India Space Research Organization (ISRO) has successfully ground tested its Cryogenic Upper Stage engine, designed for the GSLV Mk-III, the new launch vehicle ISRO is developing for commercial satellite launches and future manned space missions.

The Cryogenic Upper Stage, dubbed C25, was fired for 50 seconds at the ISRO Propulsion Complex IPRC last week. According to officials at ISRO, the cryogenic engine performance during the test was “as predicted.” ISRO said the successful first hot fire test of the engine is “a significant milestone in the development of indigenous cryogenic propulsion technology.”

The GSLV Mk-III — that’s the Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III, sometimes referred to as Launch Vehicle Mark III, or LVM-III — is the newest iteration of ISRO’s GSLV rockets, developed to help India launch satellites without needing to rely on foreign launchers. The GSLV rockets are comprised of three stages: two S200 solid rocket boosters, an L110 liquid core stage comprised of two Vikas engines, and a cryogenic upper stage containing the new CE-20 cryogenic engine.

The GSVL Mk-III launch vehicle. Image source: ISRO

The GSLV Mk-I uses a Russian-made cryogenic engine, while the GSLV Mk-II uses India’s own cryogenic engine. The Mk-III is being designed with heavier payloads in mind, such as India’s INSAT-4 class communications satellites (weighing over 4 metric tons), commercial payloads and manned missions in the future.

The C-25 Upper Stage contains India’s most powerful upper stage engine developed to date. The CE-20 cryogenic engine is a gas generator cycle engine. The upper stage carries 27.8 metric tons of liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid hydrogen (LH2) propellant combination that’s loaded in two independent tanks. The CE-20 produces 186 kilonetwons of nominal thrust.

The Mk-III launch vehicle is still in development, but once completed it will be able to carry payloads weighing up to 4 metric tons into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO), and will carry payloads weighing up to 8 metric tons to low Earth orbit (LEO). ISRO has said the first flight stage for Mk-III is “in advanced stage of realization.” The flight engine has been through a high altitude test and passed successfully.

Mk-III’s first payload is to be the 3.2 metric ton GSAT-19 satellite and a geostationary radiation spectrometer (GRASP) that’ll be used to monitor and study charged particles and space radiation.

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Kendra R Chamberlain
Editor and analyst at The Enterprise Orbit, covering new space business and technology developments; freelance journalist covering telecom, renewable energy technology & smart infrastructure.

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