THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It’s not often that you get to see a rocket. But now you have the chance to gawk at one every day. All you have to do is travel along the Museum-Vellayambalam Road. The Institution of Engineers (IE), Kerala chapter, has erected on its campus a scale model of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-XL (PSLV-XL), the rocket that placed India’s Moon and Mars missions in orbit. The aluminium model, fabricated in Bangalore, is a gift from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), IE officials said.
‘’The only models of ISRO rockets in the city are in the campus of the Kerala State Science and Technology Museum (KSSTM). You have to go there to see them. Our campus is visible from the road, so everyone can see it,’’ said S R Vijayamohanakumar, IE Kerala chapter chairman and senior scientist with ISRO.
The PSLV-XL has one-fifth the height and diameter of an operational PSLV-XL. ‘’A real PSLV is 44 metres tall and weighs around 235 tonnes. Here the weight is just one tonne, so the weight is not to scale,’’ Vijayamohankumar said. The aluminium model was brought to Thiruvananthapuram in sections and assembled. It may be shorter than the original, but the model is still taller than the IE building!
The maiden flight of the PSLV, in September 1993, was a failure. But since then, the technology has been honed to near-perfection. Today, with 25 straight successes, the PSLV is considered the ‘workhorse’ of ISRO. The PSLV-XL version first lifted off from Sriharikota spaceport on October 22, 2008, to put India’s Moon mission - Chandrayaan I - in orbit. Since then, it has been used five more times, most famously on November 5, 2013, for the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM).
But the PSLV is not the first ‘rocket’ at IE. IE has been the proud owner of a scale model of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk-III (GSLV Mk-III), India’s heftiest rocket that is still in the making, for some time now. This particular model is merely 1/20th the size of the original, a real ‘mini’.