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Updated: January 24, 2010 21:18 IST

Towards self-reliance in launch vehicle technology

T. S. Subramanian
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ALL SET FOR ANOTHER MILESTONE: The L-110 stage of GSLV Mk-III undergoing final preparations for testing at the test stand at Mahendragiri, near Nagercoil, in Tamil Nadu. It is called L-110 stage because it is powered by 110 tonnes of liquid propellants. Photo: ISRO
The Hindu ALL SET FOR ANOTHER MILESTONE: The L-110 stage of GSLV Mk-III undergoing final preparations for testing at the test stand at Mahendragiri, near Nagercoil, in Tamil Nadu. It is called L-110 stage because it is powered by 110 tonnes of liquid propellants. Photo: ISRO

GSLV Mk-III, is the most powerful rocket to be built by ISRO, will make India totally self-reliant in launch vehicle technology for launching INSAT class of communication satellites which are now being put in orbit for India by the European launcher Ariane-5.

“Towards sustained self-reliance in accessing space, GSLV Mk-III, the next generation launch vehicle,” announces a stylish poster on India’s Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III, which is currently under development.

The poster, along with a model of the GSLV Mk-III, was prominently displayed in the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) pavilion, “Pride of India,” during the Indian Science Congress held recently at Thiruvananthapuram.

The GSLV Mk-III will make India totally self-reliant in launch vehicle technology for launching INSAT class of communication satellites which are now being put in orbit for India by the European launcher Ariane-5.

In the fourth week of this month, the ISRO will cross a milestone in its efforts to develop this aerial powerhouse called the GSLV Mk-III when one of its two gigantic strap-on booster motors, S-200, erupts into life and fires for about 130 seconds. The motor will fire at the massive new test facility built at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota. The motor is called S-200 because it is powered by 200 tonnes of solid propellants.

The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, has designed S-200, and propellant casting has been done in a newly built plant at Sriharikota. The final preparation for ground-testing of the motor is progressing at Sriharikota and test readiness is being reviewed by the Test Authorisation Board chaired by SDSC Director M.C. Dathan.

In February first week, the ISRO will cross another milestone when the GSLV Mk-III’s core stage (L-110), powered by 110 tonnes of liquid propellants, fires for about 200 seconds at the huge test stand at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) at Mahendragiri near Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu.

Short-duration test

A test for 15 seconds will be done to validate the performance of the engine and the associated ground facilities before the long-duration test is conducted for 200 seconds. The final preparations for testing the L-110 stage are on at Mahendragiri under the guidance of LPSC Director M.K.G. Nair.

Sub-systems are getting ready for undergoing tests at the same facility for the upper cryogenic stage, which will be fuelled by 25 tonnes of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

If everything goes on schedule, the first flight of the GSLV Mk-III will take place by the end of 2011. It is the most powerful rocket to be built by the ISRO, weighing 630 tonnes and 43.5 metres tall. It can put a satellite weighing four tonnes in a geo-synchronous transfer orbit with a perigee of about 200 km and an apogee of 36,000 km. It can put a satellite weighing 10 tonnes in a near-earth orbit at an altitude of about 300 km.

It has three stages. The two boosters, S-200, form the first stage. The boosters hug the core/second liquid stage. Above this liquid stage is the cryogenic stage.

“S-200 stage is the third largest stage in the world. Preparations are on for the first static test of the S-200 motor at Sriharikota. It will be a milestone in the GSLV Mk-III’s development,” said VSSC Director P.S. Veeraraghavan. S-200 is the third largest booster after the NASA Space Shuttle and Arianespace Ariane-5’s boosters.

According to N. Narayana Moorthy, Project Director, GSLV Mk-III, the ISRO executed a massive programme of building the infrastructure needed for the project at Sriharikota, Mahendragiri and in Thiruvananthapuram. Out of Rs. 2,500 crore allocated to the project, Rs. 1,600 crore was earmarked for building infrastructure including facilities for assembling and testing the solid, liquid and cryogenic engines and their stages, and integration halls at Sriharikota, Mahendragiri and in Thiruvananthapuram. A big plant for manufacturing the solid propellants needed for S-200 boosters has come up at Sriharikota.

“The ISRO has built big facilities in the launch complex at Sriharikota for handling and integration of the GSLV Mk-III. These include erection of a new mobile launch pedestal since the core vehicle’s diameter is four metres,” said Mr. Narayana Moorthy. Major facilities have come up at the VSSC and Sriharikota for structural testing of different hardware including propellant tanks and light alloy structures.

“We have completed building most of the infrastructure and we are starting the testing phase. The launch schedule will depend on the outcome of the ground tests,” said Mr. Narayana Moorthy.

GSLV Mk-III’s motor S-200 will be tested in the last week of January If everything goes on schedule, the first flight will take place by 2011-end

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