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Indigenous cryogenic engine ready for take-off
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, October 2
Close on the heels of display of its military might by China on the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic, India quietly achieved something that will have a far-reaching impact on the country’s defence capabilities.

T K Alex, director of the ISRO Satellite Centre at Bangalore, told the TNS today that an indigenous cryogenic engine had been successfully developed. “The cryogenic engine is ready. It has already reached the space port at Sriharikota (from Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu)”, he said.

The advance would give India the ability to build the dreaded intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). This led the US to prevent Russia from supplying cryogenic technology to India. India’s contract with Russia for buying cryogenic engines came under fire from the US which said it was a violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime to which Russia is a signatory. Eventually, the Russian Federation supplied a limited number of engines to India without the transfer of critical technologies.

Only a few countries, including the US, Russia and France, have the necessary knowhow to build cryogenic engines fuelled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

In December last year, ISRO had successfully conducted the flight acceptance hot test of the indigenous cryogenic engine at its Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Mahendragiri.

The first indigenous cryogenic engine will be used in the GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket that is slated to put the experimental communication satellite GSAT-4 in the orbit. “The launch will take place sometime in coming December”, Alex said.

Besides the use of the indigenous cryogenic engine, the GSAT-4 launch would also be unique in many other ways. “For instance, we shall be using the electric propulsion technology for the first time to give the geostationary satellites a longer life span”, he said.

“GSAT-4 itself is not designed to have a long life. But once the technology, known as plasma thrusters, is successfully tested, it will be used in future satellites to give them an enhanced life span”, Alex said.

Electric propulsion technology would be used for sustenance of a satellite for the initial two to three years. “During this period the solar panels (for generating electricity from solar energy) work very well. Afterwards the satellite will switch over to the chemical propulsion mode”, said Alex.

Weighing around two tonnes, GSAT-4 will carry a multi-beam Ka-band bent pipe and regenerative transponder and navigation payload in C, L1 and L5 bands. The satellite reportedly can guide civil and military aircraft.



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