India seeks advanced propulsion in decadal spaceflight programme for reusable rockets

The Indian Space Research Organization has outlined plans for the production in the 2020s of advanced propulsion, heavy and reusable lift launchers, and private space activities. In the New Year’s note, ISRO Chairman K Sivan stated the wide scope of priorities, underlining a significant focus over the decade on both research and innovation. Sivan observed that as a result of the entrance of many private players, the ‘ space industry is facing uncertainty,’ aiming cost-effective space transport systems as well as delivery of the space-based services.

“We need to build launch vehicles with a heavy lift capability, semi-cryogenic phases, advanced propulsion, reusable launch vehicles, next-generation avionics, dynamic space applications, advanced materials and efficient integration of the services which are space-based and advanced space science projects, which are in line with the global directions,” the message said. To establish a decadal strategy, each ISRO centre and unit were guided and briefly laid out. Within their point of interest, many will scale-up technologies, like ground stations, optics, human spaceflight and remote sensing, satellite systems, broadband communications as well as the growth of human capital.

The Vikram Sarabhai Space Center is responsible for moving forward its “expertise in the development of launch vehicles towards the heavy-lift capabilities, gaining partial as well as full reusability” and working on scramjet engines. In the meantime, the Liquid Propulsion Systems Center will build semi-cryogenic propulsion capabilities to increase geosynchronous transfer orbit payload capacity of India to approximately 5.5 metric tons. The LPSC will also develop Methane-liquid oxygen combustion as well as renewable and the electric propulsion. By designing research facilities to validate these new technologies, the ISRO Propulsion Complex will facilitate these aims.

In his New Year’s note, Sivan identified ISRO as the “torch-bearer” of creativity for the region. “In the “final draft phases,” the overall space strategy is also mentioned. A one-year continuation to his ISRO chairmanship was granted to K Sivan on December 30, meaning his term now continues until January 14, 2022. During the next year, a variety of “diverse missions” are planned. These include the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) first test flight, a 4-stage rocket capable of carrying 500 kilograms to a low Earth orbit at a 500-kilometre altitude, functional Geo-Imaging capabilities, and Chandrayaan-3 moon mission. Also planned is Aditya-L1 solar mission as well as the first Indian Data Relay Satellite.

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