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GSLV Launch: INDIA’S DREAM COME TRUE, By Prof. Arvind Kumar, 8 Jan, 2014 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 8 January 2014

GSLV Launch


By Prof. Arvind Kumar

(Dept of Geopolitics & Intl Relations, Manipal Univ)


The beginning of 2014 for Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has proven good especially because of the successful launch of the Geosynchronus Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). The launch, using an indigenous cryogenic engine has marked a new phase in the nation’s consistent efforts in becoming a select group of elite space faring nations. It is not only a milestone but a demonstration of a very special capability, which was denied to India in the early part of the nineties. The United States’ not only supplied cryogenic engine to India but also pressurized the formerly Soviet Union not to supply it. And, India’s commitment to move towards indigenous development was a bi-product of the US’ policy and strategy.


The success of GSLV means that India now has the ability to put satellites weighing more than two tonnes in orbit. So far, such capabilities existed only to a limited number of space faring nations including the U.S., Russia, France, Japan and China. These countries, over the years, have achieved the mastery of this complex and complicated technology of using cryogenic propellants -- liquid oxygen at minus 183 degrees Celsius and liquid hydrogen at minus 253 degrees’ Celsius.


The advantages of such accomplishments for any nation can be understood only in the context of the larger technological challenges. New Delhi may like to pursue its path of development in the space arena by putting all its efforts consistently to catch up with the elite club of the space faring nations. The attainment of self sufficiency in space transportation systems has always been a complex task. But, the success of GSLV to a greater extent has provided confidence to India about its growing technological prowess and strength.


Undeniably, India would be able to launch much heavier payloads at much higher altitudes in comparison to the Polaris Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). More importantly, it will sharply reduce the cost of access to space. It must be emphasized here that by international standards, the space budget in India has been pretty low. It is a matter of debate across the world that how India can achieve so many technologies in the space domain in such a low budget.


Apparently, the global space markets have been growing. In the current scenario, more than two thirds of the satellites launched are in the higher weight class. Now, India will have a fair chance to have its share in the global space markets. The success has come at an opportune time. It has now also been made possible for the country to pursue and augment its efforts to launch manned missions and inter-planetary probes. India seems to be in a spree to launch more than a dozen satellites in the near future.


The GSLV capability will also help India to treble the number of transponders for communications. The country may like to work towards achieving the new generation geo-imaging satellites, which will be very useful for providing near real time pictures of large areas of the country, under cloud free conditions, at frequent intervals. It would be an additional eye in the sky and will be very significant from the national security point of view.

The Geo-imaging satellite (GISAT) will be placed in geostationary orbit of 36,000 km. It will be capable of taking selected sector-wise images every five minutes and of the entire Indian landmass every 30 minutes at 50m spatial resolution. GISAT will carry a GEO Imager with multi-spectral (visible, near infra-red and thermal), multi-resolution (50m to 1.5 km) imaging instruments. It will provide pictures of the area of interest on near real time basis including border areas. Hence, the GSLV capability demonstration now will provide impetus to India to go ahead and acquire GISAT. A closer watch of India’s adversaries would be essential in the foreseeable future mainly to guard its borders and protect its national interests.


Further, it is a well known fact that India’s gains in space technology have helped in many ways. The use of remote sensing satellites to locate drinking water for two lakh habitations itself suggests the significance of such developments. India has been able to map everything from wastelands to potential fishing zones. The advances made by it in space-based technologies will certainly be seen in the context of how the country can scale up gains in both political and economic spheres.


The success of GSLV launch has also been seen as a boon in disguise for India. For over 20 years, the cryogenic technology was denied to it by Russia under pressure from the US. The launch has conveyed a message again to the rest of the world that the technology denial regime has always produced counterproductive results and it provided sufficient impetus to New Delhi for driving its indigenous space technology. India will certainly be on the top of the radar screen mainly to attract foreign satellite launches due to its competitive cost. 

The launch sequence of the GSLV, marred by a launch pad fuel leakage on August 19, 2013 and the failure to fire off the cryogenic stage on April 15, 2010, went perfectly in 2014 with the cryogenic upper third stage firing through a course of 12 minutes, with the predicted revolutions per minute to take the satellite to an altitude of 205 km with a velocity of 9,785 metres per second. This was made possible only because of the consistency, which ISRO has shown in its research and development in realizing all its scheduled plans.


The significance of the success of the flight of the GSLV-D5 has been evident because of the success of the cryogenic engine fired at 4 minutes and 53 seconds — after the rocket was ignited and burned out. Indeed, it was a technological feat for ISRO.


The GSLV-D5 placed the GSAT-14 communication satellite in an orbit with an apogee (nearest distance to earth) of 179 km, against a targeted 180 km with a 5 km margin for error, and a perigee (furthest distance from earth) of 36,025 km against a target of 35,975 km with a 675 km margin of error.


The successful demonstration of the GSLV capability using cryogenic engine in the upper stage of the GSLV puts India among a league of nations that is considered the ultimate frontier in rocket science. GSLV will also be the launch vehicle for India's next moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, in 2016. Such declarations made by ISRO also signifies lot many ambitious plans of the country.  


India will certainly step up the efforts to develop satellite-based navigation services in the foreseeable future. ISRO would require concentrating on achieving real time disaster management capability through the development of space-based assets and relating technologies. The research and development in the space technology domain thus should be given priority by India to maximize its interests across the globe. Notably, in due course of time, space is going to be the major arena of contest among major powers. And, India has to take a lead in all the emerging areas of space technology. ---INFA


(Copyright, India News and  Feature  Alliance)




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