Second GSLV rocket launched

Updated: May 8, 2003

File photo of maiden GSLV rocket launch. Photo: ISRO
India's largest rocket soared skyward today on its second test flight, carrying with it an experimental satellite and plans for indigenous access to space for a wide range of payloads.

Liftoff occurred at approximately 1128 GMT (7:28 a.m. EDT) from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, along the Bay of Bengal.

Almost 17 minutes after launch, the rocket had deployed its GSAT-2 satellite payload into the targeted egg-shaped transfer orbit with a low point of about 112 miles, a high point of about 22,370 miles and inclination of 19.2 degrees.

The first signals acquired from the GSAT-2 received at the ground stations at Biak indicate normal performance, the Indian Space Research Organization said.

GSAT-2 will be slowly boosted into a circular geostationary orbit where it will be parked along the equator at 48 degrees East longitude, or 22,300 miles above the Indian Ocean.

The nearly 4,000-pound spacecraft features four C-band transponders and two Ku-band transponders that will be used to conduct communications tests and experiments.

Also included aboard GSAT-2 are a radiation instrument, an electrical charge detector, a spectrometer to look at solar flares and a beacon to study the atmosphere using radio signals.

The launch was the second in the Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle program. The first GSLV flew in April 2001. ISRO called the launch a success. However, space observers point out that the rocket deployed its cargo into a lower-than-planned orbit.

An artist's concept of GSAT-2. Credit: ISRO
Since then, several upgrades to the GSLV have been added to allow an increased payload mass capability to orbit. For example, propellant loading techniques for the first stage core solid motor have been improved, modifications to the liquid-fueled engines on the four strap-on boosters and the second stage have been made, and structural components have been optimized, ISRO says.

Overall, GSAT-2 weighed over 500 pounds more than GSAT-1, which was lofted into orbit on the maiden GSLV flight two years ago.

The GSLV is the cornerstone in the Indian Space Research Organization's aspirations to have a "self-reliant" space program, where satellites are both built and launched from Indian soil. Heavier spacecraft from India now rely on foreign boosters to get to orbit, but once the GSLV completes a series of qualification flights, some of those -- such as the Insat communications craft -- will likely be manifested aboard future more powerful GSLV's.

It is currently planned that the GSLV will have to chalk up at least three qualification flights before being entrusted to launch a fully operational satellite, and ISRO's plans for a lunar mission later this decade will require the use of a GSLV rocket.

A second launch pad is now under construction at Sriharikota to allow for a more aggressive launch pace for ISRO, which launches Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles in addition to the GSLV.

This GSLV rocket configuration has four liquid-fueled boosters and a solid rocket motor first stage. The second stage Vikas engine burns liquid hypergolic propellants, while the third stage is fed by chilled cryogenic fuel and is built in Russia. India is developing an eventual replacement for the Russian upper stage for use in the future, and possibly as early as the next GSLV flight in 2005, according to some media reports.

ISRO is also planning a third-generation version of the GSLV that could as much as double payload capacity in as little as six years using a new design, the Indian space program said in its most recent annual report.

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