India Faces Series of Challenging Missions Over Next Six Months

The New Indian Express reports that ISRO is facing a series of challenging missions over the next six months that officials hope will help vault the Indian space agency into the elite ranks of the world’s space powers. The missions include:

  • test flight of a domestically developed cryogenic upper stage in August;
  • launch of the nation’s first Martian spacecraft in late November; and,
  • the inaugural flight in January of the new GSLV-III, the most powerful launch vehicle ever built by India.

The GSLV-D5 flight during the third week in August will test a cryogenic upper stage that India has been developing for 20 years. The first test of the engine failed in April 2010 when it did not ignite. The flight in August will carry the GSAT-14 communications satellite.

The complex cryogenic stage is seen as crucial for allowing India to launch its own communications satellites and to compete on the world market for launch contracts.

This mission will be the first launch of the GSLV-II rocket since one failed on Christmas Day 2010. The GSLV has a poor operational record; it has failed more times than it has succeeded. To compete internationally, ISRO will have to improve the reliability of the launch vehicle as well.

ISRO is scheduled to launch its Mars spacecraft on November 28 or 29 on the much more reliable PSLV rocket. The spacecraft will take 300 days to reach Mars before entering a highly elliptical orbit around the Red Planet. Only the United States, Soviet Union and Europe have successfully sent spacecraft to Mars.

The space agency has scheduled the first test launch of the new GSLV-III rocket in January. The launch vehicle is much more powerful than the GSLV-II and is based on different technology.

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