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GSLV Mk III D2 with GSAT-29 on Second Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota (SDSC SHAR).jpg
GSLV Mk III D2 on Second Launch Pad, SDSC-SHAR
Has useMedium-lift launch vehicle[1]
ManufacturerIndian Space Research Organisation
Country of originIndia
Cost per launch367 crore (US$49 million) [2][3][4][5]
Height43.43 m (142.5 ft)[6][1]
Diameter4 m (13 ft)[6]
Mass640,000 kg (1,410,000 lb)[1]
Payload to LEO
Mass10,000 kg (22,000 lb)[7]
Payload to GTO
Mass4,000 kg (8,800 lb)[1]
Associated rockets
FamilyGeosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle
Launch history
Launch sitesSatish Dhawan Space Centre SLP, Andhra Pradesh, India
Total launches4
First flight
  • 18 December 2014 (suborbital)
  • 5 June 2017 (orbital)
Last flight22 July 2019
People or cargo transportedCARE, Chandrayaan-2
First stage – S200 Boosters
Height25 m (82 ft)[1]
Diameter3.2 m (10 ft)[1]
Empty mass31,000 kg (68,000 lb) each[8]
Gross mass236,000 kg (520,000 lb) each[8]
Propellant mass205,000 kg (452,000 lb) each[8]
Powered bySolid S200
Maximum thrust5,150 kN (525 tf)[9][10][11]
Specific impulse274.5 seconds (2.692 km/s) (vacuum)[8]
Burn time128 s[8]
Second stage – L110
Height21.39 m (70.2 ft)[12]
Diameter4.0 m (13.1 ft)[8]
Empty mass9,000 kg (20,000 lb)[12]
Gross mass125,000 kg (276,000 lb)[12]
Propellant mass116,000 kg (256,000 lb)[12]
Powered by2 Vikas engines
Maximum thrust1,598 kN (163.0 tf)[8][13][14]
Specific impulse293 seconds (2.87 km/s)[8]
Burn time203 s[12]
PropellantUDMH / N2O4
Third stage – C25
Height13.545 m (44.44 ft)[8]
Diameter4.0 m (13.1 ft)[8]
Empty mass5,000 kg (11,000 lb)[12]
Gross mass33,000 kg (73,000 lb)[12]
Propellant mass28,000 kg (62,000 lb)[8]
Powered by1 CE-20
Maximum thrust200 kN (20 tf)[8]
Specific impulse443 seconds (4.34 km/s)
Burn time643 s[8]
PropellantLOX / LH2

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III),[1][15] also referred to as the Launch Vehicle Mark 3 (LVM3),[15] is a three-stage[1] medium-lift launch vehicle developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Primarily designed to launch communication satellites into geostationary orbit,[16] it is also identified as the launch vehicle for crewed missions under the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme and dedicated science missions like Chandrayaan-2.[17][18] The GSLV Mk III has a higher payload capacity than the similarly named GSLV Mk II.[19][20][21][22]

After several delays and a sub-orbital test flight on 18 December 2014, ISRO successfully conducted the first orbital test launch of GSLV Mk III on 5 June 2017 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Andhra Pradesh.[23]

In June 2018, the Union Cabinet approved 43.38 billion (US$580 million) to build 10 GSLV Mk III rockets over a five-year period.[24]

GSLV Mk III launched CARE, India's space capsule recovery experiment module, Chandrayaan-2, India's second lunar mission and will be used to carry Gaganyaan, the first crewed mission under Indian Human Spaceflight Programme. In October 2021, UK-based global communication satellite provider OneWeb entered into an agreement with ISRO to launch OneWeb satellites aboard the GSLV Mk III along with the PSLV.[25][26]


First orbital flight of GSLV Mk III
First operational flight of GSLV Mk III, carrying Chandrayaan-2


ISRO initially planned two launcher families, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle for low Earth orbit and polar launches and the larger Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle for payloads to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). The vehicle was reconceptualized as a more powerful launcher as the ISRO mandate changed. This increase in size allowed the launch of heavier communication and multipurpose satellites, future interplanetary exploration and will be human rated to launch crewed missions.[27] Development of the GSLV Mk III began in the early 2000s, with the first launch planned for 2009–2010.[28] The unsuccessful launch of GSLV D3, due to a failure in the cryogenic upper stage,[28] delayed the GSLV Mk III development program. The GSLV Mk III, while sharing a name with the GSLV, features different systems and components.

S200 static fire tests[edit]

The first static fire test of the S-200 solid rocket booster, ST-01, was conducted on 24 January 2010. The booster fired for 130 seconds and had nominal performance. It generated a peak thrust of about 4,900 kN (1,100,000 lbf).[29][10] A second static fire test, ST-02, was conducted on 4 September 2011. The booster fired for 140 seconds and had nominal performance.[30] A third test, ST-03, was conducted on 14 June 2015 to validate the changes from the sub-orbital test flight data.[31][32]

L110 static fire tests[edit]

ISRO 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. The test was planned to last 200 seconds, but was terminated at 150 seconds after a leakage in a control system was detected.[33] A second static fire test for the full duration was conducted on 8 September 2010.[34]

C25 stage tests[edit]

C25 D Stage on test stand

The first static fire test of the C25 cryogenic stage was conducted on 25 January 2017 at the ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) facility at Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu. The stage was tested for a duration of 50 seconds and had nominal performance.[35]

A second static fire test for the full in-flight duration of 640 seconds was completed on 17 February 2017.[36] This test demonstrated the repeatability of the engine performance along with its sub-systems, including the thrust chamber, gas generator, turbopumps and control components for the full duration. All of the engine parameters had nominal performance.[36]

Modifications after LVM3-X[edit]

GSLV Mk III in Flight X configuration

After the suborbital test flight of GSLV Mk III, certain modifications were made to the vehicle to improve its performance. The propellant grain geometry of head end segment was changed to a 13-lobed star configuration from a 10-lobed slotted configuration and propellant load was reduced to 205 tonnes (452,000 lb) to improve performance during transonic phase of launch.[37] The CFRP payload fairing was modified to ogive shape, and the S200 booster nosecones were slanted to improve aerodynamic performance. The open inter-tank structure of the C25 cryogenic stage was redesigned to be enclosed for better aerodynamic performance.[37]

Vehicle design[edit]

S200 strap-ons

The first stage consists of two S200 solid motors, also known as Large Solid Boosters (LSB) attached to the core stage. Each booster is 3.2 metres (10 ft) wide, 25 metres (82 ft) long, and carries 207 tonnes (456,000 lb) of HTPB based propellant in three segments with casings made out of M250 maraging steel. It is the largest solid-fuel booster after the Space Shuttle SRBs and Ariane 5 SRBs. The flex nozzles can be vectored up to ±8° using electro-hydraulic actuators operating in blow-down mode and are used for vehicle control during the initial ascent phase.[38][39][40] Hydraulic fluid for operating these actuators is stored in externally mounted cylindrical tank at the base of each booster.[41] These boosters burn for 130 seconds and produce an average thrust of 3,578.2 kilonewtons (804,400 lbf) and a peak thrust of 5,150 kilonewtons (1,160,000 lbf) each.[39][9]

L110 Liquid Stage at the Stage Preparation Facility

The second stage, designated L110, is a liquid-fueled stage that is 21 metres (69 ft) tall and 4 metres (13 ft) wide, and contains 110 metric tons (240,000 lb) of unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4). It is powered by two Vikas 2 engines, each generating 766 kilonewtons (172,000 lbf) thrust, giving a total thrust of 1,532 kilonewtons (344,000 lbf).[13][14] The L110 is the first Indian clustered liquid-fueled engine. The Vikas engines uses regenerative cooling, providing improved weight and specific impulse compared to earlier Indian rockets.[39][42] Each Vikas engine can be individually gimbaled to control vehicle pitch, yaw and roll control. The L110 core stage ignites 114 seconds after liftoff and burns for 203 seconds.[39][14] Since L110 stage is air-lit, its engines need shielding during flight from hot exhaust of burning S200 boosters and reverse flow of gases by a 'nozzle closure system' which gets jettisoned prior to L110 ignition.[43]

C25 cryogenic stage

The cryogenic upper stage, designated C25, is 4 metres (13 ft) in diameter and 13.5 metres (44 ft) long, and contains 28 metric tons (62,000 lb) of propellant LOX and LH2, pressurized by helium stored in submerged bottles.[42][44] It is powered by a single CE-20 engine, producing 200 kN (45,000 lbf) of thrust. CE-20 is the first cryogenic engine developed by India which uses a gas generator, as compared to the staged combustion engines used in GSLV.[45]

The CFRP composite payload fairing has a diameter of 5 metres (16 ft) and a payload volume of 110 cubic metres (3,900 cu ft).[8]

Variants and upgrades[edit]

Mating with semi-cryogenic stage[edit]

The L110 core stage in GSLV Mk III is planned to be replaced by a kerolox stage powered by SCE-200[46] to increase its payload capacity to 7.5 metric tons (17,000 lb) to GTO.[47] SCE-200 uses kerosene instead of UDMH as fuel and can exert a thrust of around 200 tonnes. Four of such engines can be clustered in a rocket without strap on boosters to deliver up to 10 tonnes (22,000 lb) to GTO.[48]

The hydrolox upper stage C25 with nearly 25 t (55,000 lb) propellant load will be converted into C32 with higher propellant load of 32 t (71,000 lb). Total mass of avionics will be brought down by the use of miniature versions.[49] On 30 November 2020, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited delivered an aluminium alloy based cryogenic tank, namely C32-LH2 to ISRO. The tank has capacity to accommodate 5,755 kg (12,688 lb) of fuel in a volume of 89 m3 (3,100 cu ft), designed to increase payload capacity of GSLV Mk III.[50][51]

The SCE-200 powered version will not be used for the crewed mission of the Gaganyaan spacecraft.[52][53]

In September 2019, a report quoted S. Somanath, director of VSSC who said that semi-cryogenic engine was ready for testing to begin. SCE-200 is reported to be based on Ukrainian RD-810.[54]

As per a frame agreement for cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space between India and Ukraine signed in 2005, Ukraine was expected to test components of the Indian version of the engine and will fly only after successful completion of the Gaganyaan program. So, an upgraded version of the GSLV Mk III was not expected arrive before 2022.[55]

The propellant tank for SC120 semi-cryogenic stage was delivered in October 2021 by HAL.[56]


While GSLV Mk III is being human rated for Gaganyaan project, at design stage itself rocket's potential human spaceflight applications were kept in consideration. The maximum acceleration during ascent phase of flight was limited to 4 g for crew comfort and 5 meter diameter payload fairing was inducted to be able to accommodate large modules like space station segments.[57]

Furthermore a number of changes to make safety critical subsystems reliable are planned through lower operating margins, redundancy, stringent qualification requirements, revaluation and strengthening of components etc.[58]

In Avionics:

  • Quad redundant NGC
  • Dual chain Telemetry & Telecommand Processor (TTCP)
  • Integrated Health Monitoring System (LVHM)

Vehicle stages:

  • High Thrust Vikas Engines of L110 core stage to operate at chamber pressure of 58.5 bar instead of 62 bar.
  • Human rated S200 strapon or HS200 will operate at chamber pressure of 56.5 ksc instead of 60 ksc. Segment joints will have three O-rings each.
  • Electro mechanical actuators and digital stage controllers are employed in HS200, L110 and C25 stages.[59][60]

Notable missions[edit]

X (Suborbital flight test)[edit]

The maiden flight of the GSLV Mk III occurred on 18 December 2014. The flight lifted off from the Second Launch Pad, at 04:00 UTC.[61] The test had functional boosters, a core stage and a non-functional dummy upper stage. It carried the Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) that was tested on re-entry.[62]

Just over five minutes into the flight, the rocket ejected CARE module at an altitude of 126 kilometres (78 mi), which then descended, controlled by its onboard motors. During the test CARE's heat shield experienced a maximum temperature of around 1,000 °C (1,830 °F). ISRO downloaded launch telemetry during the ballistic coasting phase before the radio black-out to avoid data loss in the event of a splash-down failure. At an altitude of around 15 kilometres (9.3 mi), 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 and was recovered successfully.[63][64][65][66]

D1 (GSAT-19)[edit]

The first orbital flight of the GSLV Mk III occurred on 5 June 2017,[67] lifting off from the Second Launch Pad at 11:58 UTC. The vehicle carried the GSAT-19 communication satellite, making it the heaviest Indian rocket and payload ever launched. The satellite was successfully placed into a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) at 170 kilometres (110 mi). The flight also tested upgrades to the design from data acquired during the suborbital test flight (See section on redesigns).[68]

M1 (Chandrayaan-2)[edit]

The first operational flight occurred on 22 July 2019,[69][18] lifting off from the Second Launch pad at 9:13 UTC. The rocket carried Chandrayaan-2, India's second mission to the Moon, consisting of an orbiter, lander and a rover.[70] The Chandrayaan-2 stack is the heaviest spacecraft launched by ISRO.[71]

Launch history[edit]

Flight № Date / time (UTC) Rocket,
Launch site Payload Payload mass Orbit User Launch
X 18 December 2014
LVM3-X Second Launch Pad India Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) 3,775 kg (8,322 lb)[73] Sub-orbital ISRO Success
Sub-orbital development test flight with non-functional cryogenic stage[74]
D1 5 June 2017
Mk III Second Launch Pad India GSAT-19 3,136 kg (6,914 lb) GTO INSAT Success
First orbital test launch with a functional cryogenic stage[78]
D2 14 November 2018
Mk III Second Launch Pad India GSAT-29 3,423 kg (7,546 lb) GTO INSAT Success
Second orbital test flight. L110 core used upgraded Vikas engines with higher thrust.[79][80][81]
M1 22 July 2019 09:13 Mk III Second Launch Pad India Chandrayaan-2 3,850 kg (8,490 lb) EPO ISRO Success
First operational flight of GSLV MK-III.

Planned launches[edit]

Date / time (UTC) Rocket,
Launch site Payload Orbit
June 2022[82] Mk III Second Launch Pad India Gaganyaan-1 LEO
First uncrewed orbital demonstration flight of India's crew module.
Q3 2022[83] Mk III Second Launch Pad India Chandrayaan-3 TLI
Mission repeat of Chandrayaan-2 with a lunar lander and rover.
NET 2022[84][85] Mk III Second Launch Pad India GSAT-20 (CMS-03) GTO
2023[88] Mk III Second Launch Pad India Gaganyaan-2 LEO
Second uncrewed orbital demonstration flight of crew module.
2023[88] Mk III Second Launch Pad[89][90] India Gaganyaan-3 LEO
India's first crewed mission. Launch mass is 7,800 kg (17,200 lb) with service module,[91] capsule's mass is 3,735 kg.[91][55]
December 2024[92] Mk III Second Launch Pad India Shukrayaan-1 TBD
Launch mass is 2,500 kg; Venus orbiter and atmospheric balloon. May launch on GSLV Mk II.
2024[93] Mk III Second Launch Pad India Mangalyaan 2[94] TBD
India's second orbiter mission to Mars.[95][55]
TBA Mk III Second Launch Pad India GSAT-22 GTO

See also[edit]


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