Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's destination Mars for ISRO

After the moon, it is destination Mars for the Indian space agency. Work on the next generation launch vehicle Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark III, planned for a 2011 launch, took a big leap with the ground test of liquid core stage late on Friday.

Scientists conducted the static test or ground firing of its liquid core stage (L110) of GSLV Mk III launch vehicle for 150 seconds, monitoring about 500 parameters, at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) test facility at Mahendragiri on March 5, 2010, evening. The next static test for 200 seconds will be conducted after analysis of this data.

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The next-gen rocket is world's third largest in fuel mass and length and its 200-ton 25-m long solid propellant rocket booster - next only to US and Europe space shuttles -- has been developed in house.

Indian Space Research Organization [ISRO] officials say the new 42m or 12-storey building high 6.3 ton rocket can put a four-ton satellite in orbit while also packing more transponders in one space flight. The GSLV Mk-III can also be used for the 2015 human spaceflight besides sending meaningful probes to Mars and other inter-planetary missions.

ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan told India Today that the agency, operating on a Rs 5,000-crore shoestring budget, has planned major milestones in the future. Last year, the agency was all over the moon with the successful Chandrayaan-1 moon mission and achieved a big high putting into orbit ten satellites on a single Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), becoming the first country to achieve the feat; while eight satellites were foreign two - Cartosat-2 and Indian Mini Satellite - were made in India.

Measuring 17 meters in length and 4 meters in diameter, L110 is an earth storable liquid propellant stage with a propellant loading of 110 tons. With GSLV Mk-III intended to launch heavy satellites into geostationary orbit India will also become less reliant on foreign rockets for heavy lifting. This rocket also comes at a time when the US had prevailed upon Russia, citing the Missile Technology Control Regime [MTCR],  not to transfer to India the Russian made cryogenic engine that had powered GSLV-1 forcing Indian scientists to develop an indigenous one.

We are on for very exciting times indeed, said Radhakrishnan who took over from Madhavan Nair late last year. The sky is not the limit for the Indian space agency whose budget is less than a tenth of NASA.

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