Cosmic advances

Published: Thursday 31 August 1995

-- WITH the successful testfiring of the liquid engine to be used at the strap-on-stage of India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), yet another milestone has been reached by scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The test-firing was conducted at the Mahendragiri space centre, Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu, on July 24; sources at ISRo described it as "a complete success".

The first developmental launch under the GSLV programme, which envisages the induction of 2,000-2,500' kg INSAT satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit in space, has been planned for 1996-97. The programme had run into rough weather when the Russian space agency Glavkosmos under pressure from the us - backed out of the deal to provide technological expertise for manufacturing the cryogenic engines required by the launch vehicle: Negotiations conducted again have culminated in an agreement for the exchange of 4 engines - expkcted to start arriving from 1996 - in lieu of the aborted technology transfer deal.

Glavkosmos's backtracking has not, however, ti 4terred the mandarins the India a'c@e_ programme, o are going full blast with their plans for creking an indigenous Ayogenic engine. The native Cryogenic Upper Stage (cus) project was approved in April 1994. All ISRO centres, in cooperation with top Indian minds in the fieldpf space technology, are now working towards the creation of the engine which will propel India into total self- sufficiency in launching its satellites. S Krishnamoorthy, direetQr of public relations, ISRO, enthuses, "It is only a question of time before India achieves this feat." In fact, India may even provide, its vehicle to other countries for launching their satellites.

The July test launch primarily examined the adequacy of the indigenously developed silica phenolic (Sephen) material used in the nozzle of the liquid engine. The engine was test-fired for 200 seconas - the longest duration attempted so far by ISRO - for gauging Sephen's efficacy in insulating the nozzle of the engine from flames and in withstanding the blast-offs high pres4es and temperatures of more than 1,000'c. The engine was developed by the0iruvananthapuram -based Liquid PrApulsion Systems Centre Of ISRO, while the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre developed Sephen.

According to Krishnamoorthy, manufacturing Sephen involves sensitive technology; India's breakthrough in this field ensures her position as a force to reckon with in global space research.

Indian space &ogrammes are basically application -oriented. While the triumph of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) demonstrated India's prowess in launching remote sensing satellites, the GSLV project (which will employ several stages of the PSLV) is expected to provide considerable impetus to developments in the fields of telecommunications, television broadcasting, meteorology and satellite newsgathering.

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