India's been depending on low efficiency solid fuel upper stages, limiting payload mass, but now with this larger rocket and it's cryogenic liquid hydrogen upper stage they have a much heavier launcher option. It's just what they need for launching larger satellites, manned missions and larger planetary probes.

GSLV soars to space with Indian cryogenic engine

GSLV soars to space with Indian cryogenic engine

India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle put a 2.1-ton communications satellite in orbit Sunday, boosting prospects for the medium-class launcher after a spate of mishaps in recent years.

Although it carried a costly communications satellite, India's space agency officially considered the launch a test flight for the GSLV and its indigenous hydrogen-fueled third stage.

The 161-foot-tall rocket blasted off at 1048 GMT (5:48 a.m. EST), darting through a clear afternoon sky over the Satish Dhawan Space Center on India's east coast, where it was 4:18 p.m. local time.

Depositing a plume of exhaust in its wake, the launcher soared into the upper atmosphere riding 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the first few minutes of the flight, before its solid-fueled core motor and liquid-fueled strap-on boosters consumed their propellant.

The GSLV's second stage assumed control of the flight for more than two minutes, then yielded to the rocket's Indian-built cryogenic engine, which failed at the moment of ignition during a previous demonstration launch in April 2010.

Only three of seven GSLV missions before Sunday were considered successful by the Indian Space Research Organization, drawing unfavorable comparisons to India's smaller Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, which has amassed 24 straight successful flights.

No such anomalies occurred on Sunday's launch, and the third stage engine fired for 12 minutes before deploying India's GSAT 14 communications satellite.

"Some used to call the GSLV the naughty boy of ISRO," said K. Sivan, GSLV project director at ISRO. "The naughty boy has become obedient."

A raucous wave of applause erupted inside the GSLV control center at the launch base on Sriharikota Island about 50 miles north Chennai on the Bay of Bengal.

All of the rocket's systems seemed to function as designed, and ISRO heralded the mission as a success.