February Observatory Improvement: Gauribidanur

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 February 1, 2011 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

I have been working away at the Wikipedia article on Indian Astronomical Observatory. Towards the end of the month, I requested for an informal review of the article which is on-going. I will go back to it occassionally. Once I complete my GATE 2011 exam on February 13, 2011, I want to take it to the folks at Homi Bhaba Centre for Science Education where I hope to get some help on improving the article further besides the help I get from Wikipedians.

In February, the target article is the radio observatory at Gauribidanur near Bengaluru. The article is currently a stub article and getting the whole month to edit and improve it. Your help is welcome. Specially with pictures!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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