Data Card

India and space

Print edition : November 14, 2014

A mock-up of the GSLV-MkIII on the second launch pad. Photo: R.K. Sridharan

After the Mars orbiter underlines India’s self-reliance in its space programme, now its focus shifts to sending astronauts into space.

AFTER the phenomenal success of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has turned its attention to the maiden flight of its biggest launch vehicle so far—the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV-MkIII)—in November.

The 630-tonne GSLV-MkIII will carry a 3.65-tonne crew module in which ISRO plans to send astronauts into space eventually. When the vehicle becomes operational after three successful flights in a row, India will become a major player in the competitive commercial launch market for putting four-tonne communication satellites into orbit.

ISRO now has the capability to build any type of launch vehicle and any type of satellite. Its launch vehicles can put these satellites into any type of orbit from its own spaceport at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. Most recently, it successfully put a navigation satellite into orbit on October 16. ISRO has also demonstrated its capability to retrieve satellites from orbit. In January 2007, it put into orbit its first Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE) and recovered the same 12 days later from the Bay of Bengal near Chennai. ISRO’s self-reliance is complete in the field of propellants as well: it uses its own solid, liquid and cryogenic propellants in its launch vehicles.

THE SLVs

Since 1979, when the SLV-3 soared into the sky, ISRO has sent up its launch vehicles 43 times: four SLV-3s, four Augmented SLVs (ASLVs), 27 Polar SLVs (PSLVs) and eight Geostationary SLVs (GSLVs). These launch vehicles have, in all, put into orbit 38 Indian satellites used for remote-sensing, communication, weather-watching, navigation, and so on. Besides, the trusted PSLV has put 40 foreign satellites into orbit. Antrix, the commercial wing of the Department of Space, charges $25,000-30,000 a kilogram of payload for putting foreign satellites into orbit.

The future

Apart from ’the GSLV-Mark III experimental mission, ISRO’s future programmes include Chandrayaan-2, which is a totally Indian mission to the moon; ASTROSAT for astronomical observations; and Aditya-1, a scientific mission to study the solar corona. ISRO is also building a Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), which is its version of the space shuttle, and an air-breathing propulsion system.

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