India tests its heaviest space launch
vehicle, eyes global market
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[December 18, 2014]
By Aditya Kalra
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's space agency
successfully tested on Thursday its most powerful satellite launch
vehicle that can put heavier payloads into space, and, it hopes, win
India a bigger slice of the $300 billion global space industry.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) also checked the
working of an unmanned crew module on the vehicle, which could give
the agency the option of manned missions.
Once operational, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)
Mark III will be able to put satellites weighing about 4 tonnes into
orbit, almost doubling India's current capability.
"The powerful launch vehicle ... will change our destiny in placing
various spacecraft into communication orbits," said S. Somnath,
project director of the new GSLV vehicle.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to develop India's 50-year-old
space program and the government increased funding for space
research by 50 percent to almost $1 billion this financial year.
But ISRO's growth has been stymied by a lack of a heavier launcher
and the slow execution of missions. Between 2007 and 2012, it
accomplished only about half of its planned 60 missions, government
Experts said the test of the GSLV took India a step closer to
attracting more foreign business which would help Asia's
third-largest economy emerge as a stronger player in the global
The experiment on Thursday also helped ISRO test the vehicle's
atmospheric stability and its design. It was powered by two engines
while a third is under development.
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"We still need to put a heavier third engine to ensure this vehicle
can be used successfully for manned missions and heavier satellite
launches," said Mayank Vahia, a scientist at the Tata Institute of
In September, India's Mars Orbiter Mission entered the red planet's
orbit, making India the first Asian nation to reach Mars on its
first attempt. The mission was lauded for its shoestring budget of
about $74 million.
(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Robert Birsel)
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