India's first manned space flight trial in 2015
Known as the Geostationary satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) Mark-III, this is the heavy-duty rocket, which Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will use to send an Indian astronaut to the space. Doing the same with commercial foreign rockets, would be very expensive.
“GSLV Mk-III will have a payload of 6-10 tonnes and can take an Indian astronaut to a low earth orbit,” ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan said at the Indian National Science Academy here on Tuesday.
Sending a man to the moon is not on ISRO's immediate agenda because the rocket has to carry a load of 35 tonnes up to the lunar orbit.
“For comparison, Chandrayan-I weighs only 1.8 tonnes. Such kind of up-scaling in rocket's capability is needed. The cost for such a mission will be very high,” he said.
But a manned space flight to a low earth orbit (upwards of 160 km to few hundreds of km) is on the space agency's radar. Except USA'a Apollo missions to moon, all other manned space flights took place in these zones. The international space station moves at an altitude between 330 and 435 km.
However, because of a series of failure in the GSLV flights, space scientists have now planned to do an experimental test flight of the GSLV Mk-III in, January 2014 without the crucial cryogenic upper stage, which is being developed indigenously.
The experimental flight will have a full-fledged GSLV with strap on boosters without the cryogenic engine.
It will fly up to an altitude of 120 km after which it will take a parabolic path and dive in the Bay of Bengal.
The flight will generate crucial aerodynamics data which ISRO scientists will use while designing the rocket for first manned space flight.
“We have received permissions from the government for two developmental flights of GSLV with indigenous cryogenic engine. The first developmental flight is expected in 18 months after the experimental flight in January, 2014,” said S Somnath, project director of GSLV Mk-III programme at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram.
The indigenous cryogenic engine, which failed in its first flight in 2010, will now be put to test again in July, when an older generation GSLV (Mk-II) is scheduled to be launched. Capable of carrying a payload up to 2.5 tonnes, GSLV Mk-II can reduce India's reliance on French ArianeSpace rockets to take INSAT class satellites to the 36,000 km orbit.
“GLSV Mk-III has a completely different architecture than Mk-II. It carries twice as much fuel and the thrust is double than that of Mk-II. We need both versions of GSLV to save our foreign exchange,” Somnath told Deccan Herald.