Thursday, February 25, 2010

Indian Moon Rockets: First Look

The Preliminary Lunar Manned Mission Concept (Right) showing the launch vehicle architecture. Credit: ISRO

Back in December, Supernova posted the presentation by ISRO at the IAC 2009. A very less known and highly ambitious part of that presentation was the preliminary concept of an Indian Lunar manned mission. The concept in itself is not very detailed but gives us an insight into what ISRO has in store for the future. More importantly, the concept showcases the future UMLV family (Unified Modular Launch Vehicle) being used to loft the crew vehicle. This is the first time that we have had any insight into the possible architecture of the UMLV family, which will be powered by a Common Liquid Core stage in development.

The first thing that strikes when we look at the preliminary lunar concept are the 2 majestic launch vehicles. These launch vehicles, especially the one that launches the Earth Departure Stage (EDS), is a world beyond the capabilities that India possesses today.

ISRO plans to use two rockets for the manned lunar mission. The first will be a crew launch vehicle with the capability to launch 31 tons to Low Earth orbit. This vehicle with a liftoff weight of 1690 tons, would launch the crew module and the service module.

The second rocket will launch the Earth Departing Stage and the Lunar Descent module. This launch vehicle would be a true Super-heavy lifter with a capability to launch 84 tons into Low Earth orbit. The liftoff weight of this beast would 3075 tons.

ISRO has also given some of the technical details about the launch vehicles. The basis for these launch vehicles (as that of the UMLV family) is the new 2ooo kN Semi-cryogenic engine in development. The architecture of the two vehicles would be :

Crew Launch Vehicle
* Architecture - 4 S230 + SC500 + C60
* Capability - 31 tons to Low Earth Orbit
* Payload - Crew Module (6 tons) + Service Module (25 tons)

Carge Launch Vehicle
* Architecture - 8 S230 + SC800 + C60
* Capability - 84 tons to Low Earth Orbit
* Payload - Earth Departure Stage (67 tons) + Lunar Descent Module (17 tons)

The S230 would be solid boosters with 230 tons of propellants, future descendants of the S200 booster developed for the GSLV-Mk III. The SC500 and SC800 stages would be powered by the Semi-cryogenic engine and containing 500 and 800 tons of propellant respectively. The C60 would be the bleeder expander cycle upper cryogenic stage containing 60 tons of propellant.

The modular architecture of the launch vehicles and that of the whole UMLV family would help in reducing the cost of the rockets. The lunar architecture itself seems to be loosely based on the Constellation Program (which is supposed to be axed this year) architecture.

ISRO is pressing ahead with it's preliminary research on Lunar manned mission irrespective of prospective financial issues of such a high budget mission although the the program itself in full isn't expected to be started anytime before 2020.

Will be back with some analysis on the other part of mission ie beyond the launch vehicles.


  1. It's look like the "Crew Launch Vehicle" configuration is similar to GSLV-MKIV. But it seems to be the Cargo Launch Vehicle artictecture is not possible(8 LSBs with S230!)

  2. The crew launch vehicle must have a payload of 31t, not 25t. The screenshot shows 25t for the SM and 6 for the CM

  3. If you put 8LSBs, it will generate huge thrust which is 2-3 times higher than US Space Shuttle!

  4. We need to speed this project out not to really reach the moon but to showcase indian technology so that investors will setup more development centers in India rather than elsewhere. The respect india would earn would translate into lowering our unemployment. Please vote for people who support the indian moon landing and not those who oppose it.

  5. Moon's regolith is plentiful of helium-3, which can be used to fuel nuclear fusion reactor to power our future energy needs.

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