Successful GSLV-D5 Flight (Cryogenic Engine)

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GSLV-D5 Gets India the Edge

Though not in its maiden flight, the Geo Synchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV) D5 did successfully soar into the skies after it was launched the second time from Sriharikota Island, off the coast of Bay of Bengal, on January 5, 2014. This happens to the first orbital venture of the year 2014. Powered by home-built, cryogenic Vikas engine, this GSLV launch has made possible India’s entry into the league of nations which has pioneered cryogenic fuel engine technology and includes USA, France, Russia, Japan, and China.
More on GSLV: GSLV has made eight attempts, 3 successful, 4 unsuccessful and 1 partially failed, beginning from 2001. Up till now India looked up to US and Europe for launching geosynchronous satellites in the space. The efforts to develop this capability started back in 1990 when the GSLV project kicked off. A GSLV uses the following components:

  • Fool proof components from the PSLV launchers (S125/S139 solid booster)
  • Liquid fuelled Vikas Engine
  • Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS) Engine (third stage)

More about the launcher:

Being an Mk II launch vehicle the core stage of the rocket used a solid propellant hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene, the second stage was GS2 while the third stage had home built CUS engine. Vikas engine has been used in the four strap-on boosters.
Previously, Glavcosmos, a Russian firm signed a deal to supply India with cryogenic third stage but backed out under US’ pressure in 1992. India then took to bracing her own skills at this technology in 1994. But, in 2001, its first flight which carried GSAT-1 went unsuccessful. Though later, in 2003 (launching GSAT2) and in 2004 (launching EDUSAT) the attempts were successful. In 2006 (launching INSAT4C) again it failed and in 2007 (launching INSAT4CR) it failed only partially. In April 2010, the first case third stage of the rocket failed to ignite and in Dec 2010 the efforts were flawed due to which the vehicle went out of control. After years of failed attempts and hopeful only from the limited success which they got, the scientists refer to the GSLV as the “Naughty Boy”.

Cryogenic Fuel Technology:

When both the fuel and the oxidizer used in rocket propellant is gas compressed as liquid and stored at extremely low temperatures the mixture is known as cryogenic fuel. The commonest of the mixtures used is that with liquid hydrogen (LH2) for fuel and liquid oxygen (LOX) for oxidizer. A cryogenic engine consumes either one or both of the fuel and the oxidizer as cryogenic. In India, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), in Trivendrum, under ISRO masters in liquid fuel technology.

Vikas Engine:

It is a domestically built cryogenic engine whose development began in 1970s by the expertise of Nambi Narayanan and his crew. In India, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSCC), Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala develops this launch vehicle. Being used in the second stage in Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles as well as in GSLVs, it uses four strap-on motors and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) as fuel and nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) as oxidiser. It can carry a potential 55 tonnes of propellant in a GSLV Mk III which uses two such engines in its core stage. The difference between GSLV MK II and MK III rockets is of capacity only. But, they do not import technology from GSLV MK I.

Objectives of the Launch:

  • The mission took off to place the geosynchronous communications satellite GSAT-14 weighing 1,982 kg into the geosynchronous track. Hence, an obvious outcome of this launch will be enhanced communication services.
  • A boost to defence services is also likely.
  • Lifting off of heavy weight satellites (more than 2000 kg) into outer space has been possible with cryogenic upper stage fuel technology. India has been attempting to command over this since last three years.
  • The mission has enabled India to hold a share in international market for satellite launch as very few countries have this capacity.
  • Since Russia denied us this technology under the sanctions imposed on it by the US, India wanted to build its capacity in this arena and end its own dependence over foreign nations.

This lift-off has inked India’s name in the elite nations’ league and earned her the reputation as foreseen and aspired for by her brilliant scientists. Positive after the landmark event, LPSC’s director M.C. Dathan announced the possibility of the launch of the ditto of GSLV D5 i.e. GSLV D6 by Aug 2014 which would also carry a communication satellite to its geosynchronous orbit. Work for this twin is almost three quarters ready. Reinforcing India’s confidence in its indigenous technology will grab India a footing on global platform and more space exploration avenues will open up leading to higher advanced services.

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