How does ISRO's GSLV Mk-III fare against some of the world's most powerful rockets?

Anirudh Regidi

Not very well, as it turns out. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be proud of what ISRO's built. If the broad hints dropped by various scientists are anything to go by, building a powerful, reliable rocket is incredibly hard, consuming a vast amount of resources and taking several lifetimes in man-hours to develop.

What ISRO has developed with limited resources, limited cooperation from the world at large, strife from within, and a budget ($1.6 bn) that many space agencies would laugh at, is nothing short of enviable.

The GSLV Mk III is no heavyweight, but it is an incredibly efficient design,

The GSLV Mk III is no heavyweight, but it is an incredibly efficient design.

Despite our limited resources, we were only the fourth nation in the world to make it to Mars and the sixth to the moon, have set a world record for the number of satellites deployed on one mission, and are commendably self-sufficient when it comes to putting our own satellites in orbit. Our targets are not small either.

In the near future, we're planning a mission to Venus (only three nations have visited the planet), to send humans to space (three countries have managed to do this) and eventually the Moon (only the US has done this), and even to set up a space station of our own (only three countries have attempted this). If Chandrayaan-2 is successful, we will also count ourselves amongst a very select group of nations to have landed a rover on an object in space, and only the fourth to soft-land on the Moon.

Still, in terms of launch capability, we do have a ways to go before we're counted among the big boys.

Our most powerful rocket only has three missions under its belt, and every rocket that matters (from the US, Russia, China, Japan and Europe) can carry at least 2.5 times the payload €" 22 tonnes on average to the GSLV's 8 tonnes €" that our best launcher can manage. We are also nowhere close to developing reusable motors for our launch vehicles. Launch vehicles that are currently in development around the world are expected to carry in excess of 100 tonnes to orbit.

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