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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

First Prototype of ISRO's Semi-Cryogenic Engine To Be Ready By 2016

Trips to Venus & Asteroids also being studied.

Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation [ISRO], Mr AS Kiran Kumar, visited the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics [IUCAA] yesterday, where he delivered an hour-long talk. Titled, "Space Exploration - An Indian Perspective", he primarily spoke about its work in the field of Astronomy, including relevant payloads ISRO satellites, launched so far, have carried on-board. For the 1st time, next month, it would be launching a satellite dedicated to the study of Astronomy. The Astrosat satellite, to be launched aboard the PSLV-C34 mission, is currently in the process of being mated to the launcher, he informed.


During the Q&A session that followed, when asked, he confirmed that development of India's Semi-Cryogenic Engine [SCE] is, "in a very advanced stage". He added that demonstration of the engine could take place, "within a matter of 1 year". There is, however, a need to build test-facilities for the engine, which is taking time, he said. It is looking to work around this issue by exploring, "alternate ways of doing the test using facilities which are existing elsewhere". Translated, ISRO would want to carry out its ground tests outside the country, quite like the way GTRE does with the Kaveri engine's flight testing in Russia, aboard its modified Il-76 test-bed.

Semi-cryogenic engine is 1 where where either element in the propellant - fuel & oxidiser, can be operationally stored at room temperature. The engine ISRO is developing - SCE-200, would use liquefied oxygen & ISROSENE [aviation-grade kerosene], & generate 2000kN of thrust in vacuum. Kerosene, being economical & liquid at room temperature, would simplify handling, generating higher thrust cost-effectively. It envisages use of SCE as the 1st stage of its heavy-lift Unified modular Launch Vehicle [ULV], as also the lighter Two Stage To Orbit [TSTO] Reusable Launch Vehicle [RLV]. In the interim, 1 SCE-200 could be used as the 2nd-stage, SC160, in the GSLV Mk. III, replacing the current L110, that uses 2 Vikas Engines. It would then be capable of placing a 6.2MT payload [vs. 4 MT] into GTO.

ISRO would test use of Ion thrusters on the GSAT-19 satellite, he said. The thrusters would primarily be used to maneuver & stabilise the satellite in Space. It would be the 2nd ISRO satellite to use electric propulsion, the first being the GSAT-4 satellite that was being carried on-board the unsuccessful GSLV-D3 mission. Thus, the satellite never got deployed. Successful demonstration of Ion Propulsion would enable ISRO to, "substantially reduce the weight of the satellite, for the same function & capability", translating to weight saving, "almost to the tune of 1.5-2MT", he said.

It plans to launch the GSAT-19 [also referred as GSAT-19E] aboard the 1st demonstration flight of GSLV Mk. III, the GSLV Mk-III D1, scheduled for 2016-2017. The satellite would carry:
In addition, it would, "act as a test bed for development of advanced spacecraft technologies and bus subsystem experiments like New modular I-6K Structure, Electrical propulsion System, Active thermal control using deployable thermal radiators, Motorised deployment of solar panels, miniaturised IRU, indigenous Li-ion battery,2 KW BDR, indigenous C-Band TWTA, etc., for future I-6K Bus".


Future missions could include trips to the planet Venus & Asteroids, he added. ISRO has initiated studies to explore feasibility of undertaking missions to the aforementioned destinations, in addition to re-visiting Mars, this time with more payload, with the availability of heavier GSLV-series launchers.

An unassuming man, he wore a pair of white sports shoes, to go with his blazer, shirt & trouser ensemble.