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ISRO is all set to launch GSLV Mark-III, India’s heaviest rocket until date, today evening

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Adding to its list of accolades received over the past few years, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is now readying itself to launch the most powerful and heaviest homegrown rocket until date.

The Government-backed space agency is today launching the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mark III), with a communications satellite GSAT-19 in tow, on Monday evening from the southern island of Sriharikota. This is one of the two launch sites ISRO puts into use to launch its rockets. But, today’s launch, happening around 5:30 p.m, is one of the most significant for the country.

The GSLV Mark-III, which stands tall at 43.43 meters and weighs 640 tonnes, has already launched heavy payloads to the Earth’s orbit. But, it is now looking to add another feather to its already flooding cap with today’s launch of its heaviest payload until date, i.e. 3,136-kg GSAT-19 communications satellite. With a flight time of around 16 minutes, ISRO is looking to place the satellite close to 179km above the Earth’s surface.

The GSAT-19 communications satellite has a lifespan of about 10 years and is carrying along Ka and Ku-band payload. It has been coupled with several other payloads, including a Geostationary Radiation Spectrometer (GRASP) to analyze the nature of charged particles and the influence of space radiation of electronic components. Though the rocket booster is smaller than its previous-gen iteration but packs within more power and experimental technologies than the same.

The launch of the GSLV Mark-III rocket, which is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle, has come to fruition a little too late, about thirteen years later than it was initially expected to take off, because of a U.S. sanction and a foisted case. This delay in adopting the high-thrust cryogenic engine also happened due to time required to perfect the technology. This rocket is able to generate the thrust it does because of the use of liquid hydrogen at -253-degree Celsius and oxygen at -183-degree Celsius as fuel and oxidiser.

The pathway to use this technology is now clear and will lead the way for its future projects, such as Chandrayaan-2 and a manned mission. The space scientists at ISRO believe that a successful launch of the GSLV Mark-III will be an important milestone for the space agency and will help reduce their dependence on European engines. Speaking about the same, former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan, who worked on the cryogenic engine back in the early 90’s said,

If there was no sanction, we would have operationalized GSLV Mk-II in 1999. By 2003-2004, we would have launched what we would be witnessing on Monday.

In addition to the experimental high-thrust cryogenic engine at the center, two strap-on motors called ‘S200’ are located on either side of the same. Each of these motors carries 205 tons of composite solid propellant, which burns for about 140 seconds and their ignition results in vehicle lift -off. All the rocket boosters have been developed indigenously by space researchers at ISRO and will enable the country to bag a massive chunk of the global space launch market.

Stay tuned for more updates and coverage of the launch event during the evening time, when GSLV Mark-III rocket booster takes off from the second launch pad at India’s rocket port at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

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