For thousands of scientists and engineers across India, it was a heady moment; one that secured them a place under the sun and unequivocally doubts over a project they had laboured on through a decade. This important turning point - a copybook flight of the towering Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) - Scientists hope, will finally help propel India's space programme. India is now among the six countries that have the capability to send missions into space.
A sense of quiet pride apart, GSLV's first flight signals ISRO's metamorphosis into an entity that could build as well as place its multi-purpose satellites into orbit. A couple of successful flights of GSLV would mean that the Insat-class of satellites could be hoisted from Sriharikota, effecting savings of about $70 million which now goes to Arianespace, a European consortium, as launch price.
ANATOMY OF THE GSLV-D1
LENGTH: 49 metres
LIFT-OFF WEIGHT: 401 tonnes
(A) THE MAKE-UP
* Payload Fairing : Made of aluminium alloy, the GSLV heatshield is 3.4 m in diameter, 7.8 m long and weighs 1.3 tonnes. The satellite's inside.
* Cryongenic Stage : This third stage is 2.8 m in diameter and uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel. The Soviet-designed engine is lighter and can carry more weight.
- First Stage : The first stage (GS1) comprises a solid propellant motor, and four liquid propelland strap-on stages, each loaded with 40 tonnes of hypergolic propellants. The S-125 stage is 2.8 m in diameter and weighs 156 tonnes.
- Second Stage : With a diameter of 2.8 m, this stage is loaded with 37.5 tonnes of liquid propellants in two compartments. This has a pump-fed engine of 720 kN thrust.
(B) THE LAUNCH
- First Stage : The four liquid propellant strap-on stages are ignited first while the solid propellant core stage, the S125, is ignited 4.6 seconds later. The core solid propellant stage burns for 100 seconds and the four L-40 propulsion stages continue to burn up to 160 seconds by which time the vehicle reaches an altitude of about 73 km.
- Second Stage : The second stage ignites 1.6 seconds before the separation of the first stage. It burns in about 150 seconds. The second stage disconnects at about 314 seconds from lift-off at an altitude of about 127 km.
- Third Stage : Cryogenic stage ignites and burns for about 710 seconds. The spacecraft is separated at an altitude of 195 km. Before separation, it gives the spacecraft the required injection velocity of 10.2 km per second to place it in the Geo-synchronous Transfer Orbit after a total of 17 minutes.
(C) THE BENEFITS
The GSLV is designed to place satellites (of up to 4 tonnes) with applications like communications, broadcasting and meteorology in the Geo-Synchronous Transfer Orbit. Most countries have up to two-tonne stellites, which is the market India's looking at.
The head of India's space programme understood just how important the success of the launch was to the country. For it was the biggest rocket that India had ever built. Costing Rs 125 crore, it could catapult a satellite weighing 1.53 tonnes, or as much as two maruti cars, into an orbit 36,000 km in space. In this geo-stationary orbit, the satellite matches the speed of the earth's rotation so that it appears still in relation to the earth's movement.
Such an orbit is required for communications satellites like the Indian National Satellite System (INSAT) series that transmit Doordarshan signals and facilitate long-distance telephone calls without a break in transmission. The orbit is the only way possible for the satellite to constantly hover above India. To do that the satellite has to be injected at a velocity of 36,720 km per hour which is 40 times faster than what an Airbus A 300 normally travels and eight times quicker than any fighter jet the Indian Air Force boasts of.
Yet all this is chickenfeed for the huge potential that commercial space business offers. If ISRO's newfound prowess is to grow then it has to demonstrate this through economic viability. It has all the potential to be a big player but it needs money to compete. Says Ariane's Aubin: "If you can fund the programme well now, you can make a very big jump and be a player to reckon with." Now India and ISRO must decide whether they want to take on the world in the global space business.
Courtesy : Outlook Magazine and India Today