The Indian Space Research Organisation launched the geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle Mark-III, carrying communication satellite GSAT-19, from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on Monday evening. The mission is important as it is the “heaviest-ever rocket and satellite” to be launched from India, Isro chairperson AS Kiran Kumar said.

The rocket was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. The GSLV Mk III is scheduled to launch the satellite into the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit after 16.20 minutes following the lift-off. The rocket weighs 640 tonnes and is 43.43 metres tall.

The vehicle, which has an indigenously developed cryogenic engine, can lift payloads of up to 4,000 kg into the GTO and 10,000 kg into the Low Earth Orbit. The GSLV Mk III, which has two solid strap-ons, a liquid booster and a cryogenic upper stage, will be carrying the 3,136 kg GSAT-19 satellite.

The GSAT-19, which has a lifespan of 10 years, will help monitor and study the nature of charged particles and influence of space radiation on spacecraft and electronic components, Hindustan Times reported.

The satellite is equipped with advanced spacecraft technology, including indigenously developed Li-ion battery and bus bars for power distribution.

Former Isro chairperson K Radhakrishnan said the successful launch would open up the international market for Isro and that foreign satellites can also be launched from here in future. “If today India has to launch communication satellites beyond 2.3 tonnes, we have to go abroad,” Radhakrishnan told PTI. “We will have self-reliance in launching communication satellites, and we will be able to attract foreign customers.”

This launch will also prove to be cost-effective for India in the future. Launching heavy INSAT-class satellites of 3.5 tonnes from the European Space Agency currently incurs a cost of Rs 800 crore each, GSLV Mk III Vehicle Director J Jayaprakash told The Times Of India. “At one third the cost or at about Rs 350 crore, India can launch heavier satellites on GSLV Mk III,” he added.

In 2014, Isro had flown a similar rocket, without a cryogenic engine but with a 3.7-tonne payload. The launch was simply meant to test the rocket’s structural ability and aerodynamics while in flight.

Moreover, Isro has asked for Rs 12,500 crore from the Indian government to put an astronaut in space, said a report in NDTV. Isro has already developed critical technologies for a human space mission. The newly launched rocket is expected to be able to take Indian astronauts into space.

At present, India has two rockets – the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and GSLV-Mk II – with a lift-off mass of 415 tonnes and a carrying capacity of 2.5 tonnes. The GSLV-Mk II, at 49 metres, is slightly taller than the Mk III, which stands to a height of 45 metres.