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SPL, a major player in ISRO endeavours, reaches a milestone

Flora Villa. Where it all started in 1968:

Flora Villa. Where it all started in 1968:  

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VSSC to mark 50th anniversary with a seminar

From Flora Villa to Mars and beyond, it has been a thrilling journey these past 50 years for the Space Physics Laboratory (SPL) at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC).

Today, the former home of the Pallithura village headman stands neglected in a thicket of weeds, but Flora Villa was where the founding fathers of the Indian space programme housed the new Space Physics Division (SPD) in 1968. Over the last 50 years, SPL -- SPD evolved into SPL in 1984 - has been a critical player in all major Indian Space Research Organisation endeavours, including Chandrayaan I and Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM).

On Monday and Tuesday, the VSSC will mark SPL’s 50th anniversary with a seminar, ‘50 years of excellence in space science research.’ A clutch of top serving and retired ISRO personnel, including present chairman K. Sivan and former chairman K. Kasturirangan, will be attending it.

To supplement the sounding rocket experiments at Thumba in the 1960s, ground-based measurements such as ionosonde, ionospheric drift and magnetic field measurements were launched at the Space Science and Technology Centre at the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS). Vikram Sarabhai established the SPD to streamline these experiments and research. P.D. Bhavsar was its first chief and B.V. Krishna Murthy, the associate head.

“The initial years witnessed a rapid growth in research with the SPD venturing into satellite and rocket experiments, ground-based radars and technical physics. Due to its diversified activities, a full-fledged science laboratory, the Space Physics Laboratory (SPL), was formed on April 11, 1984,” a VSSC spokesperson said.

Today, SPL's work covers the entire gamut of atmospheric studies - that of the earth and other planets as well. For the Chandrayaan I mission, the SPC developed the Indo-Swedish SARA (Sub-keV Atom Reflecting Analyser) instrument, the first of its kind to study the moon through the Energetic Neutral Atom imaging technique. The SPL also contributed ChACE (Chandra’s Altitudinal Composition Explorer) for the Moon Impact Probe (MIP), yielding important results. For the Mars mission, the SPL developed MENCA (Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser) for studying the composition and distribution of the Martian exosphere.

With its involvement in space-borne instruments increasing, the SPL has established state-of-the-art facilities for characterisation, testing and calibration of scientific payloads.

Former ISRO chairman K. Kasturirangan will inaugurate the event on Monday.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 11:48:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/spl-a-major-player-in-isro-trials-turns-50/article26749274.ece

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