How can vertical rocket landing benefit ISRO?



The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is currently conducting research and studies and also carrying out projects to enable vertical landing of its rockets. Experts observe that for mid-to-heavy class GSLV Mk-II and Mk-III launchers, reuse will be a key technology to be demonstrated, so that costs can be significantly reduced and ISRO can be more competitive in the landscape. global.

Currently, ISRO rockets are disposable, and the rocket stages separate from the launch vehicle and fall into the sea after their burn time. Reuse can help recover rocket stages at sea or ashore by vertical landing, and then bring them back for flight after refurbishing, maintaining and testing them.

ISRO already has a program underway to first test a technology demonstrator to retrieve the L40 strap boosters from the GSLV Mk-II. “The technology involved is complex – it’s like shooting an arrow aimed at the target a few hundred miles away, the main difference being that the target is not stationary, because the earth is spinning. The prerequisites in terms of inertial navigation and guidance are something in which ISRO already has expertise. It’s just a matter of decision making and iterations to enable the reuse of launchers, ”said Rohan M. Ganapathy, CEO and CTO of Bellatrix Aerospace WEEKLY. .

This expert further explained that rockets are complex things to produce because when you see a rocket launch, you see it as one piece going up. However, it has millions of components that need to work in sync. “There are millions of rocker arm components that take a long time to manufacture and it’s not like in the auto industry where it can be rolled. The production line cannot be sped up very quickly. When there is so much demand for regular launches, reuse is the best option, like airplanes. If you order an aircraft, it takes two to three years for delivery. Building rockets is similar. As we reuse planes, we are able to meet passenger traffic and budgets. A similar analogy applies to rockets. Another benefit of reusability is that the pressure on the industry decreases, ensuring 100% reliable launches, ”Ganapathy added.

Experts observe that the GSLV Mk-III is little different from other rockets in the sense that the thrusters on the first stage use solid propellants and for the second stage, the ISRO could try to land in the same way as the Falcon 9. restarting the engine with spare fuel. However, powder rocket thrusters are simple metal shells in which the solid propellant is loaded, but since they are massive structures, they could be recovered using parachutes, in the same way as space shuttle thrusters. were recovered. The second stage has a semi-cryogenic engine. To reuse this, the ISRO must first demonstrate Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) first with the Mk-II’s L40 boosters and once established, can be mastered on the Mk-III. Together, GSLV Mk-II and Mk-III will serve the medium to heavy launch market. “By increasing the frequency of launchers, we can aim to become more competitive than SpaceX given our economy and our approach to engineering. It’s not just the Mk-II and Mk-III, ISRO is also looking a little further for its Avatar Single-Stage Orbit Vehicle program, which will allow more efficient access to orbit, ”he said. declared Ganapathy.

Since the GSLV Mk-III is one of the most advanced and successful launchers in ISRO, it is especially used to send heavy communication satellites, interplanetary missions and soon human missions, reuse of assignments can be a very important factor. “SpaceX. Staging the Falcon 9 is straightforward since it is a two-stage vehicle while the Mk-III is a complex vehicle with two boosters and a liquid core engine and a cryogenic engine. It might be relatively more complex to land than Falcon 9 if we think about collecting the boosters as well, but that would be a big technological improvement. We think the first step to achieving this would be to have fine-tuned Kerlox motors for the center stage, and we also think we can use parachute-based recovery for powder rocket motors, like what NASA was doing space shuttle boosters. Since India has its own NaVIC satellite navigation system, this could add additional benefits to bring the rocket back to location and achieve a more precise landing.

We believe that such capabilities would not only help us reduce the cost and overall economy of launches, but also make us technologically advanced and help us practice landing, which is what we need to do when doing interplanetary missions, it would also be an immensely proud moment for the country, ”said Srimathy Kesan, founder and CEO of Space Kidz India.

Many space experts also believe that reuse is the future of all heavy launchers and will help reduce costs and push the boundaries of reliability, resulting in safer missions. “There will be a payload penalty which can be resolved by increasing it right. US SpaceX has managed to achieve 90% of orbital vehicle stage landings and China and Russia are actively pursuing reusable vehicles, ”said Pawan Kumar Chandana, co-founder and CEO of Skyroot Aerospace.


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