ISRO celebrating a golden milestone

Thumba rocket launching station was dedicated to the UN on February 2, 1968

Updated - February 02, 2018 05:10 pm IST

Published - February 01, 2018 05:43 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

 A file picture of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi dedicating TERLS to the United Nations on February 2, 1968. Vikram Sarabhai and H.G.S Murthy are also seen. (Pic. courtesy; ISRO)

A file picture of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi dedicating TERLS to the United Nations on February 2, 1968. Vikram Sarabhai and H.G.S Murthy are also seen. (Pic. courtesy; ISRO)

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is organising a function here on Friday to commemorate the golden jubilee of the launch of India’s first indigenous sounding rocket and the dedication of the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) to the United Nations.

It was on November 20, 1967 that the country’s first indigenous sounding rocket Rohini-75 soared into the sky from the TERLS range, marking India’s first step in the development of rocketry. On February 2, 1968 TERLS was dedicated to the UN by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as an international range for carrying out experiments near the geomagnetic equator.

In 1962, Homi J. Bhabha, then Chairman, Department of Atomic Energy, and Vikram Sarabhai, then Chairman of the newly constituted Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR), selected the fishing hamlet of Thumba here as the ideal location for establishing the rocket launch station.

TERLS began its operation with the launch of the Nike-Apache, a two-stage US Sounding rocket, on November 21, 1963, fuelling the beginning of modern rocket-based research in India and the development of indigenous sounding rockets.

The Nike Apache, weighing 715 kg with a payload weight of 30 kg, reached an altitude of 207 km.

Four years later on November 20, 1967, the first indigenously developed sounding rocket Rohini-75 (RH-75) was launched. The rocket reached an altitude of 9.3 km marking the beginning of Indian rocketry.

The Rohini family of sounding rockets grew with the development of larger rockets, such as RH-100, RH-125, RH-200, RH-300 and RH-560. Improved variants of these sounding rockets, RH-300 MKII, RH-560 MKIII and ATV, have been developed and operationalised. A total of 962 Indian sounding rockets have been launched from the TERLS range so far.

In addition to the Rohini series of sounding rocket, various foreign rockets, namely M100 from the USSR, Nike Apache, Nike-Tomahawk, Arecas and Judi Dart from the US, Centaur and Dragon from France, Suke-I & II and Petral from the UK, were also launched from TERLS.

To commemorate the historical events, the ISRO is honouring former employees of the TERLS range who have contributed to the sounding rocket programme. ISRO Chairman K. Sivan will be chief guest at the function to be held at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.

A documentary on 50 years of Indian rocketry will be screened at the event. A special souvenir is also being released.

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