Friday, November 16, 2007

ISRO - Singin' in the Rain

ISRO has taken giant steps in the past year or so. The successful launch of the AGILE, recovery of the SRE-1, the opening of the IIST and the successful GSLV-F04 rocket carrying the 2 ton INSAT-4CR. Day before yesterday, India and Russia signed a agreement to jointly launch a lunar mission. We've taken Russian help in the past, but this time, we work as equals.

Yesterday brought even more good news- The Full duration test of the indigenous Cryogenic Engine, and ISRO's plans for a Mars mission in the near future. This flurry of activity and announcement of ambitious plans is a pleasant surprise from ISRO, and demonstrates its newfound confidence in its abilities.

Here are the reports:

Indian indigenous Cryogenic engine successfully qualified

Indian Space Research organisation (ISRO) has achieved a significant milestone through the successful test of indigenously developed Cryogenic Stage, to be employed as the upper stage of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). The test was conducted for its full flight duration of 720 seconds on November 15, 200, at Liquid Propulsion test facility at Mahendragiri, in Tamil Nadu. With this test, the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage has been fully qualified on the ground. The flight stage is getting ready for use in the next mission of GSLV (GSLV-D3) in 2008.

on August 4, 2007, a ground test for 480 seconds of the complete stage was conducted .

The indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS) is powered by a regeneratively cooled cryogenic engine, which works on staged combustion cycle developing a thrust of 69.5 kN in vacuum. The other stage systems include insulated propellant tanks, booster pumps, inter-stage structures, fill and drain systems, pressurisation systems, gas bottles, command block, igniters, pyro valves and cold gas orientation and stabilisation system. Liquid Oxygen (LOX) and Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) from the respective tanks are fed by individual booster pumps to the main turbo-pump, which rotates at 39,000 rpm to ensure a high flow rate of 16.5 kg/sec of propellants into the combustion chamber. The main turbine is driven by the hot gas produced in a pre-burner. Thrust control and mixture ratio control are achieved by two independent regulators. LOX and Gaseous Hydrogen (GH2) are ignited by pyrogen type igniters in the pre-burner as well as in the main and steering engines.

..... (read more)
And today's report:
ISRO plans mars adventure, comet flyby
November 16, 2007 15:30 IST

India has drawn up plans to send a spacecraft to Mars and have flyby missions to comets and asteroids over the next five years.

The Indian Space Research Organisation will also ramp up the number of transponders on its communication satellites to 500 from the current 175 to meet the growing demand in the various sectors.

Government has also proposed to more than double the plan outlay ISRO to Rs 27,305 crore to enable it achieve its ambitious programmes, including facilitating tele-medicine and tele-education services.

The Eleventh Plan has identified building capabilities in space communications and navigation, developing navigational satellite systems, research in satellite communications and self sustenance of INSAT/GSAT systems as major areas of focus.

ISRO is expected to operationalise the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III capable of putting four ton satellites in orbit and develop technologies to recover spacecraft after completion of missions.

India's maiden moon mission Chandrayaan-I will take to the skies on April nine and ISRO has already begun finalising details for a second lunar mission with a possible launch in the next three years.

While Chandrayaan-I will orbit the moon, following mission would be an advanced one with lander and rover for collection and analysis of lunar samples.

The draft plan document also lists advanced space endeavours like mission to Mars, and flyby missions to comets and asteroids as thrust areas for the next five years.

These add to the already overflowing cup of good news- the DRDO and ISRO projects for a hypersonic demonstrator vehicle, Chandrayaan, the Indian Regional Navigational System, the local GPS system that will come up soon, and GAGAN. More projects of equal importance and ambition are on the anvil.

So whats with ISRO's new dynamism? Well, for one, it has a lot to do with the maturing of projects being undertaken. The newfound enthusiasm in India's global role has led to an awareness of the importance and use of space missions. Then, there are obvious strategic uses for space that India has lagged behind in, till now. The armed forces have woken up to this and are working overtime to get us up to speed in these areas- spy satellites, an Indian GPS constellation, dedicated secure communications and navigation. These will aid not only missiles becoming more accurate, but will aid in tactical situations as well, as repeatedly demonstrated by the US armed forces. Then, there is the fear of being left behind in another space race- US has already successfully tested exo-atmospheric missile intercepts, and China's ASAT test woke up a lot of snoring people. Space is no longer another world- it has become another territory to be controlled and conquered, and if India is not preparing for it, we'll be overrun.

Global events are also shaping ISRO's vision. The two decades ahead represent a new space-age, a far more inclusive one that will carry the common people in its folds as it shoots forward. Unlike the previous missions where the only public interest was one of starry-eyed wonder and hope, space has now become another territory to be explored and used. Space vacations are already a viable option for the rich and famous and in the years ahead, will be accessible to more people. Then, there are the technologies- Satellite TV, GPS and Google Earth, which have directly benefited the common man. All these have made space attractive and romantic again, at least in developing nations like China, India and Brazil. If you don't believe me, just check out the enthusiasm among students to join ISRO's new College in Trivandrum.

The next good news to look forward to will be the launch of Chandrayaan and the integration of the indigenous Cryogenic engine. It would certainly be a good way to cock a snook at the countries that tried so hard to prevent us from getting this technology.

Some more News Reports about ISRO:

Watch out for ISRO’s eye in the sky - Manoj das, New India Press
Space launches and the cost factor - T.S. Subramanian, The Hindu
Indian study on manned moon mission in 2008 - Indrani Bagchi, Times of India
ISRO eyes Mars, flyby missions to comets in next five years - Daily News and Analysis (DNA) India.
To The Moon, For India & Russia - SatNews Daily.

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