A content ‘PSLV family’ recounts the hits and misses

The ‘PSLV family’ at the felicitation organised by AeSI on Saturday.

The ‘PSLV family’ at the felicitation organised by AeSI on Saturday.  

Those who helped create the rocket mark its 50th flight

It was P.S. Veeraraghavan, former director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), who posed the question on Saturday: “If GSLV is ‘naughty boy’ and GSLV Mk-III is ‘fat boy,’ what should we call the PSLV?” As smiles broke out all over the hall, he made a suggestion; “Maybe P stands for Perfect. So PSLV is Perfect Boy.”

Over the past 26 years, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has created space history, placing 61 Indian satellites and 319 foreign satellites in orbit with just two disappointments in 50 missions. On Saturday, many big names in the space agency who helped create the 44-metre-tall rocket came together in the city to celebrate its historic 50th flight (PSLV-c48) which had taken place on December 11.

The event was organised by the Aeronautical Society of India (AeSI) to felicitate the ‘PSLV Leaders,’ who have, over the past three decades, held top positions in the PSLV project and also to remember the late S. Srinivasan, the first project director.

‘A flawless vehicle’

In its 26-year career, PSLV has carried to space a combined 50.26 tonnes, ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said. “Dr. Srinivasan conceptualised and configured the launch vehicle. G. Madhavan Nair gave life to it. Today, the PSLV is a flawless vehicle. We hope to complete the 100th launch by 2024,” he said.

“Maybe some day, the PSLV would complete 300 or 400 missions,” mused VSSC director S. Somanath.

If Dr. Srinivasan was the first project director, Dr. Madhavan Nair, who went on to become ISRO chairman, had held that post during the very first mission - the PSLV-D1. But it was a failure, the first of only two failures on the PSLV list. “It was a real shock to the ISRO community,” Dr. Madhavan Nair recalled the post-mission mood on September 20, 1993. “But in ISRO we always had the determination to succeed,” he said.

Vikas developed

S. Nambi Narayanan, who played a major role in the development of the Vikas liquid engine, recounted the battle that had to be fought to find a place for liquid propulsion in ISRO programmes. He placed a Vikas engine in the foyer of the VSSC with the legend: “My name is Vikas. I am an orphan.” That did the trick. It caught the attention of Satish Dhawan himself. “To date, the Vikas engine has never failed,” he said with pride in his voice.

A. E. Muthunayagam, founder director of ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, recounted how the PSLV got its current configuration. “A working group led by Dr. Srinivasan, formed during 1978-79, studied various configurations. In 1983, ISRO approved a configuration of three solid stages. The second stage was a to be a liquid propulsion stage.” In 1985, ISRO reconfigured the rocket, with the first and third stages equipped with solid propulsion and the second and fourth with liquid propulsion.

R.V. Perumal, B.N. Suresh, S. Ramakrishnan, N. Vedachalam, Rajaram Nagappa, P. Kunhikrishnan (record-holding PSLV director with 13 PSLV missions), M.K. Abdul Majeed and V.V. Babu were among the PSLV ‘family members’ present on Saturday.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 4:27:34 AM |

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