India on Thursday successfully launched its heaviest rocket “GSLV Mk-III” from Sriharikota -- about 65 miles north of Chennai -- in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. According to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) the rocket was launched at 9:30 a.m. local time (11:00 p.m. ET, Wednesday).
The GSLV Mk-III rocket, which is 139 feet tall and weighs 630 tons, is carrying the Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE), an experimental test vehicle for ISRO’s future manned spacecraft temporarily named “Orbital Vehicle.” The latest development comes less than three months after India successfully launched “Mangalyaan,” a Mars orbiter which put India in an elite club of Martian explorers including the U.S., the European Space Agency and the former Soviet Union.
“It is an experimental mission of GSLV Mk-III towards launching heavier satellites,” ISRO Chairperson K. Radhakrishnan told Hindustan Times (HT), an Indian news publication. “This is a suborbital flight, carrying a crew module which will go up to a height of 120 km and then descend.”
Successful launch of GSLV Mk-III is yet another triumph of brilliance & hardwork of our scientists. Congrats to them for the efforts. @isro
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 18, 2014
About five minutes after the GSLV Mk-III lifted off, the module separated from the rocket at an altitude of about 78 miles and re-entered Earth's atmosphere about 50 miles from the sea level. The module dropped into the Bay of Bengal, about 112 miles from Indira Point, the southernmost point of India, the Economic Times (ET), a local business newspaper, reported.
First experimental flight of LVM3 with CARE module successful. pic.twitter.com/1wp1ka0EIo
— ISRO (@isro) December 18, 2014
The GSLV Mk-III rocket has been developed to make India fully independent in launching heavier communication satellites of the INSAT-4 class, which can weigh up to 11,023 pounds, HT reported.
“India started the development process a decade ago and just now we completed the first experimental flight of the GSLV Mark III vehicle christened as LVM Mark III,” ET quoted Radhakrishnan as saying, adding that Indian scientists are expected "to come back with a developmental flight of this vehicle LVM-3 in another two years.”