A little known company located on the city outskirts also played a significant role in the success of ‘Mangalyan’ (Mars Orbiter Mission or MOM) and earlier, the ‘Chandrayan’ - Mission to Moon. It had built crucial engines for Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which puts satellites into their respective orbits.
“PSLV carrying MOM started and ended with our engines - two roll control ones in the first stage and both fourth stage engines. The control valve fabricated by us for the liquid apogee motor of the Orbiter was fired continuously for 520 seconds to put it into the Mars orbit,” explains Ajit Mohandas, Jt. MD, ASACO.
Founded by his father, K. Mohandas, in 1969 with just five employees to manufacture industrial machines in collaboration with European firms, it has 120 staff including engineers to make precision machine components, into material processing and likes applicable in aerospace and defence industry like fighter jets, naval ships besides launch vehicles and probes.
“My father has a fascination for technology and it’s his passion which has made us, the smallest firm among ISRO’s suppliers, to make complete engines. He put at stake everything to come this far,” avers the 42-year-old, happy over MOM’s success.
The senior Mohandas (77) had roped in ISRO’s legendary scientist K. Sivaramakrishnan Nair (led the design team for liquid propulsion engines), to help making of the crucial components. “It was a trial and error method to begin with but we managed to deliver qualitative goods on time and built trust over the decades,” he says.
ASACO located right across the upcoming IIT-Hyderabad campus in Kandi, Medak district, has supplied nearly 150 engines to ISRO for PSLV. “Our collaboration began in mid 80s with developing engine chambers. Our fabrications are based on ISRO designs and their team stationed here continuously monitors,” says the alumni of HPS-Begumpet & IIT (BHU).
Each year ASACO supplies about 25 engines and is now developing the semi-cryogenic engine for ISRO, according to vice-president S. Sreenivasan.
“We want to scale up to the level of making the entire fourth stage engine of PSLV if ISRO permits. We are also looking at strategic partnerships to grow into the international market,” says Mr. Mohandas. The world may have recognised India’s space prowess but he still struggles to get banking support!