On Wednesday afternoon, the atmosphere in Isro's Liquid Propulsion System Centre at Mahendragiri, Tamilnadu,was tense. The mood among the scientists and engineers was one of nervous apprehension. In the control room, the Isro team sat in front of their computers observing data, and the countdown clock was ticking away.
3.25 p.m.. 3.26 p.m. 3,27 p.m.3.28 p.m., 3.29 p.m. And at sharp 3.30 p.m---the much awaited moment arrived --the engine started, operated for 200 seconds and at the end the scientists heaved a tremendous sigh of relief. The test was a super success. What was its significance? It was the second static test of one of the heaviest rocket engines in India--the liquid core stage designated as L110 of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark 3. A similar test conducted on March 6, 2010 had failed because of a leak forcing the scientists to terminate the running of the engine when it hit the 150-second mark.
According to Isro, the L110 is one the heaviest earth storable liquid stages ever developed by Isro. It has two high pressure Vikas engines in what is known as a cluster configuration. Nearly 500 health parameters were monitored during the test and the initial data indicated normal performance.
The 42.4 metre tall GSLV Mark 3, now under advanced stage of development, will have the capability to place in the geostationary orbit communication satellites weighing between 4500 and 5000 kgs. Tentatively it is slated to make its first flight sometime next year. The current version of GSLVs can launch communication satellites weighing upto two tonnes.
Space experts explain that the development of such a powerful rocket by India would go a long way in enhancing the capability of the country to be competitive player in the multi-million dollar commercial launch market. By and large it would eliminate the need for Isro to launch its heavier Insat-class communication satellites from foreign launchers like for example Ariane 5.
Once the GSLV Mark 3 becomes operational, India can launch communication satellites of foreign countries too. The highly proven four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is carrying remote sensing satellites of foreign countries, and right now there is a queue of foreign space agencies waiting to place their satellites on the PSLV. The same perhaps could happen with the GSLV Mark 3.
The GSLV is a three-stage rocket. The first stage consists of two identical S200 large solid rocket boosters with 200 tonnes of propellant which are strapped on to the second stage. This was successfully tested sometime back. The second stage consists of the L110 restartable liquid stage. Each Vikas engine will produce 75 tonnes of thrust. The third stage consists of the cryogenic stage. It will contain 25 tonnes of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. It will produce 20 tonnes of thrust. The rocket resembles Arianespace's Ariane 5 launcher..
The GSLV Mark 3 programme has been running behind schedule. But in space technology such delays are inevitable. Ultimately, it is the success of the mission which matters.
Good luck GSLV Mark 3 and God Speed.
Another good news on the space front which will benefit the common man. In the not-too-distant future bus travellers in India can feel safe. The reason?
A new agreement signed between Glonass, the Russian navigation information system and a Hyderabad-based firm, allow the former to manufacture and market its products with the Hyderabad organisation which draw upon the Russian satellite navigation satellite system.
The project envisages, the installation of telematics Glonass equipment on Indian buses, according to Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency. It will essentially produce automation for staff control of vehicles in normal and emergency situations, provide personnel with data on vehicle location for decision-making and display graphical data about the vehicle's position.