The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is enhancing its capabilities by setting up more than half a dozen critical facilities across its installations, even as it is targeting to nearly double its transponder capacity over the next one-and-a-half years.

However, ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan, who announced setting up of the facilities at a press conference here on Saturday, declined to provide details of the investments.

They include a hypersonic wind tunnel to study re-entry and a plasma wind tunnel to study the behaviour of materials at high speed, which would be set up at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Trivandrum.

A thrust chamber testing facility for high-thrust cryogenic engines will be set up at Mahendragiri, and a new mission control centre to look at multiple mission preparations simultaneously will come up at Sriharikota.

A national database for emergency management and a multi-mission earth observation centre for satellites will be set up at Hyderabad, besides an advanced research and development centre for spacecrafts to come up on 530 acres in the Science City at Chitradurga.

As PSLV and GSLV launches have increased, Dr. Radhakrishnan said: “We are trying to integrate the sub-systems of rockets at Sriharikota since they are currently manufactured in different parts of the country.” The project would take about two-three years, he added.

While the ISRO currently has 151 transponders, plans are afoot to add 150 more over the next one-and-a half years. Eighty-six transponders have been leased from foreign satellite operators at present.

“We had 211 transponders in the C, extra C, Ku and S bands. In the last two years, some satellites were decommissioned, while the INSAT 4B's capacity came down partially,” Dr. Radhakrishnan said.

Meanwhile, the Space Commission will on May 24 review the outcome of the two committees that were set up to review the GSLV programmes after the GSLV F06 rocket failed in December 2010.

Experts including Professor Yashpal, U.R. Rao and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam have been reviewing the reports submitted by the committees headed by G. Madhavan Nair and K. Kasturirangan.

While the Programme Review and Strategy committee, headed by Dr. Kasturirangan, looked into all aspects of GSLV and INSAT capabilities, Dr. Nair's committee analysed the failure of the GSLV.

Dr. Radhakrishnan said that unless the “man rating” of the GSLV was achieved for high levels of reliability, it was difficult for him to commit a date for India's first manned mission.

New chairman for Antrix

Antrix, the marketing arm of ISRO, which was in news over the allotment of the orbit slot in the S band to Devas Multimedia, will get a new chairman and managing director within a month.

Meanwhile, Dr. Radhakrishnan said the first batch of 150 students from the Space Institute in Trivandrum will pass out in June/July and will join the ISRO shortly.

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