India is inspiring to move a notch up in order to revolutionize its access to space. Since the successful vertical take-off and vertical landing (VTVL) of Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket, the Indian Space Agency is aiming to enable the vertical landing of its rocket, further to facilitate reusability. Aligning with this, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is conducting experiments and mini projects focusing on the VTVL capabilities.
During a 3-day virtual conference organized by the Confederation of India and ISRO, the project director of ISRO’s GSLV Mk3 had mentioned the work that has been going on reusable rocket projects. According to the senior officials from ISRO, the possibility of VTVL (vertical take-off and vertical landing) is being potentially explored about the heavy-lift rocket – GSLV MkIII. This rocket, chosen to launch Chandrayaan-2, is powered by three-stage heavy-lift engines – solid fuel, liquid fuel, and cryogenic fuel.
The process that entails:
Dr. VT Baskar, Project Director of ISRO’s GSLV Mk3 during the session said, “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.”
Presently, ISRO’s rockets are expendable, which indicates that the rocket stages separate from the vehicle and subsequently fall into the sea after their stipulated burn time. Reusability is in direct proportion to Vertical takeoff and Vertical landing (VTVL) for rockets. Reusability involves retrieving stages of the rockets at sea or on land and further, refurbishing, servicing, testing, and qualifying them before flying again. Further, the officials stated that the critical experiment to land rockets on their legs would be conducted this year or in the subsequent next year, i.e 2022.
Revolutionizing Space Cost-Effectively:
“If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred. A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space,” Elon Musk
Reusable Rocket Development will drastically lower the costs of launch which in turn will lower the barrier of access to the exploration of Space. In regards to cost-cutting measures, ISRO is aiming to recover the first and second stages (S200 solid-fuel rocket boosters, and L-110 liquid-fuel stage respectively) which would offer a lot of cost advantage.
Modifications insight for GSLV MkIII
Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III is a three-stage medium-lift launch vehicle that is designed to carry 4-ton class of satellites into GTO (Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit) to Low Earth Orbit, that will be serving twice the capability of the GSLV MkII launch vehicle.
The officials from ISRO informed in the session that major modifications are in store for the GSLV Mk III rocket. Advancing towards technological enhancements, the vehicle’s L110 stage would be substituted by the semi-cryogenic engine, while its C25 cryogenic engine would be substituted with a C32 engine. Apart from replacing the existing engines to give a boost to the rocket, the Indian Space Agency 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.
The lineup ahead:
In the session, the officials also outlined the upcoming exploratory and science missions that are likely to be launched in the second and third quarters of the next year, i.e 2022. The first one is Xposat and the other is Aditya L1.7