THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Hit by delays, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) efforts to create a rocket engine which uses kerosene as propellant is getting a revised plan.
The new ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar has asked the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) to prepare a brand new-schedule for the semi-cryogenic engine project as it is running behind schedule. As per the original plan, the semi-cryogenic engine should have been ready by 2014, but delays in setting up test facilities at the LPSC unit in Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu, had dragged the project.
Kiran Kumar, who took over as chairman in January, reviewed the progress during a recent visit to the LPSC HQ in Valiyamala, Thiruvananthapuram, and recommended a revised plan.
The new schedule for the semi-cryo engine will be readied on the basis of the report prepared by the LPSC, LPSC director Dr K Sivan said. ‘’We are making all efforts to speed up the project. The ISRO chairman has recommended a revised plan and we are working on it,’’ Sivan said.
Unlike a cryogenic rocket engine which uses liquid hydrogen as propellant and liquid oxygen as oxidiser, a semi-cryo engine substitutes the liquid hydrogen with a refined form of kerosene (RP-1).
Compared to liquid hydrogen, kerosene is cheaper, stable at room temperature and safer to handle. On a positive note, this project which will help slash launch costs by a considerable margin received a fresh shot in the arm on Saturday. The Union Budget 2015-16 has earmarked Rs 150 crore for the development of the semi-cryogenic engine.
The Cold Flow test facility required for the project is ready at the Mahendragiri unit. At a later stage in the engine’s development, an integrated engine test facility also will be set up there.
Spacefaring nations like Russia and the US have been using the semi-cryo for decades. The Union Cabinet approved ISRO’s plan in 2008, with an estimated cost of Rs 1798 crore. Then, the idea was to have the engine ready by 2014.
‘’The semi-cryogenic engine will facilitate applications for future space missions such as the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV), Unified Launch Vehicle (ULV) and vehicles for interplanetary missions,’’ the government had said in 2008.