Saturday, March 6, 2010

Isro tests low-cost rocket

Forty-eight hours after the news about Chandrayaan-1's discovery of ice on the moon, here comes more good news. On Thursday, Isro successfully tested a new generation high performance sounding rocket marking a major step towards low-cost access to space by India.
"Today's flight marks a major step towards developing a low-cost access to space," Isro chief spokesperson S Satish told TOI, while pointing out that there could be another test during the next three months.
Designated as advanced technology vehicle (ATV), it weighed three tonnes and is the heaviest sounding rocket ever developed by Isro. The launch took place at 8.30am in Sriharikota. Satish said for the first time India tested air breathing propulsion technology. The rocket reached an altitude of 46 km in 120 seconds after lift off. It then splashed into Bay of Bengal — the total duration of the mission being 240 seconds.
Once fully operational these hi-tech sounding rockets have the capability to fly payloads weighing between 200 and 400 kg up to an altitude of 800 km. "The basic role of sounding rockets is to carry out space research and study the upper atmosphere," he said.
Explaining the new technology, he said in a conventional rocket, fuel and oxidizer are taken as a mixture which increases the weight of the vehicle. But, in an air breathing rocket, oxygen is taken from the atmosphere for burning the fuel. He said the main advantage of this system is it reduces the weight as well as the cost of the rocket itself. It could also result in India-built rockets being able to fly heavier payloads. Studies by Nasa have shown that it costs about $10,000 per pound to place a payload in orbit.

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