Kalam dreams of space habitat

The President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who visited the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota on Friday, having a word with K. Kasturirangan, MP. G. Madhavan Nair, Chairman, ISRO, is also seen. — Photo: N. Sridharan  

SRIHARIKOTA OCT. 10. The President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, came back `home' today, to the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota, and inspected the new facilities at the spaceport, including the second launch pad, expected to be inaugurated in the near future.

"I was with you for decades. Today I am all the more happy for the reason that it is a homecoming for me," he said as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) personnel broke into thunderous applause.

Mr. Kalam marvelled at the facilities at the new launch pad and said that a Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) or a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) could be integrated at the pad. This vehicle could be launched in a mere two days. "When I saw that (the second launch pad) I had a dream. In 2021, I will visit this great spaceport," he said. Mr. Kalam said he would be 90 then. "The range will give me a lift from one of the launchers to L-4 or L-5, the orbital points which move between the Moon and the Earth. And at this point, the gravitational force is minimum," he said. By 2021, he expects ISRO to have a habitat for human beings in space. "That habitat, I will visit and come back."

The President said that ISRO had made rapid strides and had very many achievements to its credit. He recalled a 15-year-old school student showing him the painting of all the Indian launch vehicles from the SLV-3 to the GSLV and asking him which he had built. Mr. Kalam said he and his team were responsible for the SLV-3. "The student laughed. He said, `O, uncle, you have done a small thing.' I also laughed with him because it indicates how ISRO has graduated from 1980 to 2000," he said and added that the former Chairman, Kasturirangan, was responsible for a decade of great progress.

But this was not enough, he said. The ISRO had a job on hand — that of becoming a major catalyst in national development. It could contribute to furthering education, agricultural extension services and providing communication services.

According to the ISRO Chairman, G. Madhavan Nair, the second launch pad is the state-of-the-art facility and will enable increased frequency of launches in addition to serving as a backup to the existing launch pad.

"The launch pad is universal as it has enabling provisions for PSLV and GSLV and the future advanced vehicles, the GSLV Mark III and beyond. The successful developmental flights of the GSLV has heralded the operational era for the 2000 kg class satellites to GTO missions from the Indian soil. We intend to launch the EDUSAT in the first operational flight of GSLV next year," he said.

The ISRO was also intensifying the development activities of the GSLV Mark III, the next generation launch vehicle.

This will provide 4,000-kg capability at the Geo-Stationary Transfer Orbit.

As part of this development, many facilities, including propellant plants would be augmented at SDSC, Mr. Nair said.

"The ISRO is also embarking on developing a host of new technologies required for its advanced air observations system, advanced communication system and towards development of reusable launch vehicles," he said.

On the coming launch, he said the entire ISRO and its partners were participating in the PSLV C-5 mission.

The C-5 will be launched from SDSC on October 17.

Past and current senior officials of the space establishment, including the former Chairman and MP, Kasturirangan, and the Director, SDSC, K. Narayana, received the country's First Citizen.