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Indian Space Capabilities

joey

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NEW DELHI: India may be sending a manned mission to space. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussed the possibility at a meeting here on Tuesday with the chairmen of the Space Commission and the Atomic Energy Commission.

Manmohan Singh, an official statement on Wednesday said he reviewed India's space and atomic energy programmes with the scientists.

The possibility of the Department of Space developing a manned space programme was also discussed.

The department's other plans, including upcoming launch missions, a profile of missions proposed up to 2013, the project for developing a regional navigational system as well as futuristic plans covering air-breathing propulsion systems, heavy lift launches and advanced communication technologies came up for review.

The presentation on nuclear power focussed on the scenario for its development, on the cost effectiveness and environmental sustainability of nuclear power, on the three stage nuclear programme and the approach of the Department of Atomic Energy.

An introduction to advanced technologies under development for meeting India's energy needs was also provided, the statement said.

The imperative to offer attractive career incentives for scientists in the space and atomic energy programmes was underlined by the Prime Minister.
Source : http://newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IE...nd~man~to~space

Regional navigation system > gagan
air-breathing propultion > for avtar with the russians.
heavy lift launches > RLV
three stage nuke power > first stage done , second stage to be operational from 500Mw kalpakkam third stafe to follow the continous use of thorium as France does.

besides Cartosat 2 is set to launch in this year last and GSLV to follow next year middle.

guys i hope i'm not offending anyone with articles? if so let me know :)
cartosat 2 for IRs remote sensing satellite which repeteadly many websites including nasa and FAs says one of best in world and can read cars backplate number.
 

joey

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I dont think this is needed India DID SEND men in space back in 1984 with russian help.
sending men in space and getting them back is of no use.
u gotta send robots or payloads to study planets which has much more scientifical importance.
 

Contrarian

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Oct 23, 2006
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India takes giant leap in space initiative
Friday, March 2, 2007 (Thiruvananthapuram):

For the first time ever, Finance Minister P Chidambaram has allocated Rs 50 crore for ISRO's manned space initiatives in an indication that India is very serious about its manned space faring ambitions.

If all goes according to plan, a 50 metre tall and more than 400 tonne rocket will put an Indian in space.

The Geostationary Launch Vehicle is being fine tuned by ISRO for India's first manned space flight, possibly in 2014 from Sriharikota.

The new national effort was announced by the Finance Minister in his budget speech.

ISRO is also developing a fully autonomous orbital vehicle to carry a two-member crew into a low Earth orbit.

Crew module

The mission, which will place India in the league of Russia, USA and China, is estimated to cost about Rs 10,000 crore but will be a boon for the domestic industry.

"We have carried out a detailed feasibility study of carrying humans into orbit and bringing them back using existing vehicles. We feel by using the GSLV Mark II it is possible to undertake this mission but a lot more technology has to be developed. This is quite exciting and challenging for our youngsters who are joining and hopefully we feel we will be able to do it by 2014," said B N Suresh, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, Thiruvananthapuram.

Work has begun at the highly guarded facilities at Thiruvananthapuram. NDTV was shown the first drawings of the crew module and the escape vehicle if something goes wrong in the manned flight.

It is the life support system that will take most development.

Hardware like heat resistant tiles to protect astronauts on the return to Earth have already been developed and the success of the satellite recovery experiment earlier this month demonstrated India's capability in re-entry technology.

Finally a capsule six times heavier will take Indians into space.

A new race to space has begun with India and China vying to find their place. All what happens at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre will decide how soon and how fast India moves in this demanding area.

http://www.ndtv.com/template/template.asp?category=National
 

Lilo

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May 12, 2006
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Just to put things in perspective ..

compared to india's 50 crore/year

official cost of Shenzou Project for the past 11 years was $2.3 billion USD,
applying the chinese multiple of 3 their real budget would be ~$7 billion/13 years

=2500 crore Rs/year

I really wonder if its enough ??
 

Lilo

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Should be, ISRO always delivers even on a shoe string budget.
Iam sure that ISRO 's missions are quite economical..
..but i seriously think the reporter missed adding one or two zeros at the end of the 50 crore figure

even In the same article the total cost of the manned flight was stated to be 10,000 crores....and a figure of 50 crore/year jus doesnt seem right ...

do u have any other source to verify the above article...?

Here's another albeit older article which madhavan nair says that the cost of the manned space mission will be between 10000-15000 crore ($2.2-$3.3 billion) over eight years



Indian scientists favour manned space mission


Bangalore, Nov. 7 (PTI): Top scientists and technologists here today strongly favoured a proposal to undertake a manned mission into space that would catapult India into a select group of nations with such a capability.

At a national consultative meeting convened by the Indian Space Research Organisation to "crystallise and converge" on the issue, participants "overwhelmingly and very positively" supported the proposal, ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair told PTI.

ISRO is in a position to undertake the manned mission in eight years. Nair said the estimated cost of such a mission would be in the region of Rs 10,000 crore to Rs 15,000 crore.


Nair made a presentation to a gathering of 80 scientists and technologists, including those from ISRO, HAL and NAL and those associated with space technologies, and detailed studies conducted by the organisation in this context.

"All of them were supportive of the idea," Nair said. "There was absolute unanimity on the issue. Everyone feels it's a logical step."

Among those who participated in the meet were U R Rao, Roddam Narasimha and Yash Pal. Some others, who could not attend, including M G K Menon, sent written comments, he said.

Some key questions at the interaction centred around the safety of personnel making the flight, ISRO sources said, adding the space agency will respond to these queries.

Nair, also Space Commission Chairman and Secretary in the Department of Space, said ISRO will submit a report on the deliberations to the government by the year-end.

He had made a presentation last month on the space department to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who suggested a national team of scientists look into the manned mission issue. Today's meeting was a result of suggestion.

http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/008200611071540.htm
 

Contrarian

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Dude, this is the just the first installement. There will be more as much as ISRO requires. This is a prestige issue for the govt, to show we can do it too, it will be given priority. Dont worry, i have faith in ISRO. They punch above their size.
 

Contrarian

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ISRO takes delivery of mobile launch pedestal

CHENNAI: The Sriharikota Centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Monday took delivery of a mobile launch pedestal made by KCP Ltd.

M. Annamalai, Director, Sriharikota Centre, said this was the centre's second mobile launch pedestal and would play a key role in its satellite launch programmes.

The order was placed over one-and-a-half years ago and it involved making a mobile launch platform weighing 600 tonnes with metal sheets of 10-120mm thickness. It is on such platforms that the launch vehicles that carry the remote sensing satellites and communication satellites are built.

Partnership with the private sector was a key factor for the ISRO, he said.

V.L. Dutt, Chairman, KCP Ltd., handed over the inspection documents to Mr. Annamalai, marking the formal handing over of the platform.
http://www.hindu.com/2007/03/27/stories/2007032706450300.htm
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Webby, could you make this thread a sticky like the other ones about Arjun, MRCA, etc. All the space related materials would go here.
 

Contrarian

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ISRO To Launch Foreign Satellite As Primary Payload First Time

The ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will launch the 360-kg AGILE spacecraft as a primary payload next month.

India for the first time will launch a foreign satellite -- an Italian one -- as a primary payload on a home-grown rocket, as space scientists prepare to further demonstrate the country's cost-effective launch services capability.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched foreign payloads as piggybacks in the past; next month's mission would see the space agency launching the 360-kg AGILE spacecraft as a primary payload.

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), the workhorse rocket of Bangalore-headquartered ISRO, would blast-off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota with AGILE and India's Advanced Avionics Module (AAM) as secondary payload.

The launch is scheduled between April 20-30.

"It will send a right message to global community. This contract (to launch AGILE) was obtained against competition, and once we are able to launch it on time and at a good price, I think this (foreign payload launches) will start coming more and more to us", ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair told PTI here.

AGILE is a space scientific mission devoted to gamma-ray astrophysics supported by the Italian Space Agency, with the scientific and programmatic co-participation of the Italian Institute of Astrophysics and the Italian Institute of Nuclear Physics.

The 180-kg AAM is aimed at testing some of the advanced avionic package for use in the future PSLV flights, the space agency said.

Officials said PSLV configuration for next month's flight would be modified to use only the core vehicle (without the six solid propellant strap-on motors).
http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/I...ellite_As_Primary_Payload_First_Time_999.html
 

Contrarian

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Integration process begins for Chandrayaan-1

The integration process of the spacecraft structure and antennae has begun for Chandrayaan-1, the country's first unmanned moon mission which is scheduled for March 2008, Indian Space Research Organisation said on Wednesday.

The spacecraft structure for the mission has arrived at the ISRO satellite centre from Hindustan Aeronauticals Limited and integration work has begun, S Krishnamurthy, director, Publications and Public Relations, told PTI from Bangalore.

ISRO's Deep Space Tracking Network system, which is being established for the moon mission at Byalalu village, 40 km from Bangalore, has already erected its first 18-mt antenna, he said.

The prestigious 32-mt antenna built by the Electronic Corporation of India and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre is currently being erected at DSTNS, Krishnamurthy said.

Krishnamurthy added that the instruments from various collaborators, including European Space Agency and NASA, have started coming in.

The Chandrayaan-1 mission, that involves placing of a 525-kg spacecraft around the lunar orbit, is expected to provide impetus to science in India by unravelling some of the unknown features of the moon.

According to ISRO, it is also a challenge to technology, and possibly adds a new dimension to both Indian and international cooperation.

ISRO also has an agenda for the preparation of the three-dimensional atlas of the regions on the moon and the chemical mapping of the entire lunar surface.

According to M Annadurai, director-in-charge of the Chandrayaan-1 mission, the launch schedule is targeted early next year.

"But technically we have three to four launch dates targeted," he said in an e-mail communication recently.

"This is because, a mission like Chandrayaan-1 needs few launch opportunities. I am aiming for a launch not later than March end or early April 2008. Currently we are on schedule, with 30 days of schedule margin, leading to March 2008 launch," Annadurai added.

"All systems and instruments are getting ready for flight integration. Accordingly, our target schedule for launch is as follows: 1) February 29, 2008 (If there is no slip in the current integration schedule); 2) March 13 (assuming 15-day slip); 3) March 26 (assuming 30-day slip); 4) April 9 (one more backup date)," he said.

"You may note unlike other satellite launches, it is difficult to have daily launch opportunity for Chandrayaan-1, as we need a particular moon geometry from earth to have optimal mission mode. So, we prefer not to miss the above launch opportunities," he said.

"ISRO is fully geared up to meet this challenge," he said.
http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/mar/28moon.htm

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WEEBY bhai, isse sticky bana do!
 

Lilo

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India prepares for moon mission


New Delhi: India has begun assembling the spacecraft for Chandrayan-I, its first unmanned mission to the moon scheduled for 2008, a top space agency said on Wednesday.

"We have begun the integration process for the spacecraft structure and are putting in place the antennae required for tracking data from this month," S Krishnamurthy, director of publicity for the Indian Space Research Organisation, said from Bangalore.

The spacecraft structure has arrived at the ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC) from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and the integration work has begun, he said.

ISRO's deep space tracking network system is being established for the moon mission at Byalalu village, 40 km from Bangalore, and its first 18-metre antenna has been erected, he said.

A 32-metre antenna built by the Electronic Corporation of India and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre is currently being erected at the site.

Krishnamurthy said instruments from various collaborators, including the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA of the US, have also started coming in.

Though scientists first conceived India's moon mission in 1999, it was officially announced by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on August 15, 2003 and finally approved in November 2003.

The mission is scheduled for launch in March-April 2008.

With the geo-political importance of Chandrayaan, ISRO has pushed back other programmes that were conceived and scheduled much earlier, like the first science satellite Astrosat, which is now scheduled for 2009-10.
http://www.ibnlive.com/news/indias-prepares-for-moon-mission/37210-11.html
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Lilo

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India's space sector starts a price war
By Raja M

MUMBAI - With the space industry emerging as the next economic frontier to be explored, India's scientists aim to propel the South Asian country into stratospheric heights of profitability in a market dominated by the US, Russia, Europe and China. The key to success, they believe, is cutting costs.

More than 60% of global satellite revenues now come from consumer-based video, radio and Internet services, and the 24-year-old satellite business journal SatNew says about 104



satellites launches are planned between now and 2008.

Antrix Corp, the marketing arm of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) satellite data products, has cornered 20% of the global satellite imaging business, ISRO sources told Asia Times Online.

Antrix has an annual sales turnover of US$68 billion, mostly marketing transponder capacity for satellite TV, Internet and telecommunications. Antrix sells transponder capacity (transponders receive signals, translate, amplify their frequency and transmit them back to Earth) for $1 million per client a year.

The ISRO now plans to cut the cost of launch vehicles, including working to use purified kerosene as rocket fuel just as Russia and the US have been doing. Rockets swallow many tonnes of rocket fuel, which currently costs India $46 per kilogram. With purified kerosene, costs plummet to less than 50 cents per kilogram.

Much of India's ability to cut technology costs arose from the necessity of having to find home-grown solutions when the United States and European countries imposed sanctions after India first detonated a nuclear device in 1974. The ISRO had to reinvent technologies it could no longer buy and, ironically, those technologies are now giving European and US agencies a run for their money.

S Krishnamurthy, a director at the ISRO headquarters in Bangalore, said the focus on self-reliance and the low cost of highly talented workers give India an edge over other countries.

India's steadily growing space business also received a major boost this January after its first Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-1) was launched and retrieved intact.

Krishnamurthy confirmed that the successful SRE-1 test indicated that the ISRO has more commercial aims. "The Indian launch vehicle will be about 30% cheaper for similar launch capabilities" in other countries, he said.

India still has some catching up to do with China, which in the past five years has launched 24 Changzheng rockets, orbited 22 satellites of different types and versions, and has planned many moon missions. Luan Enjie, one of the directors of the Chinese lunar program, told the media this month that by 2015, China will have a launching fleet of 1,060 units, enabling it to corner most of the launch-services market.

The success of the SRE-1 was also a big milestone for India's manned-space-flight program, as it demonstrated its reusable capabilities in space, putting it in the same league as the European Union, the US, Russia, China and Japan. "The SRE-1 can now offer a platform for experiments under microgravity conditions of space," said ISRO chairman Madhavan Nair.

Krishnamurthy also said that India is planning to develop a reusable launch vehicle (RLV) to "reduce the cost of access to space by an order of magnitude, so that it can be competitive in the world space market. Current costs range between $12,000 and $15,000 to place a kilogram of payload in orbit."

According to Nair, the Madras School of Economics has estimated that ISRO projects have contributed nearly three times the astonishingly modest ISRO annual budget of $800 million to the nation's gross domestic product.

The downside is that the Indian government's appreciation of the country's talented space scientists is not reflected in their paychecks. An entry-level teenager in India's business process outsourcing (BPO) industry earns about $8,400 a year, while an Indian space scientist earns half that figure plus a modest pension.

The ISRO is the brainchild of Dr Vikram Sarabhai (1919-71), a remarkably farsighted man considered to be the father of India's space program. He said: "We are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society."

ISRO chairman Madhavan Nair said: "India is perhaps the only country where societal needs are met by the space program in a cost-effective manner and the services are reaching the needy."

India's six remote-sensing satellites form the largest such constellation in the world and oversee land and coastal waters and help scientists inform farmers about climatic changes. India's seven communication satellites, the largest civilian system in the Asia-Pacific region, give television coverage to 90% of the population, including the remotest regions, and also serve to provide remote health care services and education to the rural poor.

In 2005, A P J Abdul Kalam, India's president and the world's first rocket scientist to be head of state, outlined an eight-point agenda to guide India's space missions for the next 25 years.

At a ceremony at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first flight of the country's launch vehicle, SLV-3, he urged India's space scientists to make sure that the country is part of the "space industrial revolution", including launching manned missions to the moon and Mars, setting up an industrial base in space, developing a solar sail for interplanetary missions, developing cost-effective space transportation systems using hypersonic reusable vehicles, using space energy for power, and using space technology for integrated disaster management.

The next big ISRO challenge is its moon missions. Last year, 80 leading Indian scientists met in Bangalore and expressed their support for the ISRO undertaking a manned moon flight by 2014, developing a fully autonomous orbital vehicle to carry two-member crew to low Earth orbit and safely return them to Earth.

ISRO's first moon craft, Chandrayaan-1, is being built for launch next year. Chandrayaan-1 ("Moon Vehicle" in Hindi) costs the ISRO just 2% of its annual budget for a period of five years for this mission. The ISRO says the moon probe will map the lunar surface at resolutions down to 5 meters, for the first time in human history.

According to Nair, one of the purposes of the moon mission is to inspire Indian youngsters to take up a career in science, which they will be more inclined to do if the government makes it financially desirable.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/IC31Df04.html

(Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
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Lilo

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A project to develop a semi-cryogenic engine is sought to be revived.


R. RAMACHANDRAN



The cryogenic engine, The cryogenic final stage that is currently used in GSLV launches is not indigenous.

A CURIOUS new budget head in this year's allocations to the Department of Space (DOS) has not attracted the attention and discussion that it merits. This pertains to the Rs.25 crore allocated under the head "Semi Cryogenic Engine/Stage Development". According to the budget document, the objective is to develop and qualify a high-thrust semi-cryogenic engine and stage, using kerosene as fuel and liquid oxygen (LOX) as oxidiser for the future advanced launch vehicle. The proposal is somewhat baffling because it essentially seeks to revive a 36-year-old project. Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, as the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), initiated the project shortly before his death in 1971, but it was inexplicably dumped soon afterwards, much to the disappointment of its champions. Had the project been pursued to its logical end, India would have achieved world-class launch capability, complete with an operational, indigenous fully cryogenic engine, by the 1990s.

A "full" - as against a "semi" - cryogenic engine uses liquid hydrogen (LH) as fuel and LOX as oxidizer. Both the fuel and the oxidizer being gases at ordinary temperatures, their liquefaction requires use of the cryogenics or techniques and systems at sub-zero temperatures. In the case of a semi-cryogenic engine, the fuel kerosene - usually the superior aviation turbine fuel (ATF) - is a liquid at room temperature (an "earth-storable" propellant) and only oxygen requires liquefaction. Rocket propellants, which consist of both fuel and oxidizer, and are earth-storable liquids, are also used; for instance, a combination of unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine (UDMH) as fuel and red-fuming nitric acid or nitrogen tetra-oxide (N2O4) as oxidizer is used in the second and fourth stages of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), the workhorse from ISRO's stable.

Among the liquid propellants, the cryogenic bi-propellant combination of LH-LOX offers a higher `specific impulse' - a measure of thrust delivered per unit mass of propellant burnt per second - than the semi-cryo or fully earth-storable combinations. As compared to a specific impulse of 360-380 seconds for the LH-LOX combination, the specific impulse of the semi-cryo combination is 290-310 seconds and the earth-storable UDMH-N2O4 combination 270-280 seconds. This implies that a fully cryogenic engine can deliver a higher payload mass as compared to a semi-cryo engine or earth-storable liquid engine for a given weight of on-board fuel.

It is for this reason that ISRO's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), which has to deliver an INSAT-II class satellite weighing over two tonnes into the geostationary orbit, 36,000 km above, has a cryogenic final stage as opposed to a UDMH-N2O4 liquid-based final stage of the PSLV, which has to deliver only 1.5-tonne-class satellites in the polar orbit, 800-900 km high. (It is possible to configure the PSLV to deliver geostationary satellites, but of mass much less than two tonnes, as was done in the case of the one-tonne meteorological satellite, METSAT, in September 2002.)

The cryogenic final stage that is currently used in GSLV launches is not indigenous. It uses the imported Russian cryogenic stages as Russia backed out from transferring the cryogenic engine technology under American pressure, violating a 1991 ISRO-Glavkosmos agreement. The 1991 deal had to be renegotiated subsequently in 1994 without technology transfer as the original deal was perceived to be in violation of the guidelines of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), and ISRO ended up importing off-the-shelf engines and stages. (The MTCR is an informal arrangement among 24 missile-technology capable nations of the West to restrict missile-related technology and equipment transfers to non-member countries.)

At present, the process of development of an indigenous 7.5 tonne thrust cryogenic engine and stage based on the Russian design (known as Mark-II) is on. The long-duration (720 seconds) test of the indigenous cryogenic stage on January 19 was aborted but will be carried out soon and the stage should be ready by year-end. A totally indigenous and more powerful cryogenic engine (Mark-III), which is intended to deliver satellites weighing up to four tonnes in the geostationary orbit, is also under development.

However, the main core first-stage booster of both the PSLV and the GSLV is still a solid propellant motor, which generally has a specific impulse less than the liquid propellants, and the second stage is the liquid engine `Vikas', which uses earth-storable bi-propellants, based on the French Viking engine technology obtained in the 1970s. Clearly, the payload capabilities of both the launch vehicles can be increased substantially if, instead of a solid motor, a first-stage liquid booster (based on either a cluster of semi-cryo or earth-storable propellant engines or a powerful cryogenic engine) is used like in most advanced launchers of the world today. LOX-kerosene-based semi-cryo liquid engines have propelled many Russian launch vehicles. The world's most powerful liquid engine, the Russian RD-170, which has been used in launch vehicles such as Proton, Zenit and Soyuz, is powered by a LOX-kerosene combination. LOX-kerosene engines have powered several American launchers as well, including Saturn V, which carried men to the moon.

However, for some reason, ISRO has been reluctant until now to develop a liquid-booster stage that could replace the solid booster and achieve a higher payload capability, notwithstanding the fact that it has mastered the solid-motor technology, which is completely indigenous. As recounted by N. Gopal Raj, the science correspondent of The Hindu in his 2000 book Reach for the Stars on ISRO's rocket development, similar efforts at developing indigenous capability in liquid propellants have been lacking all these years. Nearly all the effort on this front was directed at indigenising the imported Viking engine technology into Vikas and consolidating this capability, including creating industrial capacity to produce Vikas engines to meet the needs of PSLV and GSLV launches.

One of the chief architects of ISRO's solid propellants programme was Dr. Vasant Gowariker, a chemical engineer-scientist who later became the Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and is currently ISRO's Satish Dhawan Professor in Pune. It was Gowariker who pioneered the work on cryogenic engine development in ISRO. In 1971, under Sarabhai's suggestion, he set up the Cryogenic Techniques Project (CTP) with six people and initiated the conceptualisation and design of a semi-cryogenic engine.

"The project was more like a software kind of work as a step towards fully cryogenic technology," Gowariker says. "It was Sarabhai's idea to use this as a basis to get familiarised with cryogenic technology because while making liquid hydrogen is risky business, liquid oxygen was easily available from the industry. The idea was to make do with whatever systems that were available at that time, get experience with liquid oxygen in its handling and the filling process and develop systems to utilise its full oxidation capacity," Gowariker said.

"I feel that wisdom has finally dawned on them," says P.R. Sadashiva, an important member and the first recruit in the six-member team under Gowariker, who took voluntary retirement from ISRO in 1992. "After the testing of one small-scale semi-cryo engine, the whole project - costing Rs.3.48 crore then - was shelved and the setting up of a dedicated liquid oxygen plant costing just Rs.16 lakh was stopped," he recalled. In fact, this was the last thing that Sarabhai approved a day before his death in December 1971. According to Dr. Sadashiva, after listening to a presentation on solid propellants for the Defence Research and Development Laboratory that went on well into the night, Sarabhai retired to Kovalam Hotel in Thiruvananthapuram when Gowariker rushed in with the papers on the proposal for a 10-tonne LOX plant. Sarabhai promptly signed it.

"People connected with Vikas and the proponents of solid propellants pulled it down, in particular one man who was interested in pushing the imported Vikas," adds Sadashiva. Although he refrained from naming the person, it is amply clear that he was referring to Dr. A.E. Muthunayagam, who led the Vikas programme at ISRO's Liquid Propellants Systems Centre (LPSC).

"Although the Vikas project definitely gave us the liquid propellant technology, semi-cryo [technology] is the cheapest option as compared with earth-storable liquids," he pointed out. He said ATF was available at nominal cost and liquid oxygen was about 20-25 times cheaper than UDMH or N2O4 at that time.

"The proposal was to develop a 75-tonne thrust semi-cryo engine, similar to the 68.5-tonne Saturn V engine, and we could have easily achieved that. And by clustering four of these, we would have had an extremely powerful booster by now, equivalent to the most advanced rockets, which could have formed the basis for our main version of the PSLV. And in parallel a 7.5-tonne thrust LOX-LH cryogenic engine could have been developed. We have lost valuable time," he observed.

Sadashiva recounted how they would transport LOX by jeep from Fertilizers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd. in Kochi, where it was obtained as a by-product and was largely wasted, in containers that were so bad that half the content would have evaporated by the time they reached the testing facility near Thiruvananthapuram.

"The man to blame is [Satish] Dhawan," says Prof. H.S. Mukunda of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, who headed the committee that prepared the report on the semi-cryogenic engine. "He, for some reason, went along with the arguments of people involved with the Vikas engine project and did not even give us a hearing. Even U.R. Rao [former Chairman of ISRO] was extremely unhappy with our proposal."

"Of course, there was no requirement, or even any ambition, for a payload greater than INSAT-II at that time to say that there was a shortfall [in Vikas's capability] and we lacked an engine with a greater thrust. But our idea was to get hands-on experience with cryogenic systems over three years so that we could be in a position to develop full cryogenic engines on our own, on the basis of this experience," Mukunda adds.

The curious thing is that ISRO wants to develop the semi-cryo engine now after developing the full cryogenic engine, instead of having done it the other way around. "I don't really know for what kind of payload is the present semi-cryo engine being developed. But the environment now is completely different after the handling of the Russian cryogenic engines and systems. Moreover, much better hardware is available today. So developing the semi-cryo engine should not take more than three years," Prof. Mukunda says.

Gowariker does try to rationalise Dhawan's decision in retrospect. "The functional requirements of mission [of the time] are important and from that perspective the Viking-Vikas liquid engine route was a good idea. Given limited financial and human resource, the overall performance of a system becomes important and decisions on where and how we direct the development effort become extremely difficult. So, instead of letting too many things go on simultaneously, it must have been felt that a semi-cryo project was less important then," says Gowariker.

But the price of not following the path of self-reliant technology development has turned out to be dear. It would certainly have been clear even in the 1970s and 1980s that cryogenic engines would eventually be needed. Perhaps it was felt that, like the Viking-Vikas route to developing earth-storable liquid engines, cryogenic engine technology too would be readily available for import. Indeed, that was the logic when the ISRO approached the Soviet Union after the United States and Japan refused and France apparently demanded a very heavy price for its technology.

In fact, warnings from within against the potential risks of importing technology owing to export controls and embargoes such as the MTCR that emanated from the emerging geo-political alignments were ignored and ISRO signed the deal with Glavkosmos only to be abrogated later. Even if it had signed with France at a higher price, the U.S. would still have imposed MTCR-related sanctions and brought pressure upon France. Having taken the path of imports, India had to go its logical end of importing systems without the know-how.

Of course, in the absence of technology transfer, ISRO could not go on importing forever and indigenous development became imperative. U.R. Rao had then said that the indigenous engine would be ready by the turn of the century. Clearly, the envisaged time frame was not only very optimistic but it was also unrealistic. In the ultimate analysis, more than the substantial sums of money spent in buying cryogenic stages and related ground systems from Russia, it is the decade and a half lost in the development of high-lift launch vehicles that could impact adversely ISRO's bid to gain a share of the world's launch services market.

http://www.frontlineonnet.com/stories/20070406001404300.htm
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