India: Scientists at the ISRO have developed an indigenously-built rocket – the largest ever made in India – that could soon be used to transport humans into space. If succeeded, the rocket will catapult India into the big league of sending manned-missions to space. The rocket will be tested in the first week of June.
Standing tall on the rocket port at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh is the country’s latest rocket called the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III or GSLV MK-III. It is the heaviest rocket ever made by India and is capable of carrying the heaviest satellites made till date.
With this rocket, ISRO will have the potential to enter the world’s multi-billion dollar launch market. “We are pushing ourselves to the limits to ensure that this new, fully self-reliant Indian rocket succeeds in its maiden launch,” said ISRO chairman AS Kiran Kumar.
The GSLV MK-III, which was earlier named the Launch Vehicle Mark-3 or LVM-3, will make its maiden launch in June. It will be tested at least half a dozen times. If successful, it could become India‘s vehicle of choice to launch “Indians into space, from Indian soil using Indian rockets”. The rocket is capable of placing up to 8 tons in a low Earth orbit, which is enough to carry India‘s crew module.
ISRO has already prepared plans of hoisting a 2-3 member human crew into space as soon as the government gives it a sanction of about 4 billion dollars. Should the plan for a manned-mission materialize, India would become only the fourth country after Russia, United States and China to have a human space flight program. ISRO has said that the first Indian to go into space (from an Indian launch) could be a woman astronaut.
“In principle, it will be the GSLV MK-III or its variant that will be human rated in future,” Mr Kumar said.
The rocket port in Sriharikota is buzzing with activity as engineers from ISRO get set to launch the new indigenously-made rocket. It is the heaviest fully-functional rocket to reach the launch pad – weighing 640 tons or almost 5 times the weight of a fully loaded Jumbo Jet airplane.
The new rocket is capable of carrying satellites of four ton class into the geosynchronous orbit and opens a whole new window through which ISRO can now explore the universe. It is estimated that the new rocket costs around Rs. 300 crore.