Crucial take-off ahead as Isro seeks recognition

India’s heavy rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), scheduled to take flight on January 5 from Sriharikota spaceport, has a chequered record to overcome.

Three of its seven developmental flights have failed since the first GSLV launch on April 18, 2001. Its last two flights, both in 2010, were unsuccessful. The January 5 flight must go well to signify that Isro GSLV’s programme is on course.

If it does succeed, Isro will show it has the capacity to bounce back from failures in heavy rocket technology and that it is able to launch heavy satellites into farther orbits on its own. It will also give hope to the GSLV becoming an operational vehicle.

Isro’s GSLV D5 flight is important from a structural viewpoint of India’s rocket technology.

Thirteen years after the first flight, the GSLV isn’t classified as operational. This can be achieved only after a minimum of three consecutive successful flights, though the internationally accepted norm for a rocket to be classified as an operational vehicle is six successful flights. Europe’s Arianne rocket was classified as operational only after six consecutive successful flights.

The GSLV in its current form is an experimental rocket or vehicle. Even so, Isro has decided to take a chance with the GSLV D5 flight, tasking it with the launch of a live 1,982-kg satellite. If the rocket launch goes well, the GSLV will be classified as operational only after another two successful flights. The GSLV D5 has to succeed to signal the shift from a developmental to operational vehicle.

The GSLV D5 flight is also crucial for the push it will give to the GSLV - MK III, which is being built to launch INSAT-4 class satellites or communication satellites weighing between 4,500-5,000 kg. If successful, the rocket will make India self-reliant in launching heavy satellites.

This is a next generation vehicle and can succeed only if the first version of GSLV succeeds. It would also enhance India’s capability to be a competitor in the multimillion-dollar commercial launch market.

GSLV D5 is crucial to test India’s ability to develop and handle cryogenic technology.

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