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India, rising - Heavy-lift GSLV Mk III flight a success.

India’s GSLV Mk III rocket lifts off on its maiden voyage December 18, 2014 at 11:00 PM EST (9:30AM Indian Standard Time).

The flight was a complete success, testing the new rocket’s flight profile, avionics systems and booster technology. 

Two S200 solid fuel motors propelled the vehicle off the launch pad, followed by the liquid fuelled L110 core stage. The rocket will eventually boast a cryogenic third stage which will place payloads in their desired orbits.

Thursday’s launch marked a major milestone in India’s goal to domestically launch heavy payloads that have previously required the use of Europe’s Ariane V rocket. 

“India, you have a new launch vehicle,” said S. Somanath, ISRO’s project director for the GSLV Mk. 3 rocket. “The payload capabilities of our current launch vehicles have been significantly enhanced through the development of this launch vehicle.”

Additionally, the flight also gathered important data on the reentry, recovery and flight characteristics of India’s proposed crew spacecraft. The CARE module - a testbed space capsule short for Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment - landed on target in the Bay of Bengal 20 minutes after liftoff.

“This was a very significant day in the history of the Indian space program,” said K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of ISRO. 

The CARE module was the same size and weight as India’s proposed crew spacecraft. However, the Indian government has not formally committed to a manned space project. Instead, funding has been granted for researching different vehicle designs and technologies for a future crew vehicle.

The launch occured from Pad 2 at the Satish Dhawan space center near Sriharikota, India.