India launches its largest rocket
India launched its most powerful rocket to date. The GSLV Mk.3, which has two solid-fueled boosters, a twin-engine core, and cryogenic upper stage, lifted off the pad at 7:58 a.m. EDT (11:58 GMT) on June 5, 2017, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Sriharikota Island in India.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been developing this rocket since the early 2000s. However, a number of factors delayed the first flight, including a 2010 failure of the cryogenic upper stage on the smaller GSLV Mk.2 rocket.
ISRO conducted a suborbital test on the system in December 2014. During that flight, the vehicle had a dummy upper stage as well as a test version of the country’s future crew capsule.
The GSLV Mk.3 is able to send satellites almost two times as heavy as the country’s current launch vehicles. The 143-foot (43-meter) tall rocket sports a new first stage design and an upper stage based on the GSLV Mk.2’s.
The vehicle can lift up to 8,800 pounds (4,000 kilograms) into a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) and about 18,000 pounds (8,000 kilograms) to low-Earth orbit. The maiden flight carried the GSAT-19 communications satellite, which weighs about 6,900 pounds (3,100 kilograms) and is the heaviest satellite ever launched into GTO from India.
According to Gunter’s Space Page, the satellite will act as a test bed for a number of new technologies, such as deployable thermal radiators, electric propulsion, indigenous lithium-ion batteries, C-band TWTAs, and optical payloads, etc. It is built on the I-6000 Buss and has two solar arrays.
GSAT-19 has a planned lifespan of 10 years and will support video broadcasting and data networking.
For the June 5 maiden flight, the pre-flight activities went smoothly. Once the countdown reached zero, the two 86-foot (26-meter) tall solid-fueled S200 boosters ignited and began pushing the vehicle skyward away from the Second Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center. The two boosters provided a peak thrust of 2.2 million pounds-force (9,800 kilonewtons).
About 1 minute, 54 seconds into flight, the core stage’s two Vikas engines ignited and began burning hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. At the time of ignition, the rocket was already more than 25 miles (41 kilometers) in altitude.
At two minutes, 20 seconds into the flight, the two S200 boosters separated and fell away. Just over a minute later, the payload fairing separated, revealing the GSAT-19 satellite.
Burning for a few more minutes, the core stage cut off as planned at 5 minutes, 17 seconds. It separated from the upper stage three seconds later.
Once the upper stage’s CE-20 engine ignited, the vehicle continued pushing for geostationary transfer orbit. The engine burned liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for nearly 11 minutes before cutting off at 16 minutes, 5 seconds.
At this point, the vehicle and satellite were in an orbit of about 105 miles (170 kilometers) by 22,353 miles (35,975 kilometers) with an inclination of 21.5 degrees. The GSAT-19 satellite separated at 16 minutes, 20 seconds into the mission.
Over the next days and weeks, the satellite will use its onboard thrusters to circularize its orbit.
Video courtesy of Around Telugu
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity.