In a major boost to India's launch vehicle development programme, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully hot-fired its indigenous cryogenic upper stage for 50s on 28 October. This will replace the Russian-supplied upper stage on India's three-stage Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), writes Radhakrishna Rao.

ISRO says the test at its Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre in Mahendragiri, near India's southern tip, was the first of its kind in the country. The regeneratively cooled, liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen stage is designed to produce a thrust of 15,620lb (69.5kN) in vacuum. Sources say the cryogenic engine has so far been tested for a cumulative duration of 6,000s. The stage will be flight tested on a GSLV mission next year.

ISRO began development of a cryogenic upper stage in the early 1990s after Russia was coerced by the USA - citing the Missile Technology Control Regime intended to prevent the proliferation of ballistic missiles - into dropping its plan to transfer cryogenic engine technology to ISRO. The original Russian deal was then diluted to the supply of six upper cryogenic stages.

The Russian parliament, meanwhile, has ratified a new Indo-Russian agreement on space co-operation, signed in December 2004, clearing the way for joint space exploration and the transfer of technology to India. This will allow collaboration on completing and making operational the Russian Glonass navigation satellite system to help end the US GPS monopoly.

Russia is to provide India uninterrupted access to Glonass for both civil and military uses. As part of the agreement, ISRO is likely to launch a few of the Glonass satellites. India will also contribute a scientific payload to the Russian Coronas Photon solar-terrestrial probe.

Source: Flight International