ISRO to experiment vertical landing of rockets aims to make GSLV Mk3 reusable

CHENNAIWritten By: Sidharth MPUpdated: Sep 16, 2021, 10:12 PM IST
main img

Image for representation Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

ISRO is aiming to recover the first two rocket stages of the GSLV Mk3 as this would imply a huge cost-advantage and savings, owing to reusability. 

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is conducting studies and mini-projects to enable the vertical landing of its rockets. According to senior officials, this possibility is being explored primarily about the heavy-lift rocket GSLV Mk3, which is powered by three stages of engines - solid-fuel, liquid-fuel, and cryogenic fuel.
ISRO is aiming to recover the first two rocket stages of the GSLV Mk3 as this would imply a huge cost-advantage and savings, owing to reusability.

At present, all of ISRO’s rockets are expendable, which means that the rocket stages separate from the vehicle and fall into the sea after their stipulated burn time. Reusability involves recovering the rocket’s stages at sea or on land (vertical landing) and refurbishing, servicing, testing and qualifying them before flying again.

Dr VT Baskar, Project Director of ISRO’s GSLV Mk3, had outlined the work on reusable rocket projects during an interaction helmed by Dr S. Unnikrishnan Nair, Director of ISRO’s Human Spaceflight Centre. Themed ‘Human Spaceflight and Space exploration missions’, this session was part of a 3-day virtual conference organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry and ISRO.

On the cost-cutting measures ISRO was undertaking with regards to rocket launches, Dr Baskar said that recovering the first and second stages (S200 solid-fuel rocket boosters, and L-110 liquid-fuel stage respectively) would offer a lot of cost advantage.

"Studies and Centre-level mini-projects are approved for landing experiments. We have to develop enabling technologies such as the capability to safely land a winged-body or large-body, " he said. More importantly, he added that the critical experiment to land rockets on their legs (vertical landing) would be carried out this year or in the next year (2022).

Elaborating on the major modifications that are in store for the GSLV Mk3 rocket, Dr Baskar said that the vehicle’s L110 stage would be replaced with a semi-cryogenic engine and its C25 cryogenic engine would be replaced by the C32 engine. Besides replacing the existing engines with powerful counterparts, ISRO would also be working on mini and microelectronics to reduce the avionics mass and also use high-strength composite materials for the rocket motor casing.

On the timelines for the upgrade, he said that the mini electronics and the C32 Cryo engine were immediate targets, whereas the semi-cryogenic engine and composite material rocket casing were expected in 2-3 years.
Throwing light on ISRO’s upcoming exploratory and science missions, Dr S. Unnikrishnan Nair, Director, Human Spaceflight Centre, said that two missions - Xposat and Aditya L1 were likely to be launched in the second and third quarter of 2022, respectively.

"Aditya L1 is a space-based observatory that will be placed in a halo orbit near the Lagrange point which is an ideal place to observe the Universe being 1.5 million km from earth. Xposat is an X-Ray Polarimeter satellite to study the Polarization of Cosmic X-Rays. It is going to be launched by SSLV, which is a small rocket that will have a development flight by this year-end," he said. He added that Chandrayaan 3 - India’s third Lunar mission - was also getting realised.