India’s Heaviest Rocket GSLV-MkIII D1 & Heaviest Satellite GSAT-19 Successfully Launched; 4 Reasons It’s A Big Deal


MkIII Fat Boy GSLV19

Exactly at 5.28 PM IST, India’s own space agency Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched India’s heaviest rocket: Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk-III), which carried India’s heaviest satellite: GSAT-19 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

This launch will place the satellite at approximately 36,000 kms from the Earth, making it yet another landmark launch from ISRO.

GSLV MK III is the next generation of operational launch vehicle after PSLV (polar satellite launch vehicle) and GSLV MK-II. Technically, it’s the 4th generation launch vehicle, which has a three-stage vehicle with four liquid strap-ons which include the indigenously developed cryogenic upper stage (CUS) in the third stage.

Satellite GSAT-19 will separate from GSLV MK III in GTO, and then, it will use its own propulsion system to reach its geostationary orbital home.

Four reasons why this is a big deal for India’s space program, and why it shattered so many records in a single day:


The Weight & The Power

GSLV Mark III, whose first suborbital test flight was conducted in 2014, has now successfully launched a 3136 kg GSAT 19 communication satellite, making it the heaviest satellite launch ever conducted from Indian soil.

The rocket GSLV Mark III is capable of carrying a single or a group of satellites weighing 4,000kg into the geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) at a 36,000km distance and 10,000kg into the lower earth orbit (LEO) at around 800 km.

GSLV Mark III weighs 640 tonnes and is 140 foot high.

Just to give a perspective, this rocket is as heavy as 200 full-grown Asian elephants, or 5 Boeing Jumbo Jets.

ISRO Chairman AS Kiran Kumar had described the mission important as “it was the heaviest-ever rocket and satellite to be launched from the country”.

Incredible Capabilities Of The Satellite

Now, coming to the actual capabilities of the GSAT-19, it would not be an understatement to describe the satellite as incredible. To start with, this single satellite will be equivalent to a constellation of six to seven older versions of communication satellites, which speaks volume about its capabilities.

As per A.S. Kiran Kumar, secretary, department of space and chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation, GSAT-19 will tremendously improve VSAT (very small aperture terminal) and data connectivity across India, making our telecom and Internet infrastructure even more robust and powerful.

GSAT-19 will have multiple spot beams, which will cover every nook and corner of India, and will make Internet connectivity a lot faster and more dependable.

As per Wikipedia, GSAT-19E will be a “test bed for the modular I-6K satellite bus, carrying experimental technologies such as ion thrusters for manoeuvring and stabilisation, active thermal control using thermal radiators, a miniaturised inertial reference unit, indigenously produced lithium-ion batteries, and C-band traveling-wave-tube amplifiers.”

Last month, ISRO had launched GSAT-9, which will improve Internet connectivity across South Asian countries mainly Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, at an expenditure of Rs 235 crore. Pakistan was not part of this mission, as they refused to cooperate with India on this satellite launch mission.

India’s Might In Space Reconfirmed

Earlier, India had to depend on foreign launchers (like French Ariane 5) for launching satellites weighing more than 2300 kgs. In fact, 20 years ago, when India was planning to launch a similar heavy satellite, Soviet Union refused to help India under pressure from the US.

But not anymore.

While on one hand, India has now successfully proven its mastery and expertise by launching 104 satellites via single launch (the previous best was 37 satellites on a single rocket by Russia), their recent launch of the heaviest rocket and the heaviest satellite will cement India’s position as world’s leading provider of space technology.

In a way, ISRO has now directly challenged Elon Musk led SpaceX’s dominance in the heavy rocket launches niche, surpassing NASA as well.

Clearly, $323 billion Space Industry will have to reckon India and ISRO as major players and look forward to ISRO assisting other countries in their own space launches.

Humans in Space: The ISRO Way

Besides, one another important milestone which can be breached via the launch of GSLV Mark III is the possibility of sending humans into space, via this same rocket.

As per some ISRO officials, GSLV Mark III would be able to support human crews, and not in distant future, India will send a manned, human mission to space, using this rocket, or an advanced version of the same.

Kumar said, “In principle, it will be the GSLV Mk-3 or its variant that will be human rated in future,”

ISRO has made a plan of sending 2-4 humans into space, and have asked for a budget of $3-4 billion for this project. Once India is able to send humans to space, it will become World’s 4th country to have a human space-flight program, after US, Russia and China.

Congratulations to ISRO, and to India for successfully launching our heaviest rocket and heaviest satellite till date, which has opened up a new paradigm in our space endeavours.

This is, just the beginning.

  1. Confederation of Central Government Gazetted Officers’ Organisations (CCGGOO), All India DRDO Technical Officers Association (AIDTOA) & All India People’s Science Network (AIPSN) congratulate the entire ISRO fraternity for successful launch of GSLV Mk III- D1 and placing communication satellite GSAT-19 into a precise orbit.

    Though the US sanctions on India in 1992 prevented the country from getting cryogenic engine technology from Russia, it failed to halt ISRO’s relentless effort to develop indigenous rocket and cryogenic engine technologies.

    Combined with its ability to carry 8 to 10 tonnes into a low Earth orbit, the Mk-III can be considered for human-rating certification (to transport humans) once some design changes are made. Compared with the two-member crew capacity of the GSLV, the Mk-III can carry three astronauts and have more space to carry out experiments. The next developmental flight, therefore, will be crucial. CCGGOO, AIDTOA & AIPSN wish all the ISRO officers & employees success in all their future endeavours.

  2. suraj sonu says

    Amazing, I got thrilled reading India’s ISRO challenged SpaceX and surpassing NASA. Proud to be our Engineer who made this possible.

  3. Mud says

    AWESOME!! GO ISRO!! Can we now get satellite receivers for our homes which can connect us to this thing to get Internet?? What kind of cash are we talking about?? Anyway, INCREDIBLE!! :)

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