India launches biggest ever rocket into space

18 Dec 2014

The GSLV Mk-III rocket prior to launch. Image via ISRO

India is staking its claim as one of the heavy hitters of the space industry after it successfully launched the largest rocket ever into space, with ambitions to send astronauts on future missions.

The Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk-III rocket was successfully launched at 9.30am Indian Standard Time (IST) from the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

While the 630 tonne rocket was an achievement in itself, its inclusion of an unmanned space capsule is considered equally, if not more, important for its intentions of sending its own astronauts to other planets in the near future.

So far the country’s space agency, which has been in existence since 1969, has only sent light payloads of satellites into Earth’s orbit, but now has intentions of equalling the US, Russia and China in the race to Mars and beyond with the GSLV being capable of launching 6 tonnes of cargo and three passengers into our planet’s higher orbit and beyond.

However, there is still much work to be done with the craft before it can be piloted by human astronauts as this current test saw the GSLV splash down in the Bay of Bengal 20 minutes after it was launched for its first test run.

Going by the ISRO’s estimates, it will be another seven years before we see the space agency launch astronauts on board the rocket.

The ISRO’s chairman, KS Radhakrishnan, said following the launch, “This was a very significant day in the history of (the) Indian space programme.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic