India said that is has developed a supercooled liquid fuel rocket engine, that would allow India to launch high altitude satellites, send a man to the moon, or build intercontinental ballistic missiles. These engines are known as cryogenic engines and are fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. They are used to launch 2.5 ton satellites to orbits 22,000 miles above our planet, and in an ordinary flight the engine would need to burn for approx. 12 minutes.
The engine proved its endurance by firing for nearly 17 minutes on the ground, the Indian Space Research Organisation said in a statement.
Only a few countries -- including the United States, Russia and France -- can build cryogenic engines.
Sharma said the technology was "crucial to the ultimate moon shot," alluding to India's plan to send a manned mission to the moon before 2015. The advance could also give India the ability to build intercontinental ballistic missiles. India has nuclear weapons and tested them in 1974 and 1998.
A cryogenic missile cannot be fired at a moment's notice. The fuel cannot be stored in a rocket indefinitely because it is highly explosive, so a missile would have to be fueled before launching.
India's bid to develop its own cryogenic engines suffered several setbacks. In 1992, Russia agreed to give India the technology but reversed the decision after Moscow signed the Missile Technology Control Regime with the United States. Washington objected to giving India the technology because of its potential use for nuclear missiles. Russia later agreed to sell fully built engines, without passing on the technology, to India.
India developed a rudimentary form of its cryogenic technology in 2001 and several tests were held after that to fine-tune it.