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Space

An Alternative Stack for India’s Space Programme

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 31, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Ever since appearing in this article by Srinivas Laxman, he has teased me as being a Vehicle Director and I do fancy myself as one. The idea of the alternative stack has stuck with me.

Later that day, I was speaking to my rocketeer friend, Hemil Modi from Pune. We were discussing some of the frustrations we were facing in flying rockets in India – amateur rockets. We were also discussing the lack of a NewSpace company in India like SpaceX or at least something in development. We thought that a failure such as GSLV’s would not really affect the communication satellites programme and India would have other indigenous alternatives other than the Ariane-5 to fall back on. I commented that this could be some time in the future.

The talk of SpaceX make me go back and look at the recently tested Falcon-9. This rocket developed by SpaceX has tested the capability (and still undergoes tests) of supplying cargo and one day humans to the International Space Station. SpaceX uses the Merlin liquid fuel engine and 9 of them in a single stack. The second stage of the two-staged Falcon-9 uses a modified Merlin that performs in vacuum conditions of space.

My own vehicle stack suggestion is based on this two stage configuration. Under the current conditions, I think ISRO could consider 7 Vikas engines coupled with each other could form a formidable first stage with an indigenous cryogenic engine forming the second stage.

I call this project the ILPX -Indian Liquid Propellant Vehicle Experiment. For starters, I hope to demonstrate liquid propellant recoverable sub-orbital capability. This will use the LOX/RP1 fuel mixture. This does not move into space regimes but demonstrates payload capability. This itself is no small task and I have no idea how I will proceed. The ultimate aim is to provide an alternative medium lift (2-4 tonnes to GTO) reusable capability from India. I think alternatives of this could be used for heavy lift (4-10 tonnes to GTO) reusable capability as well. This would work towards reducing cost of missions to the Moon, asteroids and Mars.

Categories
Space

CIRUS decomissioning

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 31, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Tonight engineers working at the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) will begin work on decommissioning the 50 year old CIRUS nuclear reactor. CIRUS, short for the (Canada India Research United States) is named thus because it uses a Canada-supplied reactor and US supplied hard water for moderating the nuclear fission process.

On the day of the GSLV launch, I saw a snippet of an interview with eminent nuclear scientist, Raja Ramana on the CIRUS where he talked about how the Canadians thought that India could not develop its own nuclear fuel but which they did. CIRUS also provided the plutonium used for India’s first nuclear test in Pokhran in 1974.

Categories
Space

Establish Transparent Failure Analysis Systems

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 31, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

This article by Devangshu Datta appeared yesterday in the Business Standard. While the whole article is worth a look at, it won’t tell you anything new. This point of his is something that I agree with:

The guarantee of future hitches and glitches as Isro forges ahead also means that it needs to put transparent disaster and failure analysis systems in place. The history of space exploration tells us systems can fail despite the most stringent technical safety standards. If those standards are not in place, the future of Indian space exploration could be at stake.

ISRO does put out failure analysis committee summaries but I do not understand why it shies from putting out the entire technical report like ESA or NASA does today.

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Space

Madhavan Nair on the GSLV Failure

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 31, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Madhavan Nair made a comment to IANS that was carried to many news carriers about the GSLV failure. He made some interesting remarks:

‘On the day of the failure it was announced the connectors relaying the command led to the rocket’s failure. We have revisited and have confirmed that the connectors located between the cryogenic engine and the lower stage (engine) snapped. We have to find why the snapping happened,’ Nair said.

‘As per the data there are no indications of any control command from the onboard computers to the rocket engines,’ he said.

He said simulated experiments will have to be carried out to find out why the connectors got disconnected from the rocket.

‘Whether vibrations or external forces led to the snapping of connectors has to be found out. We will have to conduct simulation experiments to find that out,’ Nair said.

To a query as to why the ISRO was taking a long time to come out with a preliminary report, he said: ‘The preliminary data runs into more than 100 pages even though the flight is of around 50 seconds.’

As written yesterday, the Russians did come out with a report pretty quickly and did another launch after fixing the faulty system on the Proton rocket to give it 12 launches this year – it’s record/year since 2000. If India intends to capture the commercial satellite launch market, its system must also be as flexible. On the question of dummy payloads to test launches, Madhavan Nair responds:

On a suggestion of using a dummy payload instead of a real satellite costing around Rs.150 crore till the ISRO stabilises its heavier rocket, Nair said: ‘The efforts required for both are more or less the same. However, if the satellite is slung into the orbit then it throws up an opportunity to earn higher revenue.’

I am guessing he is merely being optimistic here. He has spoken about what would happen if the satellite/dummy successfully orbits but there is a loss if it does not.

Categories
Space

Indian Science Congress 2011

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 31, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

The days are closing for the 98th edition of the Indian Science Congress. This edition is to be held at the SRM University in Chennai. This session is themed “Quality Education and Excellence in Science Research in Indian Universities”

The Prime Minister will address the meet. The highlights are a plenary sesssion on Space by Dr. Radhakrishnan, Dr. Kasturirangan on the next 5 years of science policy making. It also has a session on “Meet the Nobel Laureates”.

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Uncategorized

National Conference on Electric Propulsion

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 31, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

The Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre is hosting the National Conference on Electric Propulsion [PDF]. This is a 2 day conference to be held between 23 and 24 February 2011. Last date of reciept of abstract is January 10, 2011.

India tried entering the electric propulsion age with a station keeping system on GSAT-4 which was lost on the GSLV flight in April, 2010

Categories
Space

Preliminary Findings of the GSLV Failure

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 31, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

ISRO has just posted the preliminary findings of the GSLV Failure. This is what it has to say on what happened:

The performance of the GSLV-F06 flight of December 25, 2010 (with GSAT-5P Satellite onboard) was normal up to 47.5 seconds from lift-off. The events leading to the failure got initiated at 47.8 seconds after lift-off. Soon, the vehicle started developing larger errors in its orientation leading to build-up of higher angle of attack and higher structural loads and consequently vehicle broke up at 53.8 seconds from lift-off (as seen visually as well as from the Radars).

As per the Range safety norms, a destruct command was issued from the ground at 64 seconds after lift-off. The flight was hence terminated in the regime of the First Stage itself.

After this ISRO constituted a preliminary failure committee which has found this:

The finding of the Preliminary Failure Analysis Team is that the primary cause of the failure is the untimely and inadvertent snapping of a group of 10 connectors located at the bottom portion of the Russian Cryogenic Stage. Some of these connectors carry command signals from the onboard computer residing in the Equipment Bay (located near the top of the vehicle) to the control electronics of the four L40 Strap-ons of the First Stage. These connectors are intended to be separated only on issue of a separation command at 292 seconds after lift-off. The premature snapping of these connectors has led to stoppage of continuous flow of control commands to the First Stage control electronics, consequently leading to loss of control and break-up of the vehicle. The exact cause of snapping of the set of connectors, whether due to external forces like vibration, dynamic pressure is to be analysed further and pin-pointed.

The full Failure Analysis Committee has also been constituted under the chairmanship of former ISRO Chairman Madhavan Nair to not only to analyse not only to go into the problems of the GSLV’s current flight but also of the six previous flights and the corrective actions for both the GSLV and the use of the remaining one Russian cryogenic engine. The committee has 11 members from both inside and outside ISRO. This is definitely a positive outcome and also the fact that it has been given a timeline of up to January 2011 to present their report.

Although seemingly late, they have also constituted a Programme Review and Strategy Committee. This will look into the broader implications for the GSLV Programme, assured launches of INSAT-3D and Chandrayaan-II, operationalisation of the indigenous cryogenic stage and meeting the immediate shortage of transponders being faced by the nation. This seven member Committee will be chaired by another former ISRO Chairperson, K Kasturirangan.

These reports will submit their reports in January 2011 to a National Experts Panel that will study the report. Although, what the output of this panel will be is not sure. They hope to complete the whole process by February 2011.

In parallel, a Panel has been setup under Dr. S C Gupta, a former member of the Space Commission to solicit views from within ISRO for gearing up for the upcoming space missions. These will be submitted to Chairman, ISRO.

In all, an exhaustive review of all matters pertaining to or related to the GSLV Programme will be carried out. We hope this will help ISRO emerge stronger and hope a re-invented GSLV programme follows. There is still no idea on whether these reports will be made available to the scientific community at large in India and abroad as done by NASA and ESA. The Preliminary Findings have come out in 5 days. This is certainly going to be a strenuous New Year but it will ensure many more happier New Years in the future!

Categories
Space

Proton-M incident response

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 30, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos chief Anatoly Perminov has been reprimanded and two top space officials in Roscosmos and Energia Corporation have been fired over the loss of the Proton-M rocket carrying three GLONASS-M satellites into orbit on December 5, 2010.

The launch which took place just about 20 days ago has already finished the investigation and have come up with the cause being that the rocket was loaded with 1-2 tons more fuel than that calculated leading to the launch vehicle veering off course. In addition to fixing the problem, the Proton-M also flew its next mission on December 27, 2010 carrying the 6150 kg KA-SAT.

The speed with which the Russians have responded to the crisis is praiseworthy and also leads to some doubts about Indian claims of taking time to reach root-cause of the failure because of the mountain of data to be considered.

Categories
Space

Post GSLV Failure comments

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 29, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

I have refrained from commenting too much about the GSLV failure after the initial reaction, which was also emotional on my part. This is mainly because there has been a lot of speculation already in various newspapers. This has been caused by the sudden springing up of subject experts by TV and newspapers when they found that they did not get through to any ISRO official on time. They did this only to break the story. I have presented these suggestions to aerospace friends and they say it is too premature to tell the cause of failure.

These are the news stories and videos of the GSLV failure that I read and collected from the web:

    1. This report by Stephen Clark for Spaceflight Now is the sanest report to read.
    2. Hindustan Times has posted this IANS report first on speculation that the heavier payload mass caused the failure. There are mirrors of this report in Economic Times and DNA.
    3. This report by Nirad Mudur of DNA speculates whether this was an ISRO goof up i.e. oversight error.
    4. This report by Charu Sudan Kasthuri of the Hindustan Times on ISRO’s clarification that they will use the GSLV Mk-II vehicle for Chandrayaan-II.
    5. This report by T S Subramanium of The Hindu suggests that the failure of connectors is a very trivial problem.
    6. Pathri Rajashekhar of The Asian Age reports suggest that it is the workers fault that the accident occured.
    7. Another report by T S Subramanium of The Hindu. I give kudos to him to have the presence of mind to question the VSSC Director. VSSC is the centre which builds India’s launch vehicles.

In short, these so called “space experts” have criticised everything that was new on this spacecraft. I think the best way for ISRO to correct its mistake is to follow the engineering creed and not bow down to immediate needs of media houses, political party or a short-memoried public. I hope ISRO officials can thrash down the problems.

I would also apologise for my own speculation in the previous post. But, I still think ISRO should nonetheless put the launch stack through re-qualification and test them again. It does not hurt.

Categories
Space

Improved NRSC Data delivery time

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 29, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

National Remote Sensing Centre Director V Jayaraman has told media persons today that the delivery of GIS products from India will now be significantly improved thanks to the development a Multi-Mission Ground Segment in Hyderabad at an estimated cost of 35-40 crore Rupees.

The main thrust of the development is that this will reduce delivery time from 3-4 days to about 12 hours and up to 1 hour in case of emergency. I had commented earlier upon the lack of early data availability in the aftermath of the Mumbai Oil Spill and the Ladakh cloudburst. I think this is a step in the right direction to making information flows faster. This will also make available critical data at the critical moment and not at some later date.