ISRO’s Rocket Takes Off, Carrying Weather Satellite


New Delhi: After a hiccup or two, the Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO’s “Naughty Boy”, the GSLV rocket, snaked into the blue, carrying the weather satellite INSAT-3DR. The picture-perfect launch came after an initial delay of 40 minutes, which insiders in the ISRO had attributed to “anomalies”.

The first operational launch of the GSLV (Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) is a huge step ahead for India, which had decided to develop the launcher for its satellites to stop having to depend on foreign rockets and providers.

But its success opens new vistas — since the GSLV will be the vehicle to launch the nation’s second moon mission — Chandrayaan-2 — next year. It will also smooth the nation’s path to step into the multi-billion dollar commercial space launcher market.

Though this is GSLV’s first operational launch, the 415-tonne rocket is being tested for the tenth time. But it has had a patchy record, with five of its nine flights resulting in failure.

ISRO had attributed today’s delay in launch to an ‘anomaly’ — sources said “issues” had crept in over the filling of propellants for the cryogenic engine that took nearly two decades to develop.

Cryogenic engines are special rocket engines that use liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as fuel. The extremely cold temperatures of these liquids make them tricky to operate.

It took ISRO 20 years to master the cryogenic technology after Russia reneged on a deal to transfer it in the early 1990s at the behest of the US. The GSLV rocket is almost 49 meters high — as much as a 17-floor building. It weighs 415 tons — as much as the combined weight of 80 full grown elephants.

Rocket launches are still a very risky business, which became evident when the Falcon- 9rocket by Space-X exploded on a launch pad in USA on September 1. Space-X is a private company owned by billionaire Ellon Musk, which is now experimenting with cheaper space launches.

The GSLV will be carrying the 2211-kg INSAT 3DR, which will eventually be placed in an orbit 36,000 km above Earth. What makes the satellite special is its imaging capabilities for night-time pictures. It also carries a special search and rescue transponder, which will help in satellite-aided rescue
Together, they represent an expenditure of Rs. 400 crore.

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