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GSLV-D5 success: A major booster to Indias space program

Space and politics have always been interlinked. Activities in the various areas of space technologies have mostly a political context as a backdrop. On January 5, !"#, $ndia successfully launched %S&'()5 mission. *he significant achievement of this mission is the success achieved in respect to the indigenous development of cryogenic technology. *his accomplishment should actually have taken place two decades ago. One of the ma+or reasons for such an inordinate delay has been the power politics resulting in the denial of technology to $ndia during early ",,!s. -owever, it may not be correct to play the so(called .victimi/ation0 card to +ustify this delay in $ndia1s ability to launch heavy satellites2a minimum of two to four tonnes2to geostationary orbits. *he reality is that $ndia did take more than a decade to achieve success with its indigenous %eosynchronous Satellite &aunch 'ehicle 3%S&'4 . program. Such delay looked .repugnant0 to many in comparison to the success $ndia1s space program has achieved otherwise, be it the development of the biggest remote sensing satellite network in the world to gaining success with its 5oon and 5ars missions. *he cause of such delay was likely because of neither money nor leadership6 rather, the challenges were purely technological in nature. $n general, most of $ndia1s space program is of indigenous origin due to the global technology denial regime. *he 7S and 8uropean nuclear phobia was one of the ma+or reasons why $ndia1s space program took this much time to advance. $ndia conducted its first nuclear test on 5ay "9, ",:#. *his provoked the ma+or world powers to put $ndia under the sanctions regime, and with this began the phase of $ndia1s technological apartheid. $ndia was denied technological assistance not only in nuclear sector but in other sectors as well. )uring early late ",9!s and ",,!s $ndia was keen to develop the %S&' for the launch of satellites to geostationary orbit 3;<,!!! km above the 8=uator.4 *o undertake such a launch, $ndia needed to develop cryogenic engine technology. $ndia was likely to get the technological knowhow from >ussia. -owever, the 7S pressured >ussia against transferring the re=uired technology to $ndia. )uring ",,", the $ndian Space >esearch Organisation 3$S>O4 had entered into an agreement with the then(Soviet space agency %lavkosmos towards the supply of cryogenic engines 3?')( "4 along with the transfer of technology provisions. @ut this arrangement could not advance to its logical conclusion. *he 7S put pressure on %lavkosmos by blacklisting it and >ussian president @oris Aelstin told %lavkosmos to renegotiate the deal with $ndia. Binally, only a limited number of sales of ?')(" engines were permitted, with no technology transfer arrangements. All this happened because the 7S authorities believed that any technological transfer in this field would eventually be diverted towards a ballistic missile development program for delivering a nuclear weapon. *he 7S was of the opinion that such transfer technology could eventually lead $ndia developing missiles which are able to carry a payload of 5!! kilograms to a distance of ;!!

kilometers or more, a violation of 5issile *echnology Control >egime, or 5*C>, guidelines. 7nfortunately, it was not appreciated that $ndia1s missile program and space program are entirely two different programs, and space was a typical civilian program. $ncidentally, by ",,< $ndia had tested its own surface(to(surface Drithvi $$ short range ballistic missile 3S>@54 with a capacity of 5!! kilograms payload and a range of approximately 5!E;5! kilometers. $ndia started its %S&' program in two phases. $n the first, the rocket was developed using the >ussian cryogenic engine, while simultaneously $S>O started the process of indigenous development of a cryogenic engine. *he $ndian philosophy was that since only the sale of six engines was permitted, by the time these imported engines were used in various missions, the $ndian version of this engine should become ready. -owever, soon $ndia reali/ed that the cryogenic engine was not the only technological challenge for the %S&'. *he rocket1s design is such that the mission has three statesF solid, li=uid and cryogenic, and on a few occasions $ndia faced problems in non(cryogenic stages as well. Since !!", $ndia has attempted several %S&' launches with a mix bag of success. Out of the seven launches before Sunday1s successful launch, only two were totally successful and one was partially successful. 5oreover, a previous attempt of the latest %S&' mission, on August ",, !";, was called off +ust :5 minutes before the actual launch because a fuel leak was detected in the second state of the rocket. Among these seven launches only one was with the $S>O(designed and (built cryogenic engine 3April "5, !"!4 and that was a failure. At the time of that failure, it was pro+ected that $S>O would launch again within a year. -owever, it took more than three years to rectify the errors from the earlier launch. %iven this backdrop, the recent %S&' success is extremely crucial and should be a great morale booster for $S>O1s future plans. Overall, the success of %S&'()5 has been the culmination of a very demanding +ourney. Bor last few years $S>O has been trying very hard to successfully develop the cryogenic technology. )uring last three years $S>O made some modifications in the engine design and performed several ground tests to confirm its performance. *here were problems with the production of the special alloys and high(speed turbines re=uired for cryogenic fuels. *he key challenges included development of composite thermal insulation, fabrication techni=ues, and handling of fluids at cryogenic temperatures. *he April !"! failure was attributed to the anomalous shutdown of the upper stage1s Buel @ooster *urbo Dump 3B@*D4, which now has been modified. $S>O had done nearly ;5 ground tests since that failure, on both subsystems and the full engine in varying conditions, before planning August !"; launch. Still, these efforts proved to be inade=uate. After the scrub of the August launch attempt, engineers found that the fuel tank, made of aluminum alloy called Afnor :! , had developed cracks. *his time a new aluminum alloy, ",, was used. $S>O also carried out other modifications in the rocket system. Also, $S>O successfully tested the engine for the full flight duration of : ! seconds at their li=uid propulsion test facility. Gow, it is important for $S>O to build on this success =uickly and move ahead, as $ndia has lost almost two decades of launch vehicle development. According to the proposed roadmap, $S>O plans to undertake more than 5! missions and is proposing to deploy 5!! satellite

communications transponders in the next five years. *his success of %S&' indicates that $S>O can dream of making fast progress in the next few years with some its much delayed pro+ects, like a second 5oon mission. Bor many years $ndia was dependent on others, particularly Arianespace, for the launch of communication satellites. A significant amount of foreign exchange was being spent for these reasons. Gow, $ndia can be in a position not only to launch its own large satellites on its own but could also offer launching services on commercial terms. $n addition, the %S&' can also support $ndia1s plans for future 5oon and 5ars missions. *his %S&'()5 mission placed into orbit the %SA*("# satellite, e=uipped with < ?u( and < extended C(band transponders which would augment the in orbit capacity of the transponders. *he satellite also carries two ?a(band beacons, which will be used to study the impact of climate on ?a(band . satellite communication links in the region. *he satellite has C(band transponders on board to enhance the broadcasting services in $ndia. %SA*("#, the ;rd communications satellite built by $SO, +oins the group of $ndia1s nine operational geostationary satellites. $t is expected to support tele(education and tele(medicine applications. >ecent studies have predicted that $ndia and China will play a ma+or role in the space market by influencing global launch and satellite prices. Success with %S&'()5 announces $ndia1s arrival in the global heavy(lift launch market. $t would be premature to predict the future with +ust one successful launch. -owever, if all goes well in the future, $S>O will be in position to offer a low(cost launch option for launching heavy satellites and could be stiff competition for many other global commercial satellite launch companies.
Imp:

*he significant achievement of this mission is the success achieved in respect to the indigenous development of cryogenic technology. *his accomplishment should actually have taken place two decades ago. *he recent %S&' success is extremely crucial and should be a great morale booster for $S>O1s future plans. $f all goes well in the future, $S>O will be in position to offer a low(cost launch option for launching heavy satellites and could be stiff competition for many other global commercial satellite launch companies