Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ground-firing of S200

Ground-firing of an Ariane-5 SRB at Guiana Space Centre

ISRO is supposed to take the first step towards the launch of GSLV-Mk III by ground-firing the S200 booster in January, 2010. S200 is a major component of the Mk-III, providing the thrust at lift-off of the launch vehicle.

The S200 is the third biggest solid booster of any launch vehicle in active service, after the space Shuttle's SRBs and Ariane-5's EAP. This in a way shows that India is going beyond what was historically thought to be a Soviet-based space program. It's a matter of fact that Soviet and soviet based programs like the Chinese, never use solid propellent on their heavy-launch vehicles. Whereas, it's the western space programs that are famous for their extensive use of solids in heavy-lift vehiclea and crew-launch vehicles.

The S200 is a expendable stage carrying 200 tons of propellant with a lenght of 25 m and diameter of 3.2 m. The thrust at liftoff should be around 7000 kN. But, the average thrust output should be around 4500 kN to go with the stated burn-time of 103-104 seconds.

The ground-firing of the S200 will mark the successful development of 2 stages of the Mk-III, viz the L110 and the S200. The C25 is the final stage that remains. According to reports, ISRO has already finalized the design of CE-20 and that the process of fabrication also seems to have started. Once the engine is completed, its will be tested extensively following which there will be full-stage firing of the C25 stage.

Althought ISRO has quoted a launch of 2011 for the Mk-III, it would be an almost improbable task given the status of the upper stage. Fabrication to certication normally takes around 2-3 years. So, it would be safe to assume that the probable launch date of Mk-III would more-likely be 2012-13.

Monday, December 14, 2009

PRESENTATION: Sanitation Requirements in Space

For a bigger version of the slideshow please visit here

This is the presentation containing the previously posted slide on Chandrayaan-2. In addition it also contains specific details on the Indian Human Spaceflight Program and the toilet technology that is to go on the crew vehicle. The presentation ends with some details regarding space debris. This particular presentation was done in November last year and by that most of the design of Chandrayaan-2, both orbiter and rover, had already been finalized. Hence, it offers us great insight into the particular project.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

PICTURE: Chandrayaan-2 concept from ISRO

From Chandrayaan-2

Click on the thumbnail for larger version of the image

This particular powerpoint presentation by ISRO shows us some of the planned mission parameters of the all important rover of Chandrayaan-2. The image at the bottom right is of the rover conceptualized by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center. The Russian rover is supposed to weigh around 100 kg and the Indian rover will weigh 30 kg. The mass of the lander itself and onboard fuel will take the total mass of the entire lander to around 300 kg.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

VIDEO: Dr. V Adimurthy's Presentation at IAC-200

I have posted the much awaited video of Dr. Adimurthy's presentation at IAC-2009. The video also contains presentations from other space agency representatives and Dr. Adimurthy's presentation starts at something like 16 minutes. He outlines India's future space programs including HSF and robotic missions to Venus, Mars and asteroids. It's a short presentation but a very informative one for all those space fans out there.

PICTURE: India's future deep space exploration plans

The slide shows the payload capability of PSLV, GSLV and GSLV-Mk III to Mars, Venus and Asteroid belt respectively. The slide also shows the asteroids under consideration to send orbiters viz Toutatis, Apollo, Eros, Itokawa and Vesta. More importantly, the slide gives the date of the Mars mission as 2015, which would be somewhat difficult to achieve given the schedule of ISRO.

Monday, December 7, 2009

EXCLUSIVE PICTURES: India's Humanspaceflight concept

Pictures Credit: ISRO

This Human Space Flight Concept was presented the associate director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, Dr. V Adimurthy, at International Astronautical Congress in Daejeon, Korea on 15 October. The picture clearly shows the 4 ton crew capsule design that will propel India into a group of 4 nations with the capability of independent human Spaceflight. It also shows the Crew Launch Escape System (CLES) , which will propel the crew to safety in case of anomolies in launch vehicle functioning. Dr. Adimurthy explained that ISRO is confident of realizing the 7 year timeline that has been sought to develop the required technologies.

Dr Adimurthy speaking that IAC 2009

Will be back soon with the complete video of the presentation and India's future extra-terrestrial exploration plans. Let me assure you that it's just not Mars, much much more is on the radar.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Semi-cryo engine to power GSLV-Mk III core stage

The government of India, in 2008 gave the go ahead to ISRO in it's effort to develop an indigenous Semi-cryogenic engine that would power the core stages of future Indian launch vehicles. The project has been one of the priorities of ISRO and it plans to complete the development phase of the project by 2012.

The design specifications call for an engine delivering about 2 MN (2000 kN) of thrust at sea-level, fueled by Kerosene and Liquid Oxygen using a high pressure staged combustion cycle.
Keeping aside the criticism faced by ISRO for being late by about 25 years in developing this technology, this project really takes ISRO and Indian space capabilities to a new level.

This engine in the long-term will power our future UMLV family and probably the first Indian moon rockets (so called Superheavy launch vehicles), but it does offer interesting possibilities in the shorter term.

ISRO plans to replace the core stage of GSLV-Mk III with a more powerful one powered by this engine. Of course, GSLV-Mk III is yet to fly with it's present configuration but that doesn't mean that ISRO should stop working on future upgrade plans. The present L110 stage of Mk-III is powered by a cluster of 2 Vikas engines powered by Hypergolics. It will enable the Mk-III to put satllites weighing around 4-5 tons into GTO and about 10-12 tons to LEO.

The new core stage could be followed with other upgrades such as an expander cycle upper-stage engines replacing the current gas-generator ones which would allow multiple restarts of the upper stage, hence making the rocket more efficient.

The new core stage will be powered by a single, possibly ground-ignited Semi cryogenic engine with the propellant mass being similar to the present 110 tons. This change will increase the capability of Mk-III to about 6 tons to GTO and about 15 tons to LEO. Upperstage upgrades could further increase the GTO performance.

The timeline of these upgrades would depend on timeline of development of SCE and the GSLV Mk-III program. By current estimates this will happen no sooner than 2015 possibly even later. But testing these new technologies on GSLV-Mk III could act as a testing ground for the future UMLV family which could cut-short it's development time.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

India: A beacon of hope to Israeli Space Ambitions

Since the launch of TecSAR in early 2008, the cooperation between India and Israel in the field of space technology has been growing at an exponential rate. The recently launched RISAT-2 and the TAUVEX, which is a payload on the GSAT-4, are just glimpses of things to come.

Israel is preparing it's newest spy satellite, the Ofeq-8 for launch. The satellite is in it's final stages of fabrication and is supposed to be launched by the mid-2010 on Israel's indigenous launcher Shavit. It will house a high-resolution panchromatic payload, built by Elbit Systems Elop, similar to Israel's operational in-orbit Ofeq-5 and Ofeq-7 satellites, launched, respectively, in 2002 and 2007.

Well, Ofeq-8 is where the Israeli space calender ends. There is no funding for the next-generation Ofeq-9, pending a cost-sharing and technical agreement with a prospective partner country. There is a furious debate within the country over the direction in which their space program is heading. The leaders of the Israeli space industry blamed funding, technical and political uncertainties for obscuring a clear picture of Israel’s military space plans.

At present, besides Ofeq-8, Israel has confirmed that it would jointly build a second Synthetic Aperature Radar (SAR) satellite with India, dubbed the TecSAR-2. It is lated for a late-2011 launch date. Beyond these two projects, government and industry sources say, not even the Israeli MoD knows at this point how many satellites it can expect to deploy, what specific capabilities they will possess, and which launchers will be used to insert them into orbit.

Israel's annual space budget of around 100 million USD is facing funding shortfalls due to the Global Economic Downturn and has forced the Israeli MoD to seek foreign investment to make for the budget shortfalls. As a result, Israel has been forced to seek foreign partners or it's next generation Ofeq-9 project also known as OPSAT-3000. Many industry sources claim that the partner would an Asian country, most probably India but the deal is yet to finalized. The next-generation satellite will feature an advanced panchromatic camera and possibly a multi-spectral imaging payload.

India is at the top of the Israeli preference list due close ties the two nations have recently been enjoying. In addition, launch costs for Indian launch vehicles are lower that other countries thereby reducing the project costs which is to be shared between the two countries. As an example, Israel and Italy had previously inked a deal to jointly build 2 communication satellites for which Israel was to contribute 160 million Euros. But, Israel is having difficulty finding the required funding for the project. An Indo-Israeli project could cost half as much.

Although there is very large potential for the Israeli space industry it will be difficult for such a small country to finance very large projects. Indo-Israeli cooperation in this field would be a great advantage to both the nations. Israel has a great legacy in this field for over 25 years and would surely like to continue with a fast emerging space power like India.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Well, anybody who is through follower of the Indian Space Program would know that ISRO plans to use the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) as the launch vehicle for the OV (Orbital Vehicle). Yes, ISRO has previously expressed it's interest in using the GSLV Mk-III as crew launch vehicle in the future. But, a new article on Flightglobal by Rob Coppinger has put our perspective of Indian Human Spaceflight Program into an abyss.

The article quotes the outgoing Chairman of ISRO, Madhavan Nair, as saying that India would be using it's launch vehicle-in-development, the GSLV Mk-III, as launch vehicle for the manned capsule. What's astounding is that, it completely derails our understanding on the Indian Human Spaceflight Program.

In February of this year, prior to the start of Aero India-09, there were has series of seminars held by ISRO in which the-then Chairman of ISRO, Madhavan Nair, publicized the concept design of the Orbital Vehicle(OV) and had since repeatedly reiterated that the fact that the present version of the GSLV would be used to launch the crew capsule.

Yet, according to new article, ISRO has designated(or re-designated) the Mk-III as the launcher for the OV. According to the previous plan, Mk-III would eventually have been man-rated and would have launched an upgraded/uprated version of the basic orbital vehicle concept with an orbital module and docking capabilities.

So, we can conclude saying that either the article has mixed up facts or that ISRO has actually changed the launcher for OV to Mk-III. If the latter were to be true (which I truly doubt), we can expect some major delays and budget shortcomings in the schedule of the HSF.