LVM3 (GSLV MkIII) : India’s heaviest space launch vehicle to put India a way ahead

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) started the year 2017 by making history, launching 104 satellites in one go and is expected to continue with the momentum as it lines up a series of important launches this year.

“We are planning to launch two satellites, one each in March and April this year,” said Isro, Chairman, A S Kiran Kumar.

P Kunhikrishnan, Director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota, said there are three missions to be launched in the first half of 2017 and activities are in progress at various centres of Isro.

At Sriharikota, a launch campaign of three different types of vehicles namely PSLV, GSLV and GSLV Mark-III, the next generation launch vehicle, have been progressing in a professional way activating the entire launch complex facilities including the two solid propellant plants that deliver all the solid motors required for this mission.

This launch will be an important milestone for future Indian space programmes.

GSLV Mark – III will be India’s most powerful launch vehicle built to lift the heaviest Indian communications satellites to space. It can put satellites weighing 4,000 kg in space, double the weight that the current GSLV-Mk II can lift. It will also enable ISRO to launch communications spacecraft to geostationary orbits of 36,000 kms from India. Because of the absence of a powerful launcher, ISRO currently launches satellites above 2,000 kg on European rockets for a big fee.

He added that there are a series of missions, including the GSLV and GSLV Mark III and pad abort human in space programme, coming in in near future.

The propulsion team has realised the C25 engine, the cryogenic engine for GSLV, and the stage has gone through a successful task for 50 second duration, making way for the GSLV Mark III mission in the immediate future, said senior officials.

GSAT-19 is planned as the payload for the first developmental flight of the indigenous GSLV-Mk III-D1 Launcher. The satellite is planned to carry Ka and Ku band payload along with a Geostationary Radiation Spectrometer (GRASP) payload to monitor and study the nature of the charged particles and influence of space radiation on spacecraft and electronic components. GSAT-19 satellite will employ advanced spacecraft technologies including bus subsystem experiments in Electrical propulsion System, indigenous Li ion battery, indigenous Bus bars for power distribution, etc.

Another official said, Isro is also developing and testing the Chandrayan II lander propulsion which is getting ready for the integrated test by this month-end or so.

“We are targeting first quarter of 2018 for the launch,” said Kumar


All about LVM3 (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III) –

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (Hindi: भूस्थिर उपग्रह प्रक्षेपण यान एमके-३; IAST: Bhūsthir Upagrah Prakșepaņ Yān MK-3, also referred to as the Launch Vehicle Mark 3, LVM3 or GSLV-III) is a launch vehicle developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

LVM 3 is a heavy launch capability launcher being developed by ISRO. It will allow India to achieve complete self reliance in launching satellites as it will be capable of placing 4 tonne class Geosynchronous satellites into orbit. The LVM3 will have an India built cryogenic stage with higher capacity than GSLV. The first experimental flight of LVM3, the LVM3-X/CARE mission lifted off from Sriharikota on December 18, 2014 and successfully tested the atmospheric phase of flight. Crew module Atmospheric Reentry Experiment was also carried out in this flight. The module reentered, deployed its parachutes as planned and splashed down in the Bay of Bengal.

It is intended to launch satellites into geostationary orbit and as a launcher for an Indian crew vehicle. The GSLV-III features an Indian cryogenic third stage and a higher payload capacity than the current GSLV.

Development for the GSLV-III began in the early 2000s, with the first launch planned for 2009-2010. Several factors have delayed the program, including the 15 April 2010 failure of the ISRO-developed cryogenic upper stage on the GSLV Mk II.

A suborbital flight test of the GSLV-III launcher, with a passive cryogenic third stage, was successfully carried out on 18 December 2014, and was used to test a crew module on a suborbital trajectory. The first orbital flight is planned to take place in 2017. The first flight with a crew on board would take place after 2020.

S200 static test
The S-200 solid rocket booster was successfully tested on 24 January 2010. The booster fired for 130 seconds and generated a peak thrust of about 500 tonnes. Nearly 600 ballistic and safety parameters were monitored during the test and indicated normal performance. A second successful static test was conducted on 4 September 2011.

L110 stage test
The Indian Space Research Organisation conducted the first static test of the L110 core stage at its Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) test facility at Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu on 5 March 2010. Originally targeted for a full 200 second burn, the test was terminated at 150 seconds after a leakage in a control system was detected. On 8 September 2010 ISRO successfully conducted a full 200 second test.

Suborbital flight test

The GSLV LVM-3 lifted off from the second launch pad, Sriharikota, at 9.30 am IST on 18 December 2014. The 630.5 tonne launch vehicle stacking was as follows : a functional S200 solid propulsion stage, a functional L110 liquid propulsion stage, a non-functional dummy stage (in lieu of CE-20 cryogenic propulsion engine) and finally the 3.7-tonne Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) payload stage. Just over five minutes into the flight, the rocket ejected CARE at an altitude of 126 km. CARE then descended at high speed, controlled by its onboard motors. At an altitude of 80 km, the thrusters were shut down and the capsule began its ballistic re-entry into the atmosphere. CARE’s heat shield was expected to experience a temperature of around 1600 °C. ISRO downloaded launch telemetry during the ballistic coasting phase prior to the radio black-out to avoid data loss in the event of a splash-down failure. At an altitude of around 15 km, the module’s apex cover separated and the parachutes were deployed. CARE splashed down in the Bay of Bengal near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

C25 stage test
The first hot test of the C25 cryogenic stage was conducted at ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) facility at Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu on 25 January 2017. The stage was hot tested for a duration of 50 seconds demonstrating all stage operations. A longer duration test for 640 seconds was completed on Feb 18 2017.

Vehicle description

First Stage

The S200 solid motors are used as the first stage of the launch vehicle. Each booster has a diameter of 3.2 metres, a length of 25 metres, and carries 207 tonnes of propellant. These boosters burn for 130 seconds and produce a peak thrust of about 5,150 kilonewtons (525 tf) each.

A separate facility has been established at Sriharikota to make the S200 boosters. Another major feature is that the S200’s large nozzle has been equipped with a ‘flex seal.’ The nozzle can therefore be gimballed when the rocket’s orientation needs correction.

In flight, as the thrust from the S200 boosters begins to tail off, the decline in acceleration is sensed by the rocket’s onboard sensors and the twin Vikas engines on the ‘L110’ liquid propellant core stage are then ignited. Before the S200s separate and fall away from the rocket, the solid boosters as well as the Vikas engines operate together for a short period of time, similar of that American Titan III and Titan IV booster.

Second Stage

The second stage, designated L110, is a 4-meter-diameter liquid-fueled stage carrying 110 tonnes of UDMH and N2O4. It is the first Indian liquid-engine cluster design, and uses two improved Vikas engines, each producing about 700 kilonewtons (70 tf). The improved Vikas engine uses regenerative cooling, providing improved weight and specific impulse, compared to earlier rockets. The L110 core stage ignites 113 seconds after liftoff and burns for about 200 seconds.

Third Stage

The cryogenic upper stage is designated the C25 and will be powered by the Indian-developed CE-20 engine burning LOX and LH2, producing 186 kilonewtons (19.0 tf) of thrust. The C-25 will be 4 metres (13 ft) in diameter and 13.5 metres (44 ft) long, and contain 27 tonnes of propellant.

This engine was initially slated for completion and testing by 2015, it would have been the C25 stage and be put through a series of tests. ISRO crossed a major milestone in the development of CE-20 engine for the GSLV MKIII vehicle by the successful hot test for 640 seconds duration on 19 February 2017 at ISRO Propulsion Complex, Mahendragiri. The test demonstrated the repeatability of the engine performance with all its sub systems like thrust chamber, gas generator, turbo pumps and control components for the full duration. All the engine parameters were closely matching with the pre-test prediction.

The first C25 stage will be used on the GSLV-III D-1 mission in December 2016(Postponed to May 2017). This mission will put in orbit the GSAT-19E communication satellite. Work on the C25 stage and CE-20 engine for GSLV Mk-III upper stage was initiated in 2003, the project has been subject to many delays due to problems with ISRO’s smaller cryogenic engine, the CE-7.5 for GSLV MK-II upper stage.

Payload fairing

The payload fairing has a diameter of 5 metres (16 ft) and a payload volume of 110 cubic metres (3,900 cu ft).


Flight Launch date/time (UTC) Variant Launch Pad Payload Payload Mass Result
X 18 December 2014
LVM3-X Second India Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) 3,775 kg Success
Sub-orbital development test flight
This flight carried a non functional version of the C25 upper stage to simulate its weight and attributes.The launch of LVM3 vehicle on 18 December was successful, with both the launch vehicle and the CARE module meeting the parameters of the mission.
D1 May 2017 Mk III Second India GSAT-19E 3,200 kg
For launching new generation GSAT weighing about 3.5t.
Will have a functional cryogenic stage.
D2 March 2018(planned) Mk III Second India GSAT-20

Other variants of GSLV and their development –


The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) project was initiated in 1990 with the objective of acquiring an Indian launch capability for geosynchronous satellites. India has depended on the United States and Europe for the launch of INSAT class of satellites.

GSLV uses major components that are already proven in the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launchers in the form of the S125/S139 solid rocket booster and the liquid-fueled Vikas engine. The third stage was procured from Russian company Glavcosmos based on an agreement signed in 1991. Russia backed out of the deal after US sanctions were imposed in May 1992. ISRO started the Cryogenic Upper Stage Project in April 1994 and began developing its own cryogenic stage. Russia agreed to sell 7 cryogenic stages and 1 ground mock-up stage instead of 5 cryogenic stages and the technology to build the stages.

The first development flight of GSLV Mk.I (GSLV-D1) was launched on 18 April 2001. The flight carrying GSAT-1 failed to reach the correct orbit. Attempts to save GSAT-1 by using its own propulsion system to maneuver it into the correct orbit were unsuccessful as it ran out of fuel several thousand kilometres below geosynchronous orbit.

The GSLV became operational after a second development flight, which successfully placed GSAT-2 in 2003. In its first operational flight in September 2004, GSLV launched EDUSAT – India’s first dedicated satellite for educational services. However, the second operational flight, GSLV F02, conducted on July 10, 2006 did not succeed in placing the satellite INSAT-4C into orbit.

GSLV F04 is the fifth flight of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), launched INSAT-4CR satellite, into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) of 170 km perigee and 35,975 km apogee with an orbital inclination of 21.7° with respect to the equator on 2 September 2007. Subsequently, the satellite was maneuvered into geostationary orbit using its own propulsion system.

Two launches in 2010 failed; the first, in April 2010, was the first flight of the GSLV Mk.II, with an Indian-developed third stage engine replacing the Russian engine used on earlier flights. The third stage failed to ignite. The next launch, in December 2010, used the Russian engine, however the vehicle went out of control during first stage flight and was destroyed by range safety.

GSLV-D5, launched on 5 January 2014, was the first successful flight of the GSLV Mark.II using the indigenously developed cryogenic engine, the CE-7.5.

GSLV-F05 successfully launched from Sriharikota at 16:50 on September 8, 2016 carrying 2211 kg satellite INSAT-3DR and the satellite has been placed at GTO 1024 seconds after launch.

Vehicle description

The 49 metres (161 ft) tall GSLV, with a lift-off mass of 415 tonnes (457 tons), is a three-stage vehicle with solid, liquid and cryogenic stages respectively. The payload fairing, which is 7.8 metres (26 ft) long and 3.4 metres (11 ft) in diameter, protects the vehicle electronics and the spacecraft during its ascent through the atmosphere. It is discarded when the vehicle reaches an altitude of about 115 km.

GSLV employs S-band telemetry and C-band transponders for enabling vehicle performance monitoring, tracking, range safety / flight safety and preliminary orbit determination. The Redundant Strap Down Inertial Navigation System/Inertial Guidance System of GSLV housed in its equipment bay guides the vehicle from lift-off to spacecraft injection. The digital auto-pilot and closed loop guidance scheme ensure the required altitude maneuver and guide injection of the spacecraft to the specified orbit.

The GSLV can place approximately 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) into an easterly low Earth orbit. With the GSLV Mk.I, using the Russian 12KRB upper stage, with KVD-1 cryogenic rocket engine, GSLV can place 2,200 kg (4,900 lb) into an 18° geostationary transfer orbit. The GSLV Mk.II uses an indigenous cryogenic engine, the CE-7.5 in the third stage instead of the Russian cryogenic engine.

Liquid boosters

The first GSLV flight, GSLV-D1 used the L40 engine. Subsequent flights of the GSLV used high pressure engines in the strap-on boosters called the L40H. The GSLV uses four L40H liquid strap-on boosters derived from the L37.5 second stage, which are loaded with 42.6 tons of hypergolic propellants (UDMH & N2O4). The propellants are stored in tandem in two independent tanks 2.1 m diameter. The engine is pump-fed and generates 760 kN (150,000 lbf) of thrust, with a burn time of 150 seconds.

First stage

GSLV-D1 used the S125 stage which contained 125 tonnes of solid propellant and had a burn time of 100 seconds. All subsequent launches have used enhanced propellant loaded S139 stage. The S139 stage is 2.8 m in diameter and has a nominal burn time of 109 seconds. The stage generates a maximum thrust of 4700 kN.

Second stage
The GS2 stage is powered by the Vikas engine. It has 2.8 m diameter.

Third stage
The third stage of the GSLV Mk.II is propelled by the CE-7.5, an indigenous cryogenic rocket engine, 2.8 m in diameter and uses liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX)[15] The indigenous cryogenic engine was built at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre in Valiamala, Kerala & Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu. This makes India one of the 6 countries which are capable of producing cryogenic engines. The engine has a default thrust of 7.5 tons (75 kN) but is capable of a maximum thrust of 9.31 tons (93.1 kN).


GSLV rockets using the Russian Cryogenic Stage (CS) are designated as the GSLV Mk I while versions using the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS) are designated the GSLV Mk II. All GSLV launches have been conducted from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

GSLV Mk I (a)
This variant had a 125 t (S-125) first stage and was capable of launching 1500 kg into geostationary transfer orbit. This variant is retired.

GSLV Mk I (b)
This variant had 139 t (S-139) first stage and improved fuel in the strap-on boosters and second stage. This variant can launch 1900 kg into geostationary transfer orbit.

GSLV Mk I (c)
This variant has a 15 tonne propellant loading in the third stage, called the C-15. GSLV-F06 (flight 6) is the only attempted launch of the Mark I(c) version to date.

This variant uses an Indian cryogenic engine, the CE-7.5, and is capable of launching 2500 kg into geostationary transfer orbit. Previous GSLV vehicles (GSLV Mk.I) have used Russian cryogenic engines.

Launch history

Flight Launch date/time (UTC) Variant Launch pad Payload Payload mass Result
D1 18 April 2001
Mk I(a) First India GSAT-1 1540 kg Partial failure
Developmental Flight, payload placed into lower than planned orbit, and did not have sufficient fuel to reach a usable orbit. ISRO claimed the launch to be successful and claims GSAT-1 as failure.
D2 8 May 2003
Mk I(a) First India GSAT-2 1825 kg Success
Developmental Flight.
F01 20 September 2004
Mk I(b) First India GSAT-3 1950 kg Success
First operational flight.
F02 10 July 2006
Mk I(b) Second India INSAT-4C 2168 kg Failure
Both rocket and satellite had to be destroyed over the Bay of Bengal after the rocket’s trajectory veered outside permitted limits.
F04 2 September 2007
Mk I(b) Second India INSAT-4CR 2160 kg Partial failure
Apogee lower and inclination higher than expected, due to an error in the guidance subsystem. Eventually the 2160 kg payload reached the designated geostationary transfer orbit. Minor error in orbit inclination corrected by satellite mission operators. Satellite is fully operational and full design life of ten years will be achieved. It completed 6 years in orbit successfully. ISRO claims this GSLV flight to be successful.
D3 15 April 2010
Mk II Second India GSAT-4 2220 kg Failure
First flight test of the ISRO designed and built Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS). Failed to reach orbit due to malfunction of the Fuel Booster Turbo Pump (FBTP) of the cryogenic upper stage.
F06 25 December 2010
Mk I(c) Second India GSAT-5P 2310 kg Failure
First flight of GSLV Mk.I (c). Destroyed by range safety officer after loss of control over liquid-fueled boosters.
D5 5 January 2014
Mk II Second India GSAT-14 1980 kg Success
The flight was scheduled for 19 August 2013, but one hour and 14 minutes before the lift off, a leakage was reported and the launch was halted.Second flight of GSLV with indigenous cryogenic upper stage (CUS) developed by ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) was launched successfully on 5 January 2014. It was a launch with precision of 40 metres (130 ft). All the three stages performed successfully. This was the first successful flight of the cryogenic stage which was developed indigenously in India.
D6 27 August 2015
Mk II Second India GSAT-6 2117 kg Success
GSLV Mk II D6 with an Indigenous Cryogenic Engine (ICE) successfully ferried GSAT-6 payload into Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) with injection parameters of 170 km x 35945 km, 19.96 degree inclination. The cuboid-shaped GSAT-6 satellite includes a technology demonstrator S-Band unfurlable antenna with a diameter of six metre which will provide S-band communication services during its expected mission life of nine years.
F05 8 September 2016
MK II Second India INSAT-3DR 2211  kg Success
First operational flight of GSLV Mk II.The injection parameters were met with extreme precision. Perigee was within 300m (within 0.18%) of the expected value whereas apogee was within 0.2% (80 km). The difference between expected and actual inclination degree was 0.

INSAT-3DR is an advanced atmospheric weather satellite. as well as the second heaviest satellite placed in orbit by an indigenous cryogenic engine propelled GSLV

Planned launches
F09 5 May 201711:27 Mk II Second GSAT-9 (SAARC Satellite) 2195 kg Scheduled
F08 September 2017 Mk II Second GISAT-1 2100 kg Scheduled
F10 2018 Mk II Second India Chandrayaan 2 3250 kg Planned


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