What is the importance of cryogenic technology in India?

Cryogenic Technology in India: The use of cryogenic technology in India is growing, with new applications arising every year. It could fuel the country’s rocket and satellite launching programme. It is vital for putting satellites into geostationary orbit. Developed in the US, this technology has taken years to develop. The Indian government has also begun to explore the uses of cryogenic technology. What are some of the benefits? To find out more about this amazing technology, keep reading.

It could power India’s rocket and satellite launching programme

India’s space agency, ISRO, has been developing cryogenic motors for years. It bought cryogenic engines from Russia in 2001, and seven of these have been used on missions. After a space rocket from India, using a Russian-built booster, exploded just after launch in December 2010, the ISRO pushed ahead with the development of its own engine. Cryogenic technology is used in rocket engines because the liquid oxygen and hydrogen used as fuel are kept at extremely low temperatures.

Indian scientists believe cryogenic technology could power the country’s satellite and rocket launching programme. But while cryogenic technology is a viable option for rockets, ISRO officials gave the impression that the technology was already acquired and development would be fast. In July 1993, ISRO Chairman U.R. Rao said that a cryogenic-powered GSLV would be ready in four years. In fact, ISRO engineers privately told ISRO that the flightworthy cryogenic stage was about ten years away. It has now taken 16 years to reach the test stage.

The cryogenic engine used by the GSLV is an improvised version of the PSLV model. It has four liquid strap-on engines based on the Vikas engine and replaced the first two stages with a cryogenic engine. Earlier, ISRO had experimented with smaller cryogenic engines. In the mid-1970s, India tried to develop a small semi-cryogenic engine using liquid oxygen and specially processed rocket propellant kerosene. However, the government turned its focus to other areas and ignored the cryogenic route.

It is essential to put satellites in geostationary orbit

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has already established a facility at Mahendragiri, Karnataka to develop a liquid propulsion system. The Vikas engine uses a turbo pump to propel the satellite and other liquid engines are pressure-fed systems. The Indian scientists behind the project say that they will have no problems developing the technology required to develop the engines.

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While Indian rocket scientists have successfully developed the technology to put low-altitude satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), they have been unable to develop the technology necessary to place heavier satellites in Geostationary Orbit (GEO). Since every space-faring nation has limited launch capability, the first-come-first-serve principle has been in favour of nations with launch capabilities.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) realised the need for cryogenic technology in 1994. In order to transform the PSLV, originally intended for launching one-tonne earth-viewing satellites into the GSLV, the ISRO established the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC). The LPSC began studying cryogenic technology in the mid-80s, and the Vikas engine is used on every ISRO rocket since.

Indian scientists and engineers have been working on developing a new launch vehicle since the 1980s. The SLV is an improvisation on the PSLV model, with four liquid strap-on engines based on the Vikas engine. GSLV’s first two stages have been replaced by a cryogenic engine. ISRO had previously experimented with smaller cryogenic engines and the PSLV family. However, the cryogenic route was neglected for a few years, as ISRO moved its focus to other areas.

It has taken years to develop

The development of cryogenic technology in India is a long-term process. The first cryogenic engine test was conducted in India in 2003 and the first flight was made in 2014. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is implementing new projects in cryogenic infrastructure and engines. The country is nearing the completion of the necessary infrastructure. With the advent of the Space Act, India hopes to develop cryogenic technology in its own country.

Earlier in the 1990s, ISRO had been working on the Cryogenic engine project but the technology was expensive and a closely guarded secret. In 1991, India received offers from the US and France to get cryogenic engines at a high price. Russia had offered a reasonable price for their engines. In 1991, India signed a deal with Russia for the development of two engines and the technology. However, the US pressured Russia to cancel the deal over fears that the engines could be used for nuclear missiles.

While the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was making good progress with the GSLV, it had to leapfrog into the heavy-lift launch vehicle sector. While the agency has made considerable progress with its other projects, it has only barely cracked the cryogenic enigma. The ISRO’s research and development team – headed by Dr Ajey Lele – had limited expertise in cryogenics. But the team was able to overcome the difficulty by developing special turbopumps and igniters, identifying alloys with high cryogenic conductivity.

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