After watching with bated breath the lift-off of the PSLV C 25 that marked India’s first interplanetary foray, the news that the launch of a now-commonplace, sounding rocket has been scheduled next week would seem tame.
However, the RH-200 sounding rocket set to be launched at 18:25 hours from the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) coming Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of a very important event - India’s entry into the space arena.
It was on November 21, 1963, at 18:25 IST that the American made Nike-Apache rocket was launched from Thumba, the first rocket to be launched from Indian soil for scientific purposes.
Describing the event in their book on ISRO’s rocketry history, retired space scientists P V Manoranjan Rao and P Radhakrishnan writes, “The city woke from its usual languor to the thunderous roar preceded by a fiery arrow piercing the atmosphere upward. Shortly afterwards, a huge cloud took shape, orange-yellow and luminescent, against the dark background of the twilight sky. This was visible all over Kerala and in parts of Tamil Nadu.”
Former president A P J Abdul Kalam, who was in charge of rocket integration and safety for this project, too has reminisced in his autobiography about how the rocket had been “assembled in an old abandoned church building” and how “the only equipment available to transport it were a truck and a manually operated hydraulic crane”.
It is to celebrate this event, which also effectively put the TERLS on the map, that the sounding rocket launch has been scheduled at a time identical to that of original launch.
ISRO's journey on launching vehicles through the years:
- 1960s–1970s sounding rockets
- 1980s-Satellite Launch Vehicle-3
- 1990s-Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV)
- 2000s and 2010s-Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)
- 2000s and 2010s-Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)