Category Archives: Space Technology

GSLV Mk-III X : First Experimental Flight Successful


The first experimental flight of India’s next generation launch vehicle GSLV Mk-III was successfully conducted on December 18, 2014 morning from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. Also known as LVM3, this suborbital experimental mission was intended to test the vehicle performance during the critical atmospheric phase of its flight and this carried passive (non functional) cryogenic upper stage.


The mission began with the launch of GSLV Mk-III at 9:30 am IST as scheduled and about 5.4 minutes later, carried its payload – the 3.8 ton Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) – to the intended height of 126 km. Following this, CARE separated from the upper stage of GSLV Mk-III and re-entered the atmosphere and safely landed over Bay of Bengal with the help of its parachutes about 20 minutes 43 seconds after lift-off.

The total budget of the experimental mission was Rs 155 crore, including the crew module, which cost Rs 15 crore. A few years back Isro had carried out a similar experiment, Space-capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE), on a smaller scale by PSLV in which the module had orbited around the earth for 15 days before entering back.


With this successful GSLV Mk-III X / CARE mission, the vehicle has moved a step closer to its first developmental flight with the functional C25 cryogenic upper stage. It will be the ISRO’s most powerful rocket, capable of putting four-tonne communication satellites into orbit. This launch was also an early test of a crew module being developed for human space flight.


India Signs TMT Development Agreement


On 2nd Dec 2014, Science and Technology Department of India signed a multilateral agreement admitting India‘s participation in the development of the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) in Hawaii. India has agreed to spend Rs. 1299.8 crores over the next decade for this project. The telescope is expected to be completed by 2024.

Institutions from the United States of America, Canada, Japan and China are also participating in the construction of the world’s largest telescope on Mount Mauna Kea. This telescope, 4207 metres above sea level, may cost more than 1.47 billion US dollars.


TMT will contain 492 hexagonal mirror segments of 82 different kinds. These will behave like a single mirror with an aperture of 30 metre diameter. This large collecting area of 650 square metres is thrice as sensitive as the Hubble Space Telescope. India’s role will primarily be to create the control systems and software that keep the mirrors aligned and collects the data. These will be manufactured by General Optics (Asia) in Puducherry, Avasarala Technolgies and Godrej in Bengaluru respectively.

India will also manufacture 100 aspherical mirror segments in Hoskote, near Bengaluru. These thin glass slabs made in Japan have minimal expansion when heated. Indian scienticts will apply a protective layer and a reflective coating using technology from Caltech.


Through it scientists hope to find answers to fundamental questions about the universe. These include, how and when the first galaxies were formed, does life exist outside the Earth, the constitution of black holes and the nature of the universe’s acceleration.

Besides learning about the universe, India will gain the technology to manufacture fine aspherical mirror segments from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). According to experts, this technology will form the basis of the next generation of spy satellites. They can resolve structures up to the size of man walking on the Earth.

GSAT-16 : Successfully Launched


India’s communication satellite, GSAT-16, was successfully launched on December 7, 2014 by the European launcher Ariane-5 of Arianespace from French Guiana. Ariane-5 placed GSAT-16 into the intended Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO), after a flight of about 32.5 minutes duration. It is the 18th satellite launched by Arianespace for Isro.

ISRO’s Master Control Facility (MCF) at Hassan in Karnataka started acquiring the signal from the satellite and the commanding of the satellite was initiated. The MCF monitors and handles all national communication satellites throughout their life and is about 200 km from Bengaluru.


GSAT-16 is configured to carry a total of 48 communication transponders, the largest number of transponders carried by a communication satellite developed by ISRO so far, 12 in the C band, 12 in the extended C and 24 in the Ku band – cover the entire country and the Andaman & Nicobar islands.


GSAT-16 will be the 11th among GSAT series of Indian communication satellites. The satellite will boost public and private TV and radio services, large-scale Internet and telephone operations. The satellite is aimed as a replacement for satellite INSAT-3E.


Currently ISRO have 188 transponders from the INSAT/GSAT fleet. India has leased an additional 95 transponders on foreign satellites mainly for the use of private television broadcasters. Inadequate satellite capacity has been a frequent complaint of private sector users – mainly broadcasters and VSAT operators.

Once GSAT-16 starts working, total number of ISRO’s transponders would increase to 236 and the issue of capacity crunch should somewhat ease. ISRO is confident that India will have about 400 transponders by 2017, despite the previous target of having 500 transponders by 2012 not having been met.

GSLV Mark III – Its First Experimental Flight


In the month of December 2014, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark III is expected to lift off for the first time from Sriharikota on an experimental flight that will assess the rocket’s performance. It will be the ISRO’s most powerful rocket, capable of putting four-tonne communication satellites into orbit. The forthcoming launch will also provide an early test of a crew module being developed for human space flight.

During the 1990s, it became clear that a new launcher was needed to meet the country’s requirements for heavier communication satellites with large numbers of transponders. Rs. 2,498 crore project for developing the GSLV Mark III was approved by the Government in May 2002


The GSLV Mark III is a three stage launch vehicle. It has two huge solid propellants boosters as first stage, flanking a big liquid propellant core as second stage and a cryogenic upper stage. The GSLV Mark III has just four propulsion modules while its predecessor, the GSLV, has seven, which is crucial for increasing the rocket’s reliability and reducing launch costs.

While the solid booster and the liquid propellant core stage completed ground tests and were qualified for flight about three years back, development of the cryogenic engine for the Mark III’s upper stage is still in progress. For the experimental launch, the Mark III will be equipped with a dummy cryogenic engine and stage that will simulate the weight and other characteristics of the flight version.

The rocket will give the crew module a velocity of 5.3. km/second before it separates at a height of about 125 km. The capsule will then descend and splashdown in the Bay of Bengal, about 600 km from Port Blair in the Andaman Islands.

The GSLV Mark III is more sensitive than the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the current GSLV to disturbances that might occur as it accelerates through the dense atmosphere. The ability of the rocket’s control systems to effectively handle such perturbations without violating the vehicle’s structural capabilities will be tested during the experimental flight.

According to ISRO, the first developmental flight of the GSLV Mark-III, with a functional cryogenic engine and stage, could take place in two years’ time.

Rosetta – Philae : First ever Landing on Comet


Rosetta is a robotic space probe built and launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) which is performing a detailed study of comet 67P. Rosetta was launched on 2 March 2004 on an Ariane 5 rocket and reached the comet on 6 August 2014, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet. On 12 November 2014, Rosetta mission soft-landed its Philae probe on the camet. It is part of the ESA Horizon 2000 cornerstone missions.


The spacecraft consists of two main elements: the Rosetta space probe orbiter and the Philae robotic lander. The Rosetta mission will orbit 67P for 17 months and is designed to complete the most detailed study of a comet ever attempted. The mission is controlled from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), Germany.


The probe is named after the Rosetta Stone, a stele of Egyptian origin featuring a decree in three scripts. The lander is named after the Philae obelisk bearing a bilingual Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription. A comparison of its hieroglyphs with those on the Rosetta Stone catalysed the deciphering of the Egyptian writing system. Similarly, it is hoped that these spacecraft will result in better understanding of comets and the early Solar System. In a more direct analogy to its namesake, the Rosetta spacecraft also carries a micro-etched nickel alloy Rosetta disc donated inscribed with 13,000 pages of text in 1200 languages.


On 12 November 2014, ESA’s Rosetta mission soft-landed its Philae probe on comet 67P, the first time in history that such an extraordinary feat has been achieved. During the next phase of the mission, Rosetta will accompany the comet through perihelion (August 2015) until the end of the mission. On its 10 year journey towards comet 67P, the spacecraft has passed by two asteroids: 2867 Steins (in 2008) and 21 Lutetia (in 2010).


Scientists confirmed that the European comet lander Philae had ‘sniffed’ organic molecules on 67P containing carbon elements by its Cometary Sampling and Composition (COSAC) gas analysing instrument. The lander also drilled into the comet’s surface in its hunt for organic molecules, although it is unclear as yet whether Philae managed to deliver a sample to COSAC for analysis.


The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space. ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities. Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.

GSLV Mark III ready for mission


India took the first step on Friday, 28th March 2014 towards the experimental mission of its gigantic GSLV-Mk III (Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III) when the rocket’s core stage, weighing more than 110 tonnes, was flagged off from the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu, to Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

The GSLV-Mk III in this flight will carry a crew capsule without astronauts. The rocket will reach an altitude of less than 100 km. The capsule will return to earth with the help of parachutes. Its upper cryogenic stage will not fire. Instead of cryogenic propellants, the cryogenic stage would carry liquid nitrogen, which would be inert. The mission will take place in June or first week of July.

GSLV-Mk III is powered by an indigenous cryogenic engine. It can put a communication satellite weighing four tonnes into geo-synchronous transfer orbit or a 10-tonne satellite into low-earth orbit.  It will also serve as vehicle to carry astronauts to space after initial experiments.

Lasers to distroy Space Junk


An Australian team is working on a project to zap orbital debris with lasers from Earth to reduce the growing amount of space junk that threatens to knock out satellites with a “cascade of collisions”.

Scientists believe there are more than 300,000 pieces of debris in space, made up of everything from tiny screws and bolts to large parts of rockets, mostly moving in low orbits around Earth at tremendous speed. Australia now has a contract with Nasa, the US space agency, to track and map space junk with a telescope equipped with an infra-red laser at Mount Stromlo Observatory.

$20 million from the Australian government and $40 million in private investment will help the team set up as the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to develop better lasers to track tiny pieces of debris, importing techniques from astronomy used to remove the blurring of the atmosphere.

The ultimate aim is to increase the power of the lasers to illuminate and zap pieces of junk so they burn up harmlessly as they fall through the upper atmosphere.

[Credit – TOI]

NASA Tests Robotic Refueling Technologies

manned space mission

NASA has successfully concluded a remotely controlled test of new technologies to empower future space robots to repair and refuel future satellites in space. The Remote Robotic Oxidiser Transfer Test (RROxiTT) has been created by the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO) at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre.

According to NASA experts, the robotic refuelling technologies would be of great use for space technology. This technology will equip robots and humans with the tools and capabilities needed for spacecraft maintenance and repair.

By developing robotic capabilities to repair and refuel geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) satellites, NASA hopes to add precious years of functional life to satellites and expand options for operators who face unexpected emergencies, tougher economic demands and ageing fleets. NASA also hopes that these new technologies will help boost the commercial satellite-servicing industry that is rapidly gaining momentum.

Besides aiding the GEO satellite community, a capability to fix and relocate “ailing” satellites also could help mitigate the growing orbital debris problem that threatens continued space operations, ultimately making space greener and more sustainable.

[Credit – NASA]

NASA’s Europa Mission in 2025


NASA is planning to send a robotic mission by 2025 to Jupiter’s watery moon Europa, one of the most likely place for alien life beyond Earth in our solar system. Europa is one of the solar system’s most mysterious moons. There may be a vast ocean beneath Europa’s icy crust, with more water in it than exists on all of Earth.

A little bit of that water may be erupting from geysers near the Europa’s south pole, sending plumes 200 kilometers into the air, a recent study has found. Scientists can send a spacecraft flying through these jets in order to sample their composition.

The American space agency has set aside $15 million in its 2015 budget proposal to start planning a mission to Europa. NASA will look at many competing ideas for a Europa mission, so the agency does not yet know how big or how much it will cost.

Astrosat Launch in 2015


Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch Astrosat aboard a PSLV in 2015. The satellite would have six pieces of equipment built by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics and it can be described as a multi wave length observatory in space. It will ensure a great contribution in astronomy from India.

Astrosat is envisaged to be a National Observatory which will be available for astronomical observations to any researcher in India. Although most of the observation time will be for the use of Indian researchers, a part of the Astrosat observation time will also be made available to International astronomical community on a competitive basis. The life of the satellite has been configured for a minimum period of 5 years.

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