Special Correspondent

BANGALORE: As part of the efforts to indigenously produce strategic material for its space programme, the Indian Space Research Organisation's Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited (KMML), Chavara, for establishing a 500-tonne per annum Titanium Sponge Plant.

The Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory, Hyderabad, developed the technology for the plant.

B.N. Suresh, Director, VSSC, and K.P. Rajendran, Managing Director, KMML, signed the MoU here on Tuesday. G. Madhavan Nair, Chairman, ISRO, and T. Balakrishna, Principal Secretary, Department of Industries, Kerala, were present, according to an ISRO press release.

Titanium Sponge is used for upgrading the aerospace grade titanium, which is a scarce raw material and is being imported. The country has a vast reserve of titanium bearing minerals. But in the absence of plants to produce titanium sponge meeting the requirement of high quality aerospace applications, the mineral is mainly imported or converted into titanium oxide pigment.

The MoU is expected to give a thrust to titanium production in the country. As per the MoU, the production plant will be set up at KMML with infrastructure to upgrade the plant to produce 1,000 tonnes per year at a cost of Rs. 95 crores funded by ISRO. The ISRO Chairman said the MoU is a major milestone in the efforts to produce indigenously strategic material for aerospace applications.

Mr. Balakrishna said the KMML and the Kerala Government are committed to implementing the project and all efforts will be made to set up the project within two years.