a long and difficult path to achieving success.
Much of those travails have had to do with the introduction of a higher performing cryogenic (liquid hydrogen/ liquid oxygen) upper stage to replace the ones it originally bought from Russia. It has been a challenge in which the United States has played a significant, and from the Indian point of view, highly detrimental role. In short, the U.S. managed to throw a nearly 25 year roadblock into India’s cryogenic aspirations by hamstringing efforts to import the technology, rather than the hardware, from Russia under the auspices of missile control regimes.
The inevitable result was a determined program to develop a fully domestic cryogenic upper stage for the GSLV, an effort which has just paid off in a formal sense with the first operational, as opposed to developmental, launch of the GSLV using the indigenous CUS third stage.
Officially designated GSLV-F05, today’s flight was the tenth overall for the GSLV, carrying to Geostationary Transfer Orbit a 2211 kg weather satellite designated INSAT-3DR. It was the fourth overall to employ the CUS, the last three of which have now been successful. Overall, India’s record with the GLSV has now entered into positive territory with six successful missions to its credit.