The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is working on technologies that will enable it to land the GSLV Mk-III launch vehicles vertically, similar to what Elon Musk’s SpaceX is doing, and to recover the first and second stages, a senior official said. This will enable the space agency to reuse the GSLV Mk-III, thus helping it save money, the official said.
Speaking at an international space conference and exhibition organised by the CII, V.T. Baskar, project director, GSLV Mk-III, said the space agency had been working on multiple mini-projects. “If we recover the first and second stages, we will have a lot of cost advantage. Already studies are on. Mini projects...have been approved for landing experiments. We have to implement a few enabling technologies to have the capability to take a wing body or large body to land safely.”
Mr. Baskar said the ISRO was working on augmenting its technologies for landing launch vehicles and hoped to have a technology demonstrator in the next one year.
Landing on legs
“Landing on legs like what SpaceX is doing has also been planned for this year or the next year,” Mr. Baskar said. “We will have the most critical technologies for recovering the stages. Once we have mastered recovery and landing, we will have a lot of cost advantage”.
He said the Gaganyaan human-rated GSLV Mk-III had a better human fraction payload factor than other vehicles. “However, this is not adequate when we plan for human space programmes that are intended for longer-duration space missions or human space applications such as asteroid mining. There is a definite space for augmenting the higher capability of the launch vehicles,” he said.
Mr. Baskar said a “wholesale change or augmentation” was required for this. One of the ways of augmenting the vehicle would be to rework its three stages. “We will replace the second liquid stage with a semi-cryo stage, and the terminal cryo stage, C-25, will be converted into C-32. Also the inert mass for the terminal stage will be optimised,” he said, adding that the use of mini and micro electronics would bring down the total mass of avionics.