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GSLV counting down to launch advanced Indian weather satellite

India’s launch webcast is scheduled to begin at 1010 GMT (6:10 a.m. EDT).

India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle is set for blastoff Thursday with a meteorological observatory destined to track storms and tropical cyclones from a perch more than 22,000 miles above Earth.

The Insat 3DR spacecraft mounted aboard the GSLV carries color and infrared cameras to image storms day and night, and a sounder to collect temperature, humidity and ozone data in different layers of the atmosphere. The satellite will also relay observations from remote weather station and ocean buoys to forecast centers, and monitor for distress signals from ships, airplanes and others in need of rescue.

The GLSV Mk. 2 launcher will lift off at 1040 GMT (6:40 a.m. EDT) Thursday from the Second Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center on India’s east coast, pitch on a trajectory over the Bay of Bengal and accelerate into an equator-hugging orbit with Insat 3DR.

Launch is set for 4:10 p.m. India Standard Time.

The 161-foot-tall (49-meter) rocket will light its four hydrazine-fueled Vikas strap-on engines at T-minus 4.8 seconds, then fire a core solid rocket motor as the countdown clock hits zero. The liquid-fueled booster engines and first stage will generate up to 1.7 million pounds of thrust in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the flight, then separate simultaneously as the GSLV’s second stage engine lights at a velocity of more than 5,300 mph (2.4 kilometers per second).

According to a mission timeline released by the Indian Space Research Organization, the GSLV’s metallic nose fairing should jettison at T+plus 3 minutes, 48 seconds, and the Vikas engine on the second stage will fire until T+plus 4 minutes, 49 seconds. Then the rocket’s third stage engine, consuming a mix of cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, will ignite moments later and produce more than 16,000 pounds of thrust for nearly 12 minutes, driving the launcher into orbit.

Thursday’s launch, known as GSLV-F05 by India’s space agency, will mark the fourth time in the GSLV’s 10 flights that the rocket has flown with an Indian-made cryogenic upper stage engine. It replaced hydrogen-burning engines India purchased from Russia for the GSLV’s early test flights.

The third stage powerplant will switch off just shy of the mission’s 17-minute point in preparation for deployment of the 4,874-pound (2,211-kilogram) Insat 3DR spacecraft.

Spacecraft separation is due at T+plus 17 minutes, 4 seconds.

The GSLV is programmed to place Insat 3DR into a geostationary transfer orbit with a low point of 105 miles (170 kilometers), a high point of around 22,353 miles (35,975 kilometers), and an inclination of 20.6 degrees.

The three-stage rocket is the more powerful of India’s two satellite launchers, but its history has been clouded by launch failures. India’s launch team is aiming Thursday to complete the third successful GSLV flight in a row after a series of failed launches punctuated by back-to-back losses in 2010.

GSLV flights resumed with smooth on-target launches in January 2014 and August 2015.

Overall, the GSLV’s official record stands at 5-for-9 going into Thursday’s launch, including earlier variants with Russian hardware. That compares unfavorably with India’s smaller Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, which has logged 35 straight successful launches.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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GSLV counting down to launch advanced Indian weather satellite

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