The report seems to indicate that 2011 will see only two flights of the PSLV. These are the PSLV-C16 carrying Resourcesat-2, YOUTHSAT and XSat-1 and PSLV-C17 carrying GSAT-12. These are currently said to be in “preparatory stages”.
GSLV Mk-I and Mk-II
This is what the Prime Minister has asked ISRO to pay attention to. The Report repeats that a series of ground tests will be done before flight testing the indigenous cryogenic upper stage in 2012. The report still keeps all the reports expected to have submitted in February 2011 as “expected”. The GSLV programme review is still on and the report related to this is “expected” as well.
ISRO has been building up towards the development of this Medium Lift Vehicle capable of delivering 5 tons to GTO. This is the component of the GSLV Programme that is seeing good development. Last year saw the successful testing of the solid and liquid stages of this vehicle. The development and testing of the cryogenic stage is in progress and also the flight test in 2012 will be crucial for all future projects.
Human Spaceflight Programme
The wording in the Report seems to point to the fact that ISRO has decided on a course to take on the Human Spaceflight Programme. Buzz was that the ISRO was debating between the single shot approval and incremental steps approval methodologies. It seems ISRO has selected the incremental steps approval methodologies. This puts SRE-2 in line for launch in 2012-13 to “realise a recoverable capsule with Carbon-Carbon nose cap and to provide a platform to conduct microgravity experiments”. These technologies are expected to be built into the Crew Vehicle. On the way forward, the report says:
The programme is proposed to be implemented in defined phases, with the first phase concentrating on design, development and performance demonstration of critical technologies leading to human spaceflight. Systems developed during this phase are to be utilised for unmanned flights in PSLV.
Testing these systems on PSLV is the best thing to do since this is India’s most reliable launch platform.
Advanced Technology Vehicles and Sounding Rockets
This is where the most interesting space access technology testing is happening today. The development and testing of the Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV) in March last year paves the way for a platform to test air breathing engine technologies. ISRO aims to use the platform to test the active scramjet engine, ramjet engine and finally the Dual Mode Ramjet (DMRJ) which would take Indian vehicles to speeds close to 10 times the speed of sound (or Mach 10). Commenting on possible applications of the ATV, the report says:
Advanced Technology Vehicle has the unique capability to take a payload of 200-400 kg up to an altitude of 800 km. Ascent of the vehicle in a direct vertical profile makes it an excellent platform for space research, best suited for the studies of upper atmospheric features and short period transient phenomena / events in the atmosphere. ATV also provides a cost-effective platform for the study of microgravity conditions with up to 10 minutes of microgravity at levels better than 100 g which can be used for microgravity experiments in fluid physics, combustion research, materials sciences, biology as well as to perform precursor experiments for launch vehicles, satellites and manned missions.
The lack of comment on the sounding rocket programme is of concern.
Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstration (RLV-TD)
This project also seems to be progressing smoothly. This is the first stage of Indian efforts to make a Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO) vehicle. The report says:
During the year, all design options were finalised with titanium elevon, composite movable fin and metallic wing leading edge. Mission design has been completed with revised vehicle mass. All design related issues have been addressed and presented to the National Review Committee and clearance obtained to go ahead.
This is of-course for the Hypersonic flight experiment (HEX).
There are also improvements on the ground facilities at the Sriharikota High Altitude Range (SHAR). It is interesting to note that the commissioning trials for the new Mission Control Center are progressing along with efforts to improve launch support for 5 to 6 launches per year.