View Full Version : Guide: An Overview of the Indian Space Program

2006-Apr-02, 09:25 AM
Hello everyone, my first post here, I thought id talk about something I became interested in a while ago when I found Reach for the Stars: The Evolution of India's Rocket Programme (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/067089950X/qid%3D1143965854/203-2451827-2804706) in a second-hand book store. The Indian space program often gets joked about and derided, for example in this previous thread I found on the Indian unmanned moon mission, (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php?t=4713) but I myself, having learnt about it, rate it as one of the top five space programs - along with NASA, China, Russia and the EU - possibly one of the top three in future, considering economists are now predicting things like India perhaps overtaking China and the USA economically.

Historically speaking it wouldnt be that big a suprise considering Angus Maddison wrote in his book on the world's economic history, (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/9264186549/qid=1143966332/sr=1-3/ref=sr_1_3_3/203-2451827-2804706) that India was the largest economy for most of civilizaed human history - until my country, amongst others, unfortunatly occupied them. I dunno how accurate or up to date this list is, but India has a sizeable space budget which has been increasing with economic performance, and shows that India deserved to be in the place of Canada/Brazil in the previous thread: (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php?t=39440&highlight=india)

USA $ 16 billion
Europe $ 3.5 billion
Japan $ 1.8 billion
China $ 1.2 billion
Russia $ 900 million
India $ 700 million
Canada $ 300 million
Brazil $ 35 million

The New Scientist article (http://www.newscientist.com/special/india/mg18524871.000) details how the Indian space program, whilst no doubt having some defensive applications, and being partly motivated by national pride, is very much more aimed at benefitting the average Indian than other programs. Indian civilian sattelites are used to improve quality of Indian life, as well as improve the technological prowess of already recognised Indian institutions.


The Indian space program has a number of launch vehicles, which were developed after a sounding rocket program in the 60s. As well as their nuclear program, which tested its first bomb in 1974, India saw a space program as both a scientific neccecity for a large nation, but also no doubt some historical/state nationalism played a part.


The SLV sattelite launch vehicle was developed between the start of the sounding rocket program in India (1960s) and the first launch which took place in 1979. Although India obiously didnt have access to American technology, this launch vehicle was roughtly based on the American 'Scout' launcher (like the first Japanese launcher), in that the Indians thought an entirely solid-stage rocket that built on their existing experience with sounding rockets, would be best, and could at least be modeled on the principles of the Scout.

The objective of this vehicle was simply to progress their program after successfull development of sounding rockets, to develop competence in the launching of real multi-stage vehicles that could put sattelites into orbit, and indiginise technology such as fuel, guidance, etc. It was pretty successfull. Obiously for a first step, it was bigger than the German V2, etc - because the Indian program had more than a decade of experience flying large sounding rockets such as American Nike-Apache, French Centeure and Indian Rohini rockets, some of which were about as powerfull as V2s, etc.


The ASLV augmented sattelite launch vehicle, was a progression of the SLV, developed alongside the PSLV as a technological bridge to investigate how strap-on boosters, more advanced navigation, etc, would work. It was basically an SLV with two SLV main stages strapped on as boosters. The first attempts at launching this rocket failed in the late 80s and early 90s, but provided valuable experience to the Indians in the PSLV program.

It was basically a testbed for strap on motors and jet controlled guidance, similar to early two-stage V2 rocket varients produced by America and Russia.


The PSLV polar sattelite launch vehicle, had like the ASLV, been developed right after sattelite launch capabilites had been proven by the SLV, and so the PSLV was envisioned as a true large launch vehicle that could lift substantial sattelites into orbit where before, the SLV and ASLV were mainly for low earth orbit testing.

The French Viking engine was transferred to India in exchange for Indian co-operation in the development of the French Ariane program when other European nations showed little intertest, and formed the basis of the Indian Vikas engine used in the PSLV - they would have otherwise had to develop a large liquid engine themselves, perhaps adding another couple of years to the PSLV's development.

After development, the first launch occurred in 1993, and it has become the workhorse of the Indian program, standing at 11 stories in height, it can lift as much as 3250kg into LEO, and even 1000kg into GTO. It has launched a lot of Indian communication and remote sensing sattelites.


The GSLV geostationary launch vehicle, was envisioned as a modern powerfull launch vehcile for geostationary sattelites of about 2500kg in GTO. It was first launched in 2001. America has always imposed sanctions on India (in my opinion there was no need as India is a relatively peacefull/trustworthy nation, and can develop technology itself anyway), and so a deal that would have transferred a Russian cryogenic engine technology to India was halted. Thus the Indians have been developing their own indiginous technology, as they have had to do much more than many other space programs, and this home-made cryogenic engine will serve as the basis for the GSLV-II.

If not for the fiasco surrounding the cryogenic engine, India would likely have flown the GSLV-I in the 1990s, instead of the early 2000s.

The uncharecteristic decision to import technology rather than develop it indiginously had the opposite intended effect - if they had begun developing their own in the first place, it would have been ready sooner.


The GSLV-III, and its varient the GSLV-IV which would have two extra large boosters, will carry 4000kg and 6000kg to GTO respectively, and perhaps 12000kg and 20000kg to LEO. It pretty much brings India up to the launch capability in terms of weight, that Japan and China have - (they had head starts for various reasons), and would be pretty cheap. The maiden flight for this vehicle will be around late 2007.

The GSLV-III scheduled for 2007-2008 launch will be the medium/heavy lifter of the ISRO.


India has also been developing a cheap scramjet-based reusable launch vehicle. Although it is still mainly conceptual, the theory is that even a small scramjet-based launch vehicle that would be too small for human flight, could still remotely put sattelites in orbit for something like 1/20 the cost of existing small sattelite launch systems, making India a lead player in the launch buisness. India is one of the most advanced countries in terms of scramjet research, etc, so this is feasable.



Comparing the Indian space program with the similar Japanese and Chinese programs, India's GSLV-III launcher will be about as powerfull as anything the Japanese or Chinese have, and their slight lag behind the Chinese can be attributed to how the Chinese acquired Soviet ballistic missile technology before the Sino-Soviet split, not to mention a higher Chinese budget due to their greater military emphesis, and the fact that they economically reformed before the Indian economy did. However, it seems the Indians are rather good at doing things on the cheap - not only have they come up with tons of great indiginous technology, but usually cheaper than elsewhere, and thus their launch vehicles can get stuff into orbit for half the cost of ESA, NASA, JAXA, etc.

Judgeing by their inherent economic power, scientific skill and the capabilities of other nations, India will probably be one of the leaders of manned spaceflight in future in my opinion. The Brazilian and Canadian space programmes may have sattelite launch capabilities, but they will not be able to rival the Indian budget or experience at least for a while. The Russian space program will continue to be plagued by budget problems for the forseeable future. The Japanese and European programs can do more with unmanned work. India and China however will be able to back up expanded space programs even as the American budget shrinks. This isnt something that we should be afraid of, but rather celebrate, as it means we will finally get to see some action when space has been neglected since the end of the Cold War. Also it will diversify the privatisation of space once that arrives.

Another good book on the subject is apparently: The Japanese and Indian Space Programmes: Two Roads into Space (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1852331992/002-0639087-4432002?v=glance&n=283155)

Launch window
2006-Apr-02, 03:25 PM
images rules
posting on BAUT (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php?p=564845)

2006-Apr-02, 09:45 PM
I dont get it - do you think I violated one of those rules? Surely briefly quoting a book with a link dosent count as advertising? The post is entirely in my own words, incase you think it was copy/pasted or something?

Van Rijn
2006-Apr-03, 04:13 AM
I dont get it - do you think I violated one of those rules? Surely briefly quoting a book with a link dosent count as advertising? The post is entirely in my own words, incase you think it was copy/pasted or something?

Welcome to BAUT! You wrote an interesting post, we try to tell all new folks to read the rules.

You do have one issue in your post - hotlinking is frowned on because it can cause undue traffic. Links are fine. A quick edit should take care of that.

2006-Apr-06, 07:39 PM
I love the post--there was nothing wrong with it. There was a lot of information from many books and the New Scientist magazine that I hadn't knon about. I love the graphics showing the new LV. I thought the new GSLV would just have a longer first stage--but this latest one is a Delta IV/Titan IV/Proton/Ariane 5 rocket!

Sadly--there seems to be a glut of these 20 ton--and not-a gram more LVs.

2006-Apr-10, 07:42 PM
Yeh that New Scientist article is one of the best ive read on the subject. Like you said, their GSLV-III looks very Ariane/Titan/etc-like - I will be very interested to see it in action - interesting how Indian LV designs seem to leap each time where other countries produce many variants in progression.

I ought to mention that the Indian RLV is actually in development, albiet early stages - they are in the process of producing a scaled down technology demonstrator model called the RLV-TD that should fly in 2008.

This website by Indian defense enthusiasts on the space program has a lot of usefull information - probably moreso than the actual ISRO website: Bharat Rakshak: Space Program - Launch Vehicles (http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/SPACE/space-launchers-slv.html)


The above image is taken from there - there is a much larger version though. Quite a good diagram because it shows many things that the book I read points out - for example, those six motors attatched to the side of the PSLV are infact modified solid first-stages from the SLV.

2006-Apr-12, 09:51 PM
Oh, so those are the 200 ton solids I had read about over at Av Week. I wish them the very best of luck.

Too bad the idiots in the Beltway can't follow their example.

2006-Apr-13, 12:36 PM
dear freind,

Thank you very much and i appreciate your effort to come out with such a great article.
in the light of President Bush visit to India already the importance of India and its contribution to world is being understood slowly.

i just want to tell the members here that india was known as "Golden Bird" since ages and its true that it never invaded any country.

and the primary goal of every space enthusiast in india is "Universal Brotherhood and Peace" which is written in vedas as "Vasudeva Kuttimbikum".

and i personally believe as Secretary,Planetary Society, India that the dream of universal brotherhood is only possible by bringing perspective change in people all over the world while living in harmony with nature.

2006-Apr-13, 05:41 PM
So when are you going to push for 100 tons to orbit?

2006-Apr-14, 04:22 AM
Just thought id add that the wikipedia article on the ISRO (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Space_Research_Organisation) tells a lot of the things I read in the book, and has been updated recently.

@raghunaram - India is a country ive always respected and been interested in, so I hope that the USA and others do treat India as a full partner in future.

@publiusr - I guess India has the capability to develop big launch vehicles like the Saturn V and N-I, but dont have much need for them right now, since there is no manned missions planned.

I sincerily hope that they do start a manned program as the GSLV-III could easily lift a Mercury/Vostok-type capsure into orbit, and it would be a pity if India wasnt recognised as a manned-lfight capable space power when China is and the EU and Japan probably will be in future.

EDIT: this diagram is pretty cool - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:ISRO_rockets.JPG


Click the link above for bigger size.

2007-Jan-11, 09:50 PM
PSLV-C7 launch a success (http://www.hindu.com/2007/01/11/stories/2007011104750100.htm)

A highlight of the mission is that one of the four satellites called the Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE) will be recovered on January 22 when it falls into the Bay of Bengal after staying in orbit for 11 days.

Their first attempt at recovering a space vehicle.

2007-Jan-11, 10:31 PM
Successfull sattelite missions:


To put some perspective on that:

17 launches sucessfull - 5 unsuccessfull

12 sucessfull launches by current launch vehicles - 2 unsuccessfull

Only failed sattelite launch since 1994 was 2006 failure of GSLV attributed to private manufacturer (first time its components were outsourced to private Indian industry).

2007-Jan-11, 10:58 PM
Some pictures of this launch (PSLV C7):








2007-Jan-13, 06:46 AM
Hi there,
Following is the link of PSLV LAUNCH VIDEO

2007-Jan-13, 07:02 PM
Nice video manmeetvirdi - ISRO related videos are hard to come by.


Above is a 59mb video by the private arm of the Indian Space Reearch Orginisation, (Antrix Corp), advertising the capabilities of the GSLV launch system - the video looks a bit old, but still worth the watch.

The video is of the first GSLV flight. The ISRO and Antrix should spend more on advertising and public relations, because like their website, the video isnt quite as professional as that of a space agency should be.

Also an animation on youtube of the recent launch:


2007-Jan-13, 07:12 PM
Could someone with more knolwedge of heat shielding tell how other space agencies went about their early re-entry shielding? The ISRO seems to be using silica tiles, similar to the space shuttle, for their recovery experimet.

Is this better than ablative heat shielding? What would be the advantages and disadvanatages of coating a crewed return module with this as opposed to toher systems? And what were the return modules of other agencies using?


Its worth noting that while the ISRO has no prior experience with capsule recovery, India's DDRO, does have experience - recovering ballistic payload cones from IRBMs, etc - is the decision to use these tiles possibly related to this?

Or perhaps related to the desire to develop future re-usable technology?

Wombaticus Rex
2007-Jan-14, 07:41 PM
This was an outstanding thread! Much thanks to everyone who contributed to this, I had a great time reading and learning.

2007-Jan-22, 12:15 PM
ISRO successfully recovered Space capsule which was launched aboard PSLV-C7 on january 10.

More Info at:http://www.isro.org/pressrelease/Jan22_2007.htm

2007-Jan-23, 02:04 AM
Some pictures:



Dr. Suresh said, "the accuracy with which the Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE) returned to the earth was unbelievable because it came down within 15 km downgrade and less than six km laterally."

The SRE was "a very difficult experiment because there is a hostile atmosphere during the satellite's re-entry into the earth's atmosphere and it was a real challenge to decelerate it" and make it splash down in the Bay of Bengal.

The SRE had four major hardware elements: an aero thermo structure, a space platform, a deceleration and flotation system and two payloads for conducting experiments in microgravity. The satellite had flight electronics. Its triggering system opened the three parachutes one after another.

Launch window
2007-Jan-23, 07:43 AM
I dont get it - do you think I violated one of those rules? Surely briefly quoting a book with a link dosent count as advertising? The post is entirely in my own words, incase you think it was copy/pasted or something?

Your post is good, has some nice info and I wish India the best of luck in space.

As you will notice in other threads people's posts are not filled with pictures, hotlinking is frowned on and it is a courtesy to people on a laptop with low bandwith .

Launch window
2007-Jan-23, 01:50 PM
nice guide on the Lv family from astronautix


2007-Jul-09, 03:51 PM
Solar energy in space to power India

India is working intensely on having a solar power generation station in space to meet the nation’s ever growing energy requirements. The “hyperplane,” which needs to transport the infrastructure into space, will make a demonstrative flight at the 2008 end.

The "hyperplane" mentioned here is the RLV shown in the original post.

The Statesman (http://www.thestatesman.net/page.arcview.php?clid=2&id=188481&usrsess=1)