For decades, space exploration has been the domain of government agencies across the world. Only nodal agencies or government-backed institutes like the NASA, ESA and our very own ISRO have had that privilege. Of late, private companies such as Mr Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and Mr Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin have entered this area in the past few years. Now, Indian companies too are entering the niche area of space technology. The big challenge, of course, is the cost of sending anything into space. A big part of that cost is the price of fuel and its weight. The lighter a satellite, the lower the cost. And a lighter satellite can carry more into space. Mr Rohan M Ganapathy, an aeronautical engineer, realised the potential in this area and wanted to develop an alternative solution to existing satellite fuel propulsion. However, this was not something he could do on his own. The team soon expanded to include Mr Yashas Karnam, a family friend of Mr Rohan’s, as well as two juniors from college, Mr Saagar Malaichamy and Mr Vivek Murugesan. Together, they founded Bellatrix Aerospace in 2015. Today, its claim to fame is an indigenous electric propulsion system for satellites, called Microwave Plasma Thrusters (MPT). Through the MPT, Bellatrix offers its customers the ability to take bigger payloads into space at a reasonable cost. The founders claim it is also eco-friendly and a cleaner alternative to the existing electric propulsion. The need for a Microwave Plasma Thruster (MPT) Let’s dive into a little background to understand why this is such a big deal: there are two types of satellite propulsion systems – primary propulsion and secondary propulsion. A propulsion system is a way to accelerate the speed of a satellite. The primary propulsion lifts the rocket and positions the satellite in the orbit. The secondary propulsion system, which is made up of either chemical or electric thrusters, helps the satellite maintain its position and its orientation in orbit. When it comes secondary propulsion, electric thrusters are more efficient compared to chemical ones. This is because an electric propulsion system uses only 200-250 kg of fuel when compared to two tonnes that a chemical propulsion system needs. This drastically brings down the fuel weight and the overall payload weight. So the satellite has more space on board for transponders (communication devices) on satellites for the same amount of fuel at the same price as a chemical one. The MPT from Bellatrix is an advanced type of electric propulsion system. It is zero-corrosion, so it solves one of the biggest problems in existing electric propulsion systems. Corrosion erodes the electrodes on the thrusters, which reduces its lifespan when in orbit. Overall, the MPT is lightweight and possesses a lifespan that is 3x longer, which makes it more efficient and cost-effective. How the journey to space began Mr Rohan, an aeronautical engineer from Hindustan College of Engineering and Technology, Coimbatore, was keen on working on a satellite propulsion system during his college days itself. In 2012, while in his second year, he took up the project and started developing an MPT. That year, he was fortunate to get an opportunity to meet the head of the R&D department of the Jindal Group during an event. Later, he also got to meet Mr Sajjan Jindal, Managing Director of the JSW Group, and explained the technology behind his project. Impressed by the idea, the conglomerate gave Mr Rohan a grant. That’s when the team of four came together and set up an office in Coimbatore. In 2016, Bellatrix Aerospace moved to Bengaluru when the team got a space at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), through the Society for Innovation and Development (SID). Here, the team got access to the labs and the machines required for their research to work on their electric propulsion system. Today, it also has a strong advisory board with M Srinivasan, a nuclear scientist and a Padma Vibhushan awardee; Mr Ugur Guven, an Aerospace and Nuclear Engineer; and Dr Guru Prasad, President of Aximetric Inc, USA. Bellatrix had another stroke of luck when they met then ISRO Chairman A S Kiran Kumar at an event and showed him their concept on paper. The Chairman responded by calling them over for a presentation. Several rounds of review later, ISRO onboarded Bellatrix as a supplier. Competition and challenges in aerospace Bellatrix Aerospace is emerging as a one-stop solution to cater to the entire market, says Mr Yashas. He adds, “If you are a satellite manufacturer and make satellites that weigh 10 kg, and tomorrow you want to build a satellite that weighs much higher, you can come to us for all the propulsion requirements. We want to be that one reliable stop for all the satellite manufacturers for their propulsion requirements.” The space market in India Apart from Bellatrix Aerospace, startups such as Dhurva Space, Team Indus, Astrome, Satsure, and Astrogate have come up in the last five years. However, these startups are working on different segments of the space market. Apart from ISRO, the space market in India is very niche and nascent.
Mr Rohan says, “It may take at least another five years for the Indian ecosystem to mature. Despite the presence of foreign players, we have a good chance of selling our propulsion systems to ISRO, owing to government policies favouring Indian companies over foreign counterparts.” The team declined to speak about any potential international expansion plans. Nevertheless, in addition to the development of satellite propulsion, the team looks forward to building launch vehicles, which are in the initial stages of development. At present, Bellatrix’s reusable launch vehicle Chetak is also set to disrupt the micro launcher industry. “Our goal is to become leaders in spacecraft propulsion and small satellite launch vehicles. By pushing the boundaries of innovation, we are working towards bringing down the cost of access to space to prepare for a future where space tugs and lunar mining are a reality,” says Mr Rohan.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be the key driver of fast-paced developments in Aerospace sector in the next 15 years, said Dr VK Saraswat, member, NITI Aayog. At the Annual General Meeting and National Conference of the Aeronautical Society of India (AeSI), he said it would play a significant role in cutting down costs, reduction in cycle time of design, optimisation, simulation, prototyping, manufacturing, maintenance and product updates.Disruptive technology AI will be one of the disruptive technologies which will impact efficiency, productivity, speed and innovation in the emerging industries, he added. Dr G Satheesh Reddy, Secretary, Department of Defence R&D and Chairman of the DRDO, said that unmanned vehicles will play a major role in both defence and civilian sector. Therefore, there is an urgent need to gear up in the area. Highlighting the contributions of the DRDO in design and development of state-of-the-art UAVs, he said that the Ministry of Defence is organising a contest, Drone Olympics, during the forthcoming Aero India event in Bengaluru. He said, “Indigenous development of sensors will play a major role and will revolutionise applications like UAVs for commercial and defence applications and will greatly impact our daily lives in future.”Mr VV Rao, Outstanding Scientist and Programme Director, Agni and Chairman, Organising Committee, said: “Aerospace sensor technologies will play a vital role in futuristic unmanned systems. The scenario is changing fast with the emergence of nano technologies and miniaturised embedded systems. Unmanned Systems will revolutionise agriculture, medical, space, defence and environment management.”
- Rocket with the semicryogenic stage won’t be used for the Gaganyaan mission
- Current GSLV Mk III with L110 stage will only be used for the manned mission with some modifications
- Advantage of using kerolox is that it is 10 times dense — meaning the same volume of kerolox will generate more thrust than the same volume of hydrolox
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is working on upgrading its heavylifter GSLV Mk III where the upper stage of the rocket will have highly refined form of kerosene as fuel in order to increase its payload capability. Talking to TOI, ISRO chairman Dr K Sivan said, “To increase the payload capability of GSLV Mk III from 4 tonnes to 6 tonnes, we are in the process of making some improvements in rocket stages. First, we are working on enhancing the cryogenic stage fuel loading from 25 tonnes to 30 tonnes. Second, we are also working on changing the core stage L110 — which has 110 tonnes of unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4). We want to replace L110 stage with semicryogenic engine that will carry liquefied oxygen and highly refined kerosene called kerolox (aka RP-1) instead of liquefied hydrogen.” Dr Sivan said, “The first test of the advanced version of Mk III will take place in December 2020. With upgrade in Mk III, we will also have to upgrade the launchpad facility at Sriharikota. We have therefore issued a tender notice recently inviting quotations for infrastructure upgrades at the second launchpad.” However, the chairman clarified the rocket with the semicryogenic stage won’t be used for the Gaganyaan mission. The current GSLV Mk III with L110 stage will only be used for the manned mission with some modifications. The advantage of using kerolox is that it is 10 times dense — meaning the same volume of kerolox will generate more thrust than the same volume of hydrolox. It is also cheaper, more stable at room temperature and less hazardous than hydrolox. Mr Elon Musk-promoted Space X currently uses kerolox in its Falcon 9 rocket for launching heavy payloads. “With increase in payload capacity, the advanced GSLV MK III will help ISRO cut expenses and save time,” Dr Sivan said. Currently, India uses the services of Arianespace to launch its heavy satellites weighing over 4 tonnes. Last year on December 4, ISRO had used the services of Arianespace for launching its heaviest satellite Gsat-11 weighing over 5.7 tonnes from French Guiana.
ISRO tastes first success of 2019, places military satellite Microsat-R in orbit
Under a starry night and a waning gibbous moon, ISRO’s PSLV C-44 broke the silence over a brimming Pulicat lake as it lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, SHAR, to successfully place in orbit military satellite Microsat-R. The mission, with a modified PSLV with just dual strap-on motors (PSLV-DL), marked another first for ISRO – it provided an alternative to its normal six strap-on motors. This will enable the rocket to carry slightly higher payloads than its Core-Alone version. Towards the end of the first stage, the rocket’s plumes were white with its tail end burning bright red even as a large flock of birds passed on the horizon. A second later, as the rocket soared further into the night sky, the second stage ignition burned a bright orange propelling the rocket ahead.
In low orbit
Microsat-R was placed in orbit 13 and-a-half minutes after lift-off. It is the first time an Indian satellite was being placed by ISRO in a low orbit at an altitude of 274 km. ISRO also used this launch as an opportunity to demonstrate the usability of the fourth stage of the rocket after the satellites are ejected into orbit. The fourth stage used to just become yet another piece of space debris. However, ISRO has found a way to make use of this stage with student satellite Kalamsat, made by Space Kidz India, weighing just 1.26kg, attached to it. “The first mission of 2019 is a grand success,” ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said from Mission Control. “Another innovation is making the fourth stage an experimental platform to do technology demonstrations and carrying out science experiments by students,” he said.
This would enable any agency that wants to conducts experiments in space to use the fourth stage till it disintegrates naturally. The fourth stage may be orbiting in space for six months to a year. ISRO is aiming to use this time-frame to enable agencies to run short time experiments. Dr. Sivan asked students in India to develop such satellites and ISRO would take care of the launches. He also said ISRO was developing a Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), smaller than the PSLV. The first SSLV launch would take place this year, he added.
The December 2018 deadline for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas to attain Final Operational Clearance (FOC) has been partially met with the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) handing over FOC related documents to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The documents (drawing applicability lists) were handed over by ADA on December 31 after it was vetted by Centre for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC), the certifying agency for military aircraft in the country. “The documents were handed over on December 31 to start the FOC process. The handing over of the drawing applicability lists assumes significance as it signals that HAL can go ahead with the production of the FOC standard aircraft,”. The FOC complaint Tejas would incorporate Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles, improved and better stand-off weapons and air to air refueling capability. The Indian Air Force and HAL has so far signed two contracts for procurement of 20 Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) standard aircraft and 20 Final Operational Clearance (FOC) standard aircraft. As per the initial order of the 20 IOC aircraft 16 were meant to be fighter jets and four were to be trainers. However the IAF now wants all the trainers in FOC configuration. The production of all the IOC aircraft is expected to be completed by March 2019. Recently ahead of the FOC the Tejas programme attained a significant milestone as it successfully completed the Wet (actual) engagement by transferring 1900 Kgs fuel from IAF IL78 mid-air refueling tanker. The 45 Squadron of the IAF “The Flying Daggers” which was the first squadron to be equipped with LCA-Tejas is stationed in an IAF base in Sulur, near Coimbatore. Apart from the 40 IOC and FOC standard aircraft HAL has received Request for Proposal (RFP) to supply of 83 Tejas and the production is planned from 2019-2020. The production of these 83 aircraft will start after the completion of the 20 LCA. Recently the Public Accounts Committee criticised the HAL and ADA over failure in timely delivery of the Tejas. In its report it was also critical at FOC not been met “The Committee are aghast to note that as July 31, 2018, IAF has only got nine out of the 200 fighter and 20 trainer aircraft envisaged in ASR. These six aircraft have been productionised after only Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) and are not combat ready, as yet. The committee are perturbed to note that the FOC has still not been achieved by the LCA even after more than 5 years of IOC,” it stated.
India is building a satellite tracking and data reception centre in neighbouring Bhutan. A report published stated the centre will strategically serve to counter a similar Chinese facility in the region. As per the report, people who are aware of the matter that the ground station of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Bhutan is likely to double up as “a strategic asset” for the country, given its location between India and China. It may be mentioned that China has already set up an advanced satellite tracking centre and astronomical observatory at Ngari in Tibet Autonomous Region, about 125 km away from the Line of Actual Control. It has been learnt that the Chinese facility in Tibet is so advanced that apart from tracking Indian satellites, it can also “blind” them. According to the report, although the ground station of ISRO in Bhutan has been planned to help the Himalayan state take advantage of the South Asia Satellite, it is also India’s way of counterbalancing the Chinese station in Tibet. In the backdrop of the Doklam crisis, the Indian strategy has been considered significant at a time when China has tried to construct a road at a tri-junction between India, Bhutan and China. It is a known fact that Bhutan maintained good bilateral relationship with India during the 72-day face-off between the Indian Army and People’s Liberation Army at Doklam in western Bhutan in June-August, 2017. In the PM-level talks in New Delhi during Bhutan’s new Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering’s India visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said construction of the ISRO ground station in Bhutan would be completed soon. “Space science is the new dimension of our cooperation (with Bhutan),” Modi had said in a statement after meeting Bhutan PM Tshering. “With the completion of this project, Bhutan will get help in tasks such as weather information, tele-medicine and disaster relief in the far-flung areas of the country,” he further said in the statement. The South Asia Satellite was launched by ISRO on May 5, 2017. In 2014, Prime Minister Modi mooted the idea of a satellite for members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation so that India could share the benefits of advances in space technology with its South Asian neighbours. India also assured of Rs 4,500 crore as assistance to Bhutan to support the neighbouring country’s 12th Five Year plan for development.
While the launch of Chandrayan-2 scheduled on January 3 was postponed a second time for unexplained reasons, media headlines of January 4 announced India setting up five ground stations and over 500 terminals in neighbouring countries; one each in Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. “To counter China’s sphere of influence in Asia” the Indian government has been taking several steps as part of its neighbourhood-first policy and one such tool in its arsenal is space diplomacy, and that the MEA has been using space diplomacy to counter China by helping its neighbours in various ways, and that this move will also help India put in place strategic Indian assets in these countries. These ground stations and terminals that ISRO is putting up will help in applications like disaster management, television broadcasting, telephony and internet and telemedicine. Additionally, ISRO will be able to use these stations to communicate with its own satellites in space. In addition to the five ground stations, India will also set up over 500 VSAT terminals. Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will each get 100 VSAT terminals. These are two-way terminals that allow telephony and internet. The first station reportedly being set up in Thimpu, Bhutan is expected to be inaugurated by January 15. Alpha Design Technologies, an indigenous firm implementing the project, is also to set up 100 VSATs (Very Small Aperture Terminals) connected to the ground station, taking TV broadcasting to many remote areas in Bhutan.
The ground station is seen as India’s move to counter the advanced satellite tracking centre and astronomical observatory set up by China in Ngari, Tibet. In addition to the 100 VSATs, Bhutan has also requested for 35 terminals with only receiving capability. These terminals work like set-top boxes that only receive information; ROTs (Receive only terminal). Apart from these countries, India has also received a request from the Maldives for establishing disaster management centres in 100 of the 200 inhabited islands on the country. Afghanistan too is interested in getting a ground station and 100 VSATs but their installation would be possible only after the security situation stabilises. It may be recalled that on May 5, 2017, India had launched GSAT-09 or SAS (South Asia Satellite) bringing on the same platform India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka (Pakistan having opted out); operating in the Ku-Band, the 12 transponders of SAS offer a range of services including banking networks, weather forecast, telemedicine, disaster management, tele-education and broadcasting services such as television, DTH and the works. India had also promised to aid participating nations in developing ground stations to access the data relayed by the satellite. Ambassadors of all the six participating nations were invited to witness the lift-off of SAS from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota given the geo-political value of the event. While India has capitalised on its low-cost space technology, the SAS venture is without parallel in the world; as per BBC, no country ever has funded an entire space program itself and then ‘gifted’ the satellite services free of cost to other countries, as India has done. In his fortnightly radio address ‘Mann Ki Baat’ to the nation on May 7, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi referring to the SAS had said, “The capacities of this satellite and the facilities it provides will go a long way in addressing South Asia’s economic and developmental priorities.” No doubt SAS has geo-strategic importance but India is not looking at countering China’s strategy in this sphere. To this end, we need to develop a habit of more responsible reporting. To say that the ground station being set up in Bhutan is to counter the advanced satellite tracking centre and astronomical observatory set up by China in Ngari, Tibet is hardly in order since the latter reportedly also can ‘blind’ our satellites and missiles. The ground station in Bhutan is going operational shortly, but with respect to the other countries it would have been prudent to announce them when completed or nearing completion as well. We could learn from the recent lunar landing by China in an unexplored moon surface that surprised the world. It is not known whether ISRO has commenced setting up ground stations in the other above mentioned countries, but China can be expected to put roadblocks when it comes to a competing in terms of ‘influence’, for example in a country like Nepal. Post meeting with the visiting Prime Minister of Bhutan, Lotay Tshering in December 2018, PM Modi had said, “Space science is the new dimension of our cooperation (with Bhutan). Overall, the GSAT-9, the ground stations and the VSATs in neighbouring countries is an excellent initiative integrating SAARC countries.
In a bid to cut cost of satellite launchers, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is working on reusable launch technology for using the first and second stages of a rocket multiple times. To master this technology, ISRO is going to conduct an advanced version of the reusable launch technology (RLV) test in June-July. ISRO chairman Dr K Sivan said, “We are working on a reusable launch technology in order to recover the first and second stages of a rocket so that we can reuse them to cut cost and carry heavier payloads. The first rocket stage will be recovered on a vertical landing spot on the sea like SpaceX has been doing it with its Falcon rocket. However, recovering the second stage is not simple. We are, therefore, developing a winged body like a space shuttle. This shuttle will be attached as a second stage in a rocket. It will carry the top portion of the rocket comprising a satellite or spacecraft to space. Once it injects the satellite in its orbit, the shuttle will glide back to the earth and land on an airstrip like an aircraft.” He said the “second stage recovery has never been tried by any other space agency in the world, not even SpaceX”. ISRO had conducted the first demonstration test of India’s winged body vehicle on May 23, 2016. Then, the RLV had reached a height of 70 km and was manoeuvred back to earth where it glided down into the Indian Ocean and disintegrated. On the June-July test, Sivan said, “The test will be different this time where a helicopter will take the shuttle to a considerable height and from that height, the winged body will be dropped. The shuttle will then glide back to earth and land on an airstrip.” ISRO is also planning to conduct a third test of the RLV from the orbit. There is speculation that the landing strip could be made in Andaman and Nicobar islands. However, no final decision has been taken yet. Currently, SpaceX rules the Rs 39,000-crore global market of satellite launches. The Mr Elon Musk-promoted US company which had 0% market share in 2009 gobbled up over 50% (projected) of the market share in 2018 mostly because of its reusable technology where it uses first stage rocket multiple times. On the other hand, ISRO’s share is just 0.6% in the global market. In 2018, ISRO had launched PSLV just thrice for foreign satellites. Instead, SpaceX launched Falcon rocket 20 times for commercial purpose. As the market is set to grow to $7 billion (Rs 49,000 crore) by 2024, ISRO can grab a significant share if it is able to master the RLV technology
ISRO is working on reusable launch vehicle technology for using the first and second stages of a rocket multiple times.
- ISRO has successfully developed a scaled down (1:5) technology demonstration version of Reusable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) vehicle and carried out the first experimental mission in 2016
- ISRO plans to conduct an advanced version of the reusable launch technology in June-July 2019
What is Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV TD)?
- The RLV TD is a hybrid vehicle that combines the technologies of an aircraft and launch vehicle, one on top of the other
- The main objectives of the RLV TD are to reduce cost of launch by increasing reusability and to increase reliability by achieving a Two Stage to Orbit (TSTO) capability.
- At present, SpaceX dominates the global market of satellite launches and has more than 50% share primarily because of it reusable technology where it uses first stage rocket multiple times
- However, ISRO’s share in the global market is only 0.6%. Mastering RLV technology is expected to increase ISRO’s share significantly
The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas aircraft, in its final operational clearance (FOC) configuration will have a new, thicker canopy with the Indian Air Force (IAF) having demanded the same. The same canopy is also to be used in the Tejas Mk-1A aircraft, which will be more advanced.The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) team has already begun work on redesigning the canopy and put it on the test bed, sources working on the project said.The Tejas R&D team has reworked the frame to accommodate the new canopy for the advanced model of Tejas, which will measure 24 mm as opposed to the existing 16 mm.“The existing canopy lining could only hold a 16 mm glass, which had to be changed to accommodate 24 mm. Now the challenge would be to procure fresh glasses, as HAL had already made some purchases of the 16 mm glasses for the canopy, which is of no use now,” a person working on the LCA project said.Since the changes were made to the structure, Tejas will have to be certified by the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC), which a senior official from the LCA project said will not be a problem as the reworked canopy has tested well on the test bed.“The IAF has said that they now want the canopy to be able to negotiate a 40gm bird-hit as opposed to the 20gm that Tejas offered earlier. We will have to achieve as part of the FOC,” a senior member privy to developments said.Besides, the IAF has also asked for mid air-refuelling capabilities in the night, which will see Tejas get another addition: a drogue light at the end of the refuelling probe. “These refuelling tests will also take a few months, as we have only recently achieved the wet tests in the day,” another source said.While some of these changes has allowed HAL to begin manufacturing of the FOC configuration aircraft—orders for 20 of which have been placed—the defence PSU is banking on new orders of the 83 Tejas MK-1A to revive itself. HAL is staring at a depleting order book, with most of the major orders scheduled to be delivered by March 2020. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had recently said that the orders for 83 Tejas worth Rs 50,000 crore are in the pipeline. However, with cost negotiations still ongoing, HAL was unsure when the actual orders might be placed.
On Republic Day 2019, the IAF will create history by flying an AN-32 transport aircraft on biofuel over the Rajpath. This will be the IAF’s second biofuel flight and comes more than a month after the successful maiden AN-32 sortie in Chandigarh. A part of the Republic Day parade flypast will be a three aircraft-vic-formation of AN-32 aircraft, considered the workhorse in Indian military transport. The lead aircraft, to be piloted by Sqn Ldr Mehtab Sond, will be flying utilising aviation turbine fuel, blended with 10% bio-fuel. The bio-fuel has been extracted from Jatropha plant seeds using a technology patented by the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun— one of the constituent laboratories under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, said an IAF official. Last year, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa announced that the force’s plan to fly one of its aircraft with bio-fuel on the Republic Day, 2019 in tune with the government’s plan to use fuels with low carbon footprint more. The test flight took place on December 17 2018 when pilots from Aircraft System Testing Establishment, Bengaluru, took to the skies with metal birds carrying 10% biofuel along with the ATF. However, the credit to fly the first Indian aircraft with biofuel went to Spicejet, which last August flew a 75-seater Bombardier Q400 aircraft that took off from Dehradun’s Jolly Grant airport and successfully landed in Delhi with 25 people on board… The IAF flypast on the Rajpath will have 33 aircraft including 18 fighter jets. The combat aircraft participating in the parade are Jaguars, upgraded MiG-29s and Su-30 MKI.
When India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) with its new configuration — PSLV-DL — is launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota later this month, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will aim to achieve a first in the history of satellite technology. Unlike other launch vehicles, where each stage of the launcher plunges back to Earth, the last stage of this launcher will serve as an ‘orbital platform’ and will help in a variety of tasks designed for the satellite mounted on the platform. The newly configured PSLV C-44 will be launched into orbit carrying two satellites on January 24 2019. Describing the development, an ISRO scientist, on condition of anonymity, said that this was the first time in the world that such a technique is being used. “Only India could have done it as our primary objective is to maximise the benefits with the resources available with us,” he said.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
In a normal launch vehicle, each stage falls off after fuel completes burn-off, triggering the burn in the next stage. The PSLV-DL, which is a four-stage launcher, will follow the same pattern, except for the fact that the fourth stage won’t fall off after launching the satellite into its orbit. “The fourth stage will serve as a platform or a vehicle for the satellite. For instance, we can deploy solar panels or other tools to aid the satellite riding on the platform or to manoeuvre it to different positions along its orbit,” he said. The new variant will have alternating solid and liquid stages, with the last stage of the launch vehicle containing both solid and liquid fuel. PSLV-C44 will launch KalamSat — a student satellite — and Microsat-R — an imaging satellite. While Microsat-R will be launched into a different orbit, KalamSat, designed for communication capabilities, will be the first to use the fourth stage as a platform.
-After launch, when the rocket lifts off for a few kms, the first stage detaches and falls back to earth.
Second and third stages too fall off one after the other.
Normally, the fourth stage firing takes the satellite close to its orbit and releases before falling back to earth.
For the first time, the fourth stage will remain with satellite throughout its mission life
Fourth stage will be provided with solar panels and will use its boosters for any changes in orbit.
No space agency in the world has ever used a fourth stage booster for this purpose.
ISRO launches India’s first student-made satellite in its first space programme for 2019
ISRO will start off India’s space programme account on January 24 2019, with the launch of Microsat-R, an imaging satellite for DRDO, and Kamalsat, a small communication satellite developed by students and Space Kidz India. The satellites will be carried by a new variant of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket. “We will be launching 700-kg Microsat-R and Kalamsat with a new variant of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). In order to reduce the weight and increase the mass, an aluminum tank is used for the first time in the fourth stage,” Dr K Sivan, Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Details about Kamalsat created by students
- Kalamsat-V2 is a communication satellite with a life span of two months
- The nanosatellite is a 10cm cube weighing 1.2 kg
- The student-made satellite cost was about Rs 12 lakh
- Kalamsat will be the first to use the rocket’s fourth stage as an orbital platform. The fourth stage will be moved to higher circular orbit so as to establish an orbital platform for carrying out experiments
- It is named after former Indian president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and was built by an Indian high school student team, led by Rifath Sharook, an 18-year-old from the Tamil Nadu town of Pallapatti
- The satellite made by students is the world’s lightest and first ever 3D-printed satellite
- The PSLV launch by ISRO will take place 90 km off Chennai — from the first launchpad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota.
- Srimathy Kesan, Founder CEO of Space Kidz India, told IANS that her dream of putting a satellite built by students will become a reality tomorrow night with the launch of Kalamsat.
- Space Kidz India is working towards promoting art, science and culture for students of India, and to create an international platform for them.
Plans to make Vikramsat for biological experiments in space
Chennai-based Space Kidz India now plans to build another student-made satellite – Vikramsat – to do some biological experiment in space, said a top official.
How was the satellite launch vehicle changed?
The PSLV launch tomorrow is a special event because of the multiple utility of the rocket and its configuration. The PSLV is a four-stage engine expendable rocket with alternating solid and liquid fuel. In its normal configuration, the rocket will have six strap-on motors hugging the rocket’s first stage. However, the launch rocket tomorrow will have just two strap-on motors for the first time, called the DL mode. Moreover, the final fuel stage of the PSLV rocket will also play an additional role. IIST is co-building a satellite with California, Surrey institutes After launching several satellites built by students of different universities, ISRO will launch one built by the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) in collaboration with California Institute of Technology, an Indian space agency official said. “The IIST is designing a satellite along with California Institute of Technology,” ISRO Chairman Dr K Sivan, told IANS. The IIST is an autonomous body under the Department of Space and is a deemed university inaugurated in 2007. According to the California Institute of Technology, the student-made satellite would be a test bed for a new type of space telescope and is called AAReST (Autonomous Assembly of a Reconfigurable Space Telescope). The AAReST is designed and built in large part by students of California Institute of Technology in collaboration with IIST and Surrey Space Centre in England.”The satellite is in Kourou. It will be put into orbit by Ariane rocket. Weighing about three ton, the satellite is a replacement for INSAT-4CR. It will be followed by GSAT 30 which will be a replacement for INSAT 4A,” Sivan said.