ISRO tests system to recover spent rocket stages

It is a technology that could aid cost-effective recovery of spent rocket stages

September 04, 2022 07:32 pm | Updated 09:19 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

The Rohini sounding rocket, carrying the Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, lifts off from Thumba, Thiruvananthapuram, on September 3, 2022.

The Rohini sounding rocket, carrying the Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, lifts off from Thumba, Thiruvananthapuram, on September 3, 2022. | Photo Credit: ISRO

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully tested a technology that could aid cost-effective recovery of spent rocket stages and safely land payloads on other planets.

The Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (IAD) was designed, developed and successfully test-flown by ISRO's Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) on a Rohini-300 (RH300 Mk II) sounding rocket from the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) here on Saturday.

"This demonstration opens a gateway for cost-effective spent stage recovery and this technology can also be used in ISRO's future missions to Venus and Mars," ISRO chairman S. Somanath, who was present during the 12.20 p.m. launch, said.

Describing the IAD as a ''game changer'' with multiple applications for future missions, the VSSC added that this was first time that an IAD had been designed specifically for spent-stage recovery.

As its name suggests, the IAD serves to decelerate an object plunging down through the atmosphere.

For Saturday's demonstration, the IAD, made of Kevlar fabric coated with Polychloroprene, was packed into the payload bay of the rocket.

After the nose-cone of the rocket separated, the IAD inflated, balloon-like, at a height of 84 km using compressed nitrogen stored in a gas bottle. The IAD systematically reduced the velocity of the payload through aerodynamic drag, the VSSC said. Once the IAD fell into the sea, it deflated by firing a deflation pyro valve.

The pneumatic system used for inflating the IAD was developed by the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), Valiyamala.

Eight other elements developed by VSSC and LPSC, including a micro video imaging system and a modified nosecone separation system, were also successfully tested on this mission. They will find a place on future ISRO missions.

Standing 6.3 metres tall, the Rohini RH300 Mk II sounding rocket had a lift-off mass of 552 kg. Senior ISRO officials including VSSC director S. Unnikrishnan Nair and LPSC director V. Narayanan also were present at the launch.

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