THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has put off the scramjet propulsion mission slated from Sriharikota on Thursday on account of the ongoing search for the Air Force’s AN-32 aircraft which disappeared over the Bay of Bengal.
ISRO officials said the military had requested that the mission be put off. Dr K Sivan, director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thumba, termed the disappearance of the aircraft a national calamity and said the search took precedence over the experimental mission. “We have not decided on a new date,’’ he said, after a Mission Readiness Review (MRR) on Monday. The AN-32 aircraft, which took off from the Tambaram airbase in Tamil Nadu on Friday with 29 persons aboard, had gone off the radar on its way to Port Blair. A frantic search has since been launched for the missing aircraft.
ISRO is readying for its first experiment to try out scramjet propulsion - or air-breathing propulsion - whose successful development would result in smaller, compact launch vehicles with higher payload capacity.
Scramjet propulsion will allow ISRO to avoid carrying oxidisers aboard its rockets. Oxidisers help fuel burn in a rocket. For instance, in its second stage, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) uses N2O4 or nitrogen tetroxide as the oxidiser and Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) as fuel. In scramjet propulsion, the rocket gathers the required oxygen from the atmosphere during flight. For the mission, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre has built ISRO’s biggest sounding rocket to date. The Air-Breathing Propulsion Project and the Advanced Technology Vehicle project at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre are responsible for the development of the mission.