The Indian Space Research Organisation hopes to have its troubled Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) programme back on track in early 2014, making a flight scrubbed in August 2013, when engineers discovered a fuel leak in the second stage of the three-stage vehicle.
Critically, the flight will test a cryogenic upper stage developed by ISRO engineers without which the GSLV – a larger version of India’s successful, but smaller, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) – looks to be doomed.
Prior to the development of its own upper stage, ISRO had been flying with Russia-supplied stages, but these are no longer available. The first attempt to launch GSLV with the home-grown stage failed in April 2010, following malfunction of the fuel booster turbo pump.
A subsequent failure in December 2010 with what is thought to be the last available Russian upper stage left the programme stalled. Unless it can return to flight with the early-2014 attempt, this may impact ISRO plans for more ambitious missions.
The Mangalyaan mission to Mars, launched in November 2013, is flying by PSLV rather than GSLV. The Chandrayaan-II Moon mission, scheduled for launch in 2013, and a crewed mission for 2016 will only take place if the GSLV is ready.
The early 2014 flight aims to launch India’s GSAT-14 communications satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit.