Trying out this new “tool”. A bit slow but appears to bring everything about a book in one place. Book description, look inside, audio (podcast clip), shop links to all online stores for purchase and social media sharing options. Check it out and let me know what you think (about the tool and the book!)
It’s been more than a year since India’s PM Narendra Modi made the announcement that India will launch its own astronauts, using an Indian launcher from Indian soil. The goal he set for the Indian Space Research Organisation was to place an Indian crew in low Earth orbit for a week before a safe recovery following splashdown in the Indian ocean.
How is that mission, called Gagayaan, coming along? Look here.
One of the most fascinating and colourful characters associated with the Indian Space Programme is Narayan Nambi.
In 1994, Nambi Narayanan an ISRO aerospace engineer was falsely arrested by the Investigation Beuro on charges of espionage. He was accused of passing on confidential launch vehicle flight test data to foreign nationals. In 1996 he was cleared by the Central Investigations Bureau and India’s Supreme Court found him not guilty in 1998. In 2019 he was presented with India’s third-highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan.
In 1966 he joined ISRO or INCOSPAR as it was known at that time. With the guidance and support of Vikram Sarabhai, he went to study liquid and cryogenic engine technology at Princeton in 1969. He worked on the early stages of the development of the Vikas liquid engine which now powers two of the four stages of the PSLV.
Some of the topics we discussed include:
- During the 1960s he visited the Spadadam site near Carlisle. Today it is a Royal Airforce Station but in the 1960s it was the site used by the British Government test rocket engines and to develop Blue Streak – an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile.
- In 1974 ISRO concluded a barter arrangement – no money changed hands. India would provide 100 man-years trained engineers. 75% of this time would towards supporting France developing their (then new) Ariane 1 launcher and 25% would be used by India to develop the Vikas Engine with the technology transfer from France. Indian engineers would also build, test and qualify 100,000 pressure transducers for France.
- He claims to be the architect of this unique barter arrangement. In addition to being the father and architect of the PSLV.
- He suspects that the intelligence Beuro picked on him to slow down the Cryogenic engine development and remove him as project director.
- Speculating on the why the Vikram lander failed to make a soft landing he thinks it may have been related to the automatic landing sequence (software) or an issue with the braking thrusters.
He is an advocate of an Asian Space Agency lead by India.
He believes China space programme is not ahead of India’s because India has succeeded with the Mars Orbiter Mission.
He would like India and China to increase collaboration in space.
In 2017, he published a book on his experiences and a film based on the book will be released in late 2019.
This interview with S Somanath (director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre) and R Umamaheshwaran (Scientific Secretary) was recorded on 24th October 2019 during the International Astronautical Congress in Washington DC. It was not focused on a specific theme but rather an update on all things ISRO – current and future activities. We spoke about ISRO’s potential participation with NASA on its Artemis programme, ISRO’s innovative Orbital Platform (repurposing the 4th stage of a PSLV), Human Spaceflight and Gaganyaan, Small Satellite Launch Vehicle, Semi Cryogenic engine development, potential new launch site Kulasekharapattan, Chandrayaan-2 and future international collaboration.
The award-winning book mentioned is Integrated Design for Space Transportation System by B.N Suresh and K. Suresh.
The conversation started with India’s bid to be the host for IAC2022. The other candidates were Brazil, Singapore and Azerbaijan. The day after this recording it was announced that the International Astronautical Federation selected Azerbaijan.
Some of the topics we covered are listed below
- India, along with Singapore, Azerbaijan and Brazil were candidate countries to host 2022 IAC. India hosted the IAC 1988 and 2007. This interview was recorded a day before the announcement was made. Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan was selected as the host for 2022.
- Potential ISRO participation with NASA’s Artemis programme return to the Moon. Italy and Japan will join NASA. (ISRO remains uncommitted at this stage).
- PS4 Orbital Platform – ISRO is making use of the 4th stage of the PSLV to host payload in LEO for several months after it has completed the delivery of the primary payload(s). It will be augmented with RCS and propulsion system to maintain attitude and orbit – potentially indefinitely! Solar panel on the outside will deliver up to 100W. End of mission, the platform will comply with agreed guidelines – to a minimum perigee of 500km if not deorbit.
- Gaganyaan – Coming up parachute tests by end of this year, launch abort t(in-flight) test. Uncrewed test flight next year and 2021. Crewed flight to LEO by 2022 is still on target.
- Crew selection process is still progressing. Selection criteria require test pilot experience so females will not be part of the first crew. The first flight will consist of a crew of 3. Initially, a team of 4 will go to Russia for astronaut training – a single backup. (Surprising – I would have expected at least 6 for two teams – primary and back up).
- Human Spaceflight and Exploration conference in Bangalore, India in January 2020. This mission is to generate public awareness of India’s Gaganyaan programme. Rakesh Sharma and astronauts from other countries will also be present.
- Small Satellite Launch vehicle (SSLV) to address the newly developing market for small satellites. Currently, small satellites use rideshare that does not offer customised timing or orbit. Both are determined by the primary payload. The SSLV to only from Sriharikota.
- The reference in the Indian (Google translation from original Telegu) press for a proposed new launch site in Kulasekharapattan is not really taken seriously by ISRO. Initially to be launched from Sriharikota but may develop a mobile launcher in the future. Sea launch is not under consideration at the present.
- Alternative launch sites may come in the future but currently, Sriharikota’s launch capacity is not being used fully.
- ISRO’s first mission to Venus (Shukriyaan) to be launched in 20203. Mass and mission architecture already defined. Aditya-L1 – launch in the second half of 2022. Mars Orbiter Mission 2, architecture not yet finalised – may include lander and rover. No date yet.
- Chandrayan-3 – not announced yet but there will be a Chandrayaan-3 and more.
- Failure Analysis Committee investigating. ISRO has a fairly good idea from the data on what went wrong. So far – hard landing resulting in spacecraft damage. Why did it happen? The problem is a minor due to “dispersion”? i.e. something was off-nominal but would not say if hardware or software issue? The FAC report will be publically published.
- Space station – announced by the ISRO chairman. It will happen but no timeline.
- Reusable Launch Vehicle second mission will involve an airdrop and land on a strip at Chitradurga in Karnataka. Target date – December 2019.
- Semi cryogenic engine. Engine development in progress with a target date of 2022. Testing and significant progress will take place AFTER the Gaganyaan mission is over.
- Next GSLV-Mk3 scheduled for mid-2020 for comsat launches.
- Will India use the name “astronaut”? ISRO will conduct something in the way of a public poll and make a formal decision.
- Gaganyaan will not be one-off. May go to the Moon, ISS or participate in Artemis. ISRO not ruling out anything.
- ISRO continuing to cooperate with Russia, France, ESA, the USA, Collaboration with China is also possible. Two experiments from the Indian Institute of Science will be conducted on the Chinese Space Station. Collaboration with China in science is straight forward but at the agency level – that may come in the future