The country’s space programme reached another milestone on Thursday (8th May), with the successful launch of the GSLV-D2 rocket and the injection of the GSAT-2 experimental satellite into its designated orbit. GSLV-D2 took off at 4.58 p.m. from the Sriharikota Range in Andhra Pradesh on Thursday. The GSLV-D2 is the second experimental rocket of the geosynchronous class, which is meant to put satellites in a fixed point 36,000 km above the earth. Both the launch vehicle (GSLV-D2) as well as the satellite it carried, comes under the developmental (or experimental) phase of the Rs 1,405 crore GSLV programme. The GSLV-D2 features several improvements over the GSLV-D1, which was sent up into the space in April 2001. Importantly, the rocket launched carried a heavier satellite-which weighed 1,800 kg, as compared to the 1,540 kg of GSLV-D1. In order to be able to carry a heavier payload, the rocket carried more fuel and the fuel was fired at a higher pressure. These were the parameters that today’s mission wanted to put to test, and the result was a complete success.
The successful launch of the GSLV-D2/GSAT-2 takes India closer towards self-reliance in the satellite launch business. India, like other countries, needs the services of a number of satellites such as for telecommunications, remote sensing, meteorology, etc. Typically, the telecommunications satellites — INSATs — are heavy, going upwards of 2 tonnes each. While India can launch the remote sensing satellites, using the well-proven `Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle’, or PSLV rockets, the country still has to depend upon overseas launchers such as Arianespace in French Guyana for putting it telecommunications satellites into space. These launchers charge about Rs 15 lakh per kg (of satellite), and therefore the bill for launching a telecommunications satellite could come anywhere between Rs 300 and Rs 400 crore.