India’s Hefty ‘Naughty Boy’ Rocket Comes in from Cold

dn24821-1_300Jacob Aron  writes:  India’s most powerful space rocket blasted off on Sunday in the vehicle’s first successful launch for a decade. Previously feared unreliable, the rocket could one day allow the fledgling space power to send a robot, and even people, to the moon.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched the rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota and used it to put a 2-tonne communications satellite in orbit.

Known as the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), the rocket was first launched in 2001, when it failed to place the satellite it was carrying into the correct orbit. Two successful launches in 2003 and 2004 followed, but then a string of failures left the GSLV as one of the most unreliable rockets in use today. “Some used to call the GSLV the naughty boy of ISRO,” said K. Sivan, the rocket’s project director. “The naughty boy has become obedient.”

The GSLV uses a cryogenic engine that chills gases into liquids for increased thrust, allowing it to carry larger cargo than India’s less powerful, but more reliable, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), for example. Troubles with the GSLV date back to the 1990s when ISRO’s attempts to buy Russian cryogenic engine designs were quashed by the United States, which feared the spread of technology that could also be used to launch missiles.

Space leadership

Instead, India bought seven cryogenic engines from Russia. But it also began to design similar technologies: Sunday’s launch was the first success for India’s own cryogenic engine…

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New Scientist

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