On August 12, 2021, when the GSLV-F10 rocket failed midway in its mission to put into orbit the Earth Observation Satellite (EOS-03), many industry experts and space analysts wrote off the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). Sadly, the failure happened on the birth anniversary of Dr Vikram Sarabhai, who is regarded as the father of the Indian Space Programme. 

In fact, after that failure, the rocket was even termed a “naughty boy” by a former ISRO official (as per media reports) as it had a 40 per cent failure rate. However, the GSLV has bounced back, with consecutive successes – first, with the successful launch of GSLV-F12 in May 2023 and with the launch of GSLV-F14-3DS mission on Saturday. 

S Somanath, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, after the successful launch of GSLV-F14/INSAT-3DS Mission on the rocket, told newspersons, “The GSLV has not had such a good name with regard to the performance. (But) That has been a thing of the past. The payload pairing, especially with a bigger diameter, had a chequered history. This has now been corrected.”

“We have had very good missions — the last one and the present one — after the one that failed in the cryogenic stage. Two successive missions have happened after the failure. With this confidence, we should go into the future without any worry about the configuration of the vehicle. However, every mission of a rocket has its own uncertainties and worries. But this has been overcome by our design and analysis of the system, including the cryogenic stage and payload pairing,” he said.

“In today’s mission both the rocket and satellite performed very well. All the performance-related issues of the previous generational satellites have been addressed, more capabilities have been added to the payload. We believe the satellite is going to be an important one for the nation — we want to secure our citizens against weather-related information and disaster-related information that are crucial for protecting life and property,” he added.

In the pipeline

The next mission of GSLV will be the NISAR-Nasa-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar-satellite mission. It is a very big satellite. The rocket’s capability has also been steadily increased with payload and volume.

Somanath said it was a perfect induction of the spacecraft into orbit. GSLV is targeting a geostationary orbit – 170 km perigee (nearest to Earth) and 36,000 km apogee (farthest) but desires to raise the apogee further because that would give the satellite a longer life. “Today, we have 38,000 plus km apogee accomplished with no other issues. So, it is a very perfect mission with a little over performance that has been given to the satellite which increases its life,” he said.

The satellite is the third in the series of INSAT for weather and disaster warning-related activities. The satellite has been fully funded and will be fully utilised by the Ministry of Earth Science and other users. Two payloads - an imager and a sounder - are required to measure atmospheric parameters. It also has data-related transponders that collect data across the country from ground-based observations related to weather and make it available for computation modelling. It also supports a distress alert-based receiver and transmitter that supports in terms of disaster. 

The INSAT series has been extremely useful — they can image the entire country every 15 minutes. This data goes to the computational and observational capability of the country, and the weather forecast is given based on this observation and analysis of this data. This is augmented by better instruments put in INSAT-3DS compared to the ones done earlier.