The national Space programme can now fully bank on made-in-India titanium sponge that goes into making its satellite and launch vehicle parts.
The titanium sponge plant initiated and sponsored by the Indian Space Research Organisation nine years back became operational at Chavara in Kerala last month.
Only six other countries produce titanium sponge commercially.
This will mean a big saving on foreign exchange considering that the Indian Space Research Organisation alone has been importing a significant 200-300 tonnes of titanium sponge each year from Russia, Japan or China, the space agency said on Monday.
The precious commodity was being imported because of the absence of a plant to make high-quality sponge although “the country has the third largest reserve of minerals bearing titanium,” ISRO said.
Nationally important sectors of aerospace and Defence extensively use alloys of titanium, (scientifically shortened to Ti) because of the high strength and non-corrosive quality of these materials.
Back in 2006, ISRO invested Rs. 95 crore through its Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) to set up the plant at State-owned Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd. at Kollam. The plant can produce superior quality 500 tonnes a year and it can be doubled in the future.
DRDO’s Hyderabad-based laboratory, the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory, developed the technology for the plant.
VSSC Director S. Sivan said the home-made Ti sponge had outperformed in quality. However, they are yet to estimate when the first ISRO products using the home-made Ti sponge would come out.
According to the space agency, “This is the only integrated plant in the world that undertakes all activities from mining of Ti minerals to manufacturing aerospace-grade Ti sponge under one roof. The indigenous Ti sponge is completely qualified for space applications and gives a big boost to the ‘make in India’ campaign.”
It said about 350 tonnes of Ti sponge with nearly 70 per cent of aerospace grade or 99.7 per cent purity material was realised. VSSC realised aerospace-grade Ti6Al4V products at Mishra Dhatu Nigam (Midhani) in Hyderabad.
The plant initiated and sponsored by the Indian Space Research Organisation nine years back became operational at Chavara in Kerala last month