India to test-launch its heaviest rocket in December

Sriharikota: India will test-launch its heaviest and upgraded rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV Mark III), sometime in the middle of next month, a senior official of the Indian space agency said here Saturday.

The rocket will also carry a crew module to test its re-entry characteristics.

"The main purpose of the mission is to test the atmospheric characteristics and stability of the rocket on its way up. We also decided to use this opportunity to test one component of the crew module - a human space mission that India may embark on at a later date," M.Y.S Prasad, director of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, told reporters here.

The experimental mission will cost Rs.155 crore.

"This will be India's new launch vehicle. It is bigger and can carry satellites upto four tonnes," said S. Somanath, project director of GSLV Mark III.

According to Prasad, this rocket will not have the critical cryogenic engine for putting four-tonne satellites into orbit.

"The cryogenic engine is under development and will take more two years to be ready," he said.

As the other rocket engines are ready, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) decided to have this mission.

About the crew module, Prasad said it will not carry any living being and was only for study purposes.

He said the 630-tonne rocket will go up to 126 km and then crew capsule will be detached and it will fall into the Bay of Bengal, 20 minutes after blast off.

The descent speed of the crew module will be controlled by three parachutes, he said.

The module will splash down 600 km from Port Blair and 1,600 km from the space centre. The capsule will be recovered by an Indian Coast Guard or Indian Navy ship.

The crew module, looking like a giant-size cup cake - black in colour on top and brown at the bottom - weighs around four tonnes. According to an ISRO official, it will be in the size of a small bedroom and can accommodate 2-3 people.

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