Russian tie-up to boost ISRO’s semicryogenic launcher plan

The ISRO will be the third space agancy to have semi-cryogenic technology. Photo for illustrational purpose.  

The national space programme looks set to ride on a new thaw in the 40-year-old Indo Russian Space ties, as indicated by the just unveiled memorandum of understanding between the Indian Space Research Organisation and Russian Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS).

The MoU covering wide-ranging areas and which was firmed up in June is “just the beginning”. The development of the new, higher-power semi-cryogenic engine could be an immediate beneficiary, according to A.S. Kiran Kumar, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Programme.

Mr. Kiran Kumar told The Hindu, “[The MoU] is the initial process, a lot of discussions must be held before it takes a concrete shape. We would work on future systems of common interest. We have identified several areas and established working groups to go through them. We have to see how it develops.”

The ISRO is working on its new-generation, Rs. 1,800-crore third rocket programme, called the semi-cryogenic launch vehicle, to beef up its current portfolio of the PSLV and the GSLV. It will use space-grade kerosene and liquid oxygen as fuel and is meant to pitch spacecraft totally weighing six to ten tonnes to heights of 36,000 km. This would be double the lifting power of the GSLV and triple that of the PSLV. Only the U.S. and Russia have this technology.

Mr. Kiran Kumar said: “We are looking at using Russian testing facilities for the semi-cryogenic engine. We will be ready with the engine [SCE-200] in six to eight months. Although we will have our own test facility at Mahendragiri, ours will take some time to come up.”

Mutual advantages

About the spin-offs to the Russians, he said today, all space agencies looked at working with each other for many mutual advantages.

ISRO and ROSCOSMOS signed the MoU separately in May and June, Union Minister of State for Space, Atomic Energy & PMO Jitendra Singh said in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

Unlike in the 1990s, when the GSLV cryogenic technology transfer pact was stymied by U.S. geopolitics, the two sides do not envisage any transfer of technology in the cooperation.

The MoU includes new areas such as navigation. India is building its regional fleet of navigation satellites; Russia is completing its GLONASS global navigation constellation on the lines of the U.S. GPS. The two expect to augment each other’s reference signals for sharpness through ground receivers.

The other areas to be pursued are the ambitious Indian human space programme; outer space exploration, development of space systems and components; training and scientific exchanges.

The ‘new thaw’ is said to have been triggered in April this year when the two countries celebrated the 40th anniversary of the then Soviet Union putting into space the first Indian experimental satellite, the 358-kg ‘Aryabhata’, in 1975.

Then followed Bhaskara-1, IRS-1A and first Indian astronaut flying in space in the Soviet Soyuz T-11 in 1984.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 3:44:18 AM |

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