Space “is expensive to enter, hard to sustain assets in, contains no defensive ground, and — barring energy-intensive maneuvering – forces assets into predictable orbits”
Operation Paperclip was the codename under which the US intelligence and military services extricated scientists from Germany, during and after the final stages of World War II. The project was originally called Operation Overcast, and is sometimes also known as Project Paperclip. It was a competition to deny German technical skills to the Soviet Union. Much of the information surrounding Operation Paperclip is still classified.
Of particular interest were scientists specialising in aerodynamics and rocketry (such as those involved in the V-1 and V-2 projects), chemical weapons, chemical reaction technology and medicine. These scientists and their families were secretly brought to the United States, without State Department review and approval; their service for Hitler's Third Reich, NSDAP and SS memberships as well as the classification of many as war criminals or security threats also disqualified them from officially obtaining visas. An aim of the operation was capturing equipment before the Soviets came in. The US Army destroyed some of the German equipment to prevent it from being captured by the advancing Soviet Army.
The majority of the scientists, numbering almost 500, were deployed at White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico, Fort Bliss, Texas and Huntsville, Alabama to work on guided missile and ballistic missile technology. This in turn led to the foundation of NASA and the US ICBM program.
ISRO budget is only 0.34% of the central government expenditure and 0.08% of the GDP.
India’s first satellite Aryabhatta, the remote sensing satellites Bhaskara-1 and Bhaskara-2, and currently operational remote sensing satellites IRS-1A, IRS-1B and IRS-1C were launched by Russian launch vehicles.
Although highly successful, having launched the Chandrayaan, the Mangalyaan and almost all the Indian remote sensing satellites, PSLV solid fuel rocket has reached a plateau. PSLV cannot launch communication satellites.
PSLV solid fuel rocket engines generate less thrust. Less thrust translates into a less payload. PSLV is typically suited to launch a 3 ton to 3.8 ton (max) satellite to a low earth orbit of 300 km and (max) 2,000 km (higher the weight lower the orbit). Such satellites can photograph almost any part of earth at least once a day. Closeness and access to all parts of the earth makes such satellites perfect for remote sensing in applications like monitoring weather, crops, fisheries, forests, flooding, reservoirs, snow cover, tsunami, soil erosion, assessment of urbanisation, ocean studies and last, but not the least, espionage by regularly photographing enemy facilities.
Chief advantage of cryogenic technology is higher thrust, which means breaking out of low earth orbits and higher orbits with greater payloads. Communication satellites satellites weigh over 4 ton and must be deployed at a special orbit of 36,000 km from earth. This 36,000-km orbit is unique, because it’s geosynchronous (a satellite in this orbit is circling at the same speed as earth will be stationary over a fixed point on earth) making the satellite perfect for reflecting television and radio communications to and from earth.
This is where GSLV comes in. It is based on cryogenic technology, essentially using liquefied gases as fuels. These are the frontiers of rocket science and closely guarded secret internationally. India's independence from foreign rockets means that Indian communication satellites will no longer be riding the Ariane rockets from French Guiana.
According to Chalmers Johnson, in his book The Sorrows of Empire, the aerial bombardment of Serbia from March 24 until June 10, 1999 was the first “space-enabled war” (2004, p. 79). For many, it was also one of the first “humanitarian wars”. As well as making large-scale use of satellites for weapons guidance, many of the bombs used in Serbia were fitted with a guidance kit called the “Joint Direct Attack Munition”. These convert so-called “dumb bombs” into “smart bombs” that integrate an inertial guidance system with a GPS receiver, and are then loaded onto the B-2s.
As well as being the first “space war’ and the first “humanitarian war”, Operation Noble Anvil was only the second time that Predator drones had been deployed by the U.S. They were first used in the region in 1995, as part of operation Nomad Vigil. While the Serbs were ultimately subdued by the raw display of American air power, Operation Noble Anvil also revealed a central paradox that still haunts the U.S. military today: as it became ever more stronger, ever more networked, ever more “precise”, it simultaneously became ever more reliant on a space-based infrastructure and also vulnerable to damage from orbiting space debris (more on this later). Precarity rose with power. In spite of, or perhaps because of this unwelcome paradox, the determination to militarize outer space began in earnest during the 1990s. Protecting ground assets required space assets, and this “domino effect” created a situation in which endless frontiers were opened up.
However, the roots of the emerging space war began in the decade before Operation Noble Anvil and the advent of JDAMs, during the Reagan administration. On March 23, 1983 the U.S. President Ronald Reagan gave a speech widely believed to have kicked off (at least symbolically) the “anti-ballistic missile race”, itself an extension of the Cold War missile race. His “Address to the Nation on National Security” urged the U.S. to redouble its commitment to militarism, and explained the importance of an increased defense budget. He first argued that “The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights. We will never be an aggressor. We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression — to preserve freedom and peace”. His overarching rhetoric of “defense” and “deterrence” was engineered to setup the real purpose of his speech: containing the Soviet Union’s missile threat in the “atomic age”. SDI paved the way for billions of dollars worth of defense spending. A cash cow is a cash cow for the military-industrial complex—feasibility is largely irrelevant. Second, it was the first step in militarizing space and controlling the planet.
The problem is, this is a missile system has never been tested against an intercontinental ballistic missile (the major type of threat it’s supposed to defend against) and has only demonstrated, in the words of the Pentagon’s Director Operational Test and Evaluation report, “a limited capability against a simple threat.” That language has been used to describe the situation since 2003. One of the reasons Israel’s Iron Dome system works is because the insurgents it defends against can’t hurl thousands of missiles into Israeli airspace in a matter of minutes. Even so, it’s more of a psychological protective measure than an effective one. Iron Dome is an anti-missile system developed by Israel to defend against Grad and Qassam rockets fired by insurgents and terrorist groups. These rockets have a typical velocity of about 675 meters per second, or approximately 0.4 miles per second. An ICBM, in contrast, has a velocity of 2.5 miles per second in boost phase and a terminal-phase velocity of around 4.3 miles per second. Hitting an ICBM with an anti-ICBM has been likened to hitting a bullet with a bullet. Considering that the fastest bullets have a muzzle velocity of about 0.76 miles per second, one could argue that the Israeli Iron Dome system does hit a bullet with a bullet. Trying to hit an ICBM with a GMD-fired missile is an order of magnitude faster than that.
In 1993 the SDIO was renamed as the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BDMO). This paralleled a shift in strategic thinking under the Clinton administration. No longer was defense planetary-wide; it would instead be targeted against “rogue states” and “regional threats”. The collapse of the Cold War should have spelled the death knell for the project. But by now there was too much money to lose, and an entrenched neoconservative mindset, fostered during the Reagan years. They were also convinced that the collapse of the Soviet Union had been significantly due to U.S. technological prowess and that pouring more money into advanced technology was a sure way to achieve perpetual domination of the world”.
Frank Gaffney Jr founded the right-wing think tank “Center for Security Policy” (CSP)—which was funded by major missile contractors including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)—he was the creator of the Congressional missile defense lobby. Gaffney was therefore a big player in the weaponization of the atmosphere during the 1990s. After Clinton left office, Rumsfeld and other neoconservatives were given an even freer reign. Rumsfeld, as well as increasing the Clinton administration’s missile defense spending, moved nearly all missile defense projects into the classified budget – and so ended reporting to Congress. This was a contractor’s dream come true.
As Johnson writes, “Without any rules on space debris, a poor state with few technical capabilities could decide to blind the United States by the active deployment of space garbage” (2007, p. 241). Moreover, a nuclear bomb’s electromagnetic pulse in space would practically rewire life on earth in an instant. Another “rogue state” could simply launch some gravel up there – instantly “leveling the playing field”. The bigger risk is for the U.S. to trigger a “space arms race”, although it’s already too late for this. “Instead of obtaining multilateral agreements that would ban such actions, the United States continues to waste its money building space-based anti-satellite weapons”. This arms race is exacerbated by the number of secret military satellites that are in outer space—many more than the “official count” of around 1,000 active satellites, 459 of which belong to the U.S. Space weapons prototype micro or “nano” satellites that disrupt, intercept, or tap into other satellites (including “EMP bombs”).
While most news about satellites concentrates on the very large (often over ten tons) birds, there has been enormous growth in the use of smaller (under 100 kg/220 pounds) satellites. Called nano and micro satellites the number launched increased an average of 61 percent a year from 2010 to 2015 and given current trends over 2,500 of these smaller satellites are expected to go up between 2015 and 2025. The earliest of these developed by the U.S. Department of Defense were called CubeSats. If was quickly proven that CubeSats could be used for photo or electronic surveillance, or communications. These tiny satellites also have the advantage of being much more difficult to be tracked from the ground. If there are successful wartime satellite attacks, then the nano satellites can be sent up to replace the lost birds.
The earliest (1950s and early 60s) satellites were similar in size to the larger nano satellites, mainly because the available rockets back then could not put anything larger into orbit. While larger satellites have a useful life measured in years, smaller birds are built to last for a few weeks or months. A British firm pioneered this technology in the 1990s and made it possible to get scientific satellites in orbit for a fraction of the usual price. All this experimentation has led to many useful advances in satellite design that have been adapted for larger satellites. At the same time these smaller satellites are increasingly going up to replace or complement larger satellites.
For centuries, navigators, surveyors and explorers used the sextant and celestial bodies to locate their navigational position with some accuracy to avoid tragedy, and to arrive at their intended destinations. This all changed on 26th June 26, 1993 when the US Department of Defence launched the 24th Navstar satellite into orbit, completing a network of satellites costing around $ 12 billion and creating what is now known as the Global Positioning System (GPS). A combination of minimum four satellites continuously transmitting signals all over the world can be fed in to a computerised receiver to give an accurate fix which is updated every few minutes.
Like cell phones, computers, and the Internet, the GPS is used worldwide by ordinary citizens and the military forces of both allies and adversaries. Since the launch of its first satellite more than 30 years ago, the system has transformed navigation and precise timing. From the first GPS satellite launch on 22 February 1978, any user—military or civilian—could access the unencrypted coarse/acquisition (C/A) code on the primary GPS frequency L1 (1575.42 megahertz [MHz]).
From the system’s inception, military leaders have been concerned about universal access to the precise PNT offered by the GPS to friend and foe alike; thus, its “dual-use” phenomenology has, at times, caused friction between the military and civil user communities.
Today, more than 3.3 million jobs rely on GPS technology, including approximately 130,000 in GPS manufacturing industries and 3.2 million in the downstream commercial, GPS-intensive industries. In light of high financial returns, we expect the commercial GPS adoption rate to continue to grow across industries. Consequently, the system’s technology will create $122.4 billion in benefits per year and will directly affect more than 5.8 million jobs in downstream commercial, GPS-intensive industries when penetration of the system’s technology reaches 100% in those industries. The GPS has proven brilliantly successful and so universally adopted that Russia, the European Union, and China have all developed imitations and are in various stages of deploying them.
The GPS largely owes its success to the fact that no other system or technology can match its performance, cost, and availability. Traditional radio navigation aids are far less accurate and do not provide global coverage. Inertial systems are capable of very precise short-term accuracy, but physics dictates that their accuracy will diminish over time unless synchronized periodically with the GPS or a similar system. Atomic clocks keep accurate time but are costly, requiring significant power and thermal control.
Promising new technologies such as Chip-Scale Atomic Clocks, Cold Atom Inertial Systems, and Wi-Fi Navigation all reduce dependencies on the GPS alone; however, they probably will not deliver similar accuracy and pervasive availability for the foreseeable future. Instead, these technologies work best when integrated with other sensors—especially the GPS. As such, the US military continues to rely on the GPS, even as new technologies are integrated into weapon systems.
The US military and its allies have access to the secure P code and the Wide Area Augmentation System (WASS) which is more accurate. The US operators can, at their will, introduce errors in satellites, just switch them off. That is why the Russians have gone in for the GLONASS system, where India is a partner. China began to build the Beidou satellite navigation system in 1994, two decades after the United States developed GPS. The Chinese have made the Biedou system regionally operational with ambitions of a larger Compass system and the EU has gone in for the Galileo.
In 1967, Ayub Khan appointed Turowicz as head of the Aeronautical Engineering Division of Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO). He was the Chief Designer of the Sonmiani Satellite Launch Centre based in the coastal city of Sonmiani in southeast Balochistan. NASA had extensively used this facility to conduct its own space and rocket technology research during the Cold War. Turowicz is generally credited for establishing rocket fuel factories and rocket technology research institutes and labs in Pakistan.
The project is expected to give a major boost to the Indian aviation navigation system and also help neighbouring countries. In addition, GAGAN will provide benefits beyond aviation to all modes of transport, including maritime, highways, and railroads. GAGAN offers free enhanced satellite navigation signals over India, which are 10 times more precise than GPS.
Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS)-GAGAN and ship-borne internet communications linked system with an ISRO launched satellite that would fructify in the coming two years. The second programme will assist the Indian Navy become an advanced network-centric warfare (NCW) capable war-fighting arm.
On 23rd September 2009, ISRO in a landmark event launched an ocean monitoring satellite OCEANSAT 2 and six European nano-satellites aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) that lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on India’s Southeastern coast. The 1,000-kilogram satellite is the second in a series of ISRO remote sensing satellites dedicated to ocean research. It is dedicated to data collection that began with OCEANSAT-1 launched in 1999 and is nearing the end of its operational life. On 20th April 2009 ISRO launched RISAT-2, India’s first synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite built by Israel, similar to Israel’s TECSAR for imagery at sea and along the coast. RISAT-1 is being prepared for launch by ISRO along with newer OCEANSAT series.
The Indian Navy has not been lacking in the field of its efforts to augment its C4ISR (concept of Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) capabilities. In the 1990s, the Indian Navy was the first Service to introduce the Magnavox receivers on major ships and soon the Indian Air Force and Army followed. The tiny computer box with its small antenna was fondly referred to as ‘Commander Magnavox’ in the Navy and when commanding officers wanted to test navigational skills of their officers, Cdr Magnavox was purposely switched off; they were back to the sextant and Astro tables.
Weapons Engineering Electronics Systems Establishment Weapons (WESEE) is the Navy’s own in-house research and development agency which began as small unit under Ministry of Defence to harness technologies for improved communications and amalgamation of the Soviet weapon systems with Western-supplied systems. Thanks to WEESE in the field of communications and transmission of digital data the Indian Navy had already made advances by imbibing a lot from the US Navy in the eleven Malabar exercises it has taken part in, when the US CENTRIX M system for digital internet communications and protocols was provided to the participating ships.
The Indian Navy has always attempted to leap-frog by continuous modernization of its fleet to meet its tactical requirements in the Indian Ocean Region and has always upgraded its communications, command and control systems. With a WEESE led home made LINK 2 internet the Navy swiftly moved to become a net-enabled digital Navy, as a first step towards network-centricity. The exchange between ships and headquarters will be in real time, so essential when India enters the nuclear deterrence phase from the seas.
In 2013 ISRO launched IRNSS-1, the first of the seven Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) GPS navigation satellites into orbit to provide real-time position, navigation and time services to multiple users. ISRO plans to launch IRNSS-2 three months after in-orbit tests of the first one, and the remaining five satellites over a 14-month period by 2015. The IRNSS will have a space segment (constellation of satellites and signal-in-space), a ground segment and a user segment to provide multiple services on a 24 x 7 basis under all-weather conditions to a host of users. The IRNSS will have two signals in L-5 and S-band on 1176.45MHz frequency and 2492.028MHz frequency with provision for downlinks. The satellite constellation will provide two basic services—standard positioning service for civilian users (using the CA code) and restricted precision encrypted navigation service (Py code) for authorised (military) users.
Meanwhile, the country’s first 2,330kg dedicated military communications satellite—GSAT-7/INSAT-4F was launched by Arianespace from Kourou, French Guyana. This is to be followed next year by the GSAT-7A communications satellite, also to be launched by Arianespace, for the Indian Air Force. Plans are also afoot to launch at least three additional remote-sensing satellites equipped with SAR antennae to add to the two already in orbit, these being the ISRO-developed RISAT-1 and the RISAT-2, which was built and delivered by Israel Aerospace Industries. These will be joined between 2016 and 2018 by the Cartosat-3 family of remote-sensing satellites that will offer imagery resolutions of 0.25 metres, and will replace the existing Cartosat-2, Cartosat-2A and Cartosat-2B satellites.
The launch of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)–D6 powered by an indigenous cryogenic engine is a game-changer. This, despite sanctions and restrictions (on transfer of dual-use technologies) thrown at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) by developed nations who were clearly not comfortable with the idea of another player entering their select grouping that had the capability to launch heavy communication satellites.
Coupled with a military payload—a satellite, which will enhance secure communications among strategic forces and other key users. This launch validates the new Indian GSLV design and Indian-made cryogenic engine. Secondly, at an estimated cost of around $36 million per launch, this GSLV is much cheaper than other options that India has used. For instance, the Ariane 5, which was used to launch GSAT-7—India’s first advanced multi-band communication satellite dedicated for military use—costs approximately $60 million per launch. This is far lower than the $60 million cost that the European Space Agency’s Ariane 5 entails.
While India will continue to use foreign launch services given Isro’s limited capacity, the GSLV option is clearly more economical. The next real technology leap for ISRO is GSLV Mark III which will have the capability to put satellites weighing 5,000k in geosynchronous transfer orbit. It is a much larger vehicle weighing 640 tonne (GSLV-D6 in comparison weighed 416 tonne). If GSLV Mark III succeeds, India will gain the capability to launch any communication satellites in the world.
The U.S.’s ballistic missile defense systems, its X-37B space planes and even its GSSAP spacecraft, though all ostensibly devoted to maintaining peace, could be easily repurposed into weapons of space war. Technology to jam transmissions and hack satellites, for example, appears to underpin the Air Force’s Counter Communications System, the U.S.’s sole acknowledged offensive capability against satellites in space.
For years Russia and China have pushed for the ratification of a legally binding United Nations treaty banning space weapons—a treaty that U.S. officials and outside experts have repeatedly rejected as a disingenuous nonstarter. As an alternative, the U.S. supports a European-led initiative to establish “norms” for proper behavior through the creation of a voluntary International Code of Conduct for Outer Space.
Now, as China and Russia aggressively seek to challenge U.S. superiority in space with ambitious military space programs of their own, the power struggle risks sparking a conflict that could cripple the entire planet’s space-based infrastructure.
The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) is the longest running production satellite program ever. The program was highly classified and run by the National Reconnaissance Program (NRP), in support of the CORONA program, and its first reconnaissance satellites. Today, DMSP is still providing strategic and tactical weather prediction to aid the U.S. military in planning operations at sea, on land and in the air.
The Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) pathfinder satellite now performs the mission previously handled by SSN included one spaceborne sensor, the space-based visible (SBV) sensor.
The U.S. military considers the SBIRS program one of its most high priority space programs at the moment. Reconnaissance satellites were given a big pat on the back this month when a fleet of navigation, communications, and imaging probes helped flush out Osama bin Laden.
But the current collection of satellites in use just aren’t quite up to snuff when dealing with the threats of 2011. The new GEO-1 satellite will take over from creaky old missile-warning systems, some of which are leftovers from the Cold War.
Missile-warning satellites go back to the 1960s. The MIDAS (or Missile Defense Alarm System) was a system of low Earth orbit satellites — equipped with infrared sensors — that went up throughout the 60s. The Midas 7, which launched 48 years ago (9 May, 1963), detected the first ever missile launch from space.
After dodgy launches and shoddy power supplies, the satellites were deemed obsolete within a few years and the MIDAS program was scrapped. In the 70s it was replaced with DSP (or Defense Support Program).
These new reconnaissance satellites would orbit the Earth from ten times the altitude of MIDAS (floating about in geostationary orbit, meaning they remain above the same spot on the Earth’s surface, rather than low Earth orbit), providing the military with a constant view of the entire planet’s infrared activity. The 23 satellites proved so successful that most of them are still up there now.
But the SBRIS system is a big upgrade. The satellite’s sensor is rather faster, allowing it to look at one location and then gaze at another rapidly. It’s also more sensitive than DSP, and its revisit time is significantly shorter. With SBRIS, raw, unprocessed data can be downloaded to stations on the ground, so the globe’s radiometric scene can be observed in real time from Earth.
The X-37B shows the design of the space shuttle but does a quarter of its size. Its a remotely controlled mini-Space Shuttle, with 8.8 meters long and 4.5 meters wide. It weighs about 5 tons and has a cargo of 2.1 m by 1.2 m. It supplies energy using solar panels, and can operate at altitudes ranging from 177 km to 805 km above the Earth. It was eventually revealed that mission 4 tested a new thruster system for mobile satellites that needed to be tried out while in orbit. Also carried were ten cubesats (very small satellites) to be released into orbit to perform various experiments. Such exposure can have unpredictable effects on materials and microelectronics after prolonged time in space.
The U.S. air force has revealed that it is designing an X-37C, which would be twice the size of the X-37B and able to carry up to six passengers. The X-37C could be quickly switched between cargo and passenger configurations. The X-37C would still be robotic and not require anyone onboard to control it. Think of it as Space Shuttle Lite, but robotic and run by the military, not NASA.
The mission of the X-37B is not known because the project originally developed by NASA in 1999 (in collaboration with Boeing Phantom Works), found himself classified as confidential when it passed under the responsibility of the Darpa in 2004. It was at the time of the X-37A prototype, and it was not until 2006 that the U.S. Air Force decided to develop its own version, the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. The nature of what he carries on his missions is thus not known. The project is under the responsibility of the RCO office (Rapid Capabilities Office) of the Air Force.
About 75 percent of all satellites are non-military. Since the 1980s space satellites have become big business. By 2012 there were about 1,000 active satellites in orbit, and nearly half of them were American. The cost of the satellites is less than ten percent of annual satellite revenues. About 4% of the money comes from launching all those satellites and 36% of those launches are military. The U.S. remains the major manufacturer of commercial satellites, with over half of the market. About two-thirds of the satellites were for communications, which generates the most income (mostly for TV, followed by data).
There is a significant difference of capability based on which engines are used. ISRO’s other more successful launch vehicle, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), uses four stages: alternating solid and liquid ones. Its payload capacity to the geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), from which the Mars Orbiter Mission was launched, is 1,410 kg. With the cryogenic engine, the GSLV’s capacity to the same orbit is 2,500 kg.
Materials technology. India does not produce aluminium-lithium alloys for engines; silicon wafer fabrication for electronics and polymers.
Space capabilities, particularly those related to reconnaissance, communication and navigation, that enable militaries to perform their tasks optimally are inherent to any military modernization. They enable long-distance communication, cross-border observation, precise delivery of firepower, personnel, relief material, and so on.
Apart from the military, space also affects other security agencies like the federal and state police forces, intelligence and narcotics control, all of which abound in India and all of which aspire to put space to multifarious uses. For instance, observation satellites enable precise identification of cocaine plantations even in deep forest cover, making interdiction work so much easier.
Space products are a result of long-term research and development, and time in this case is no longer available: The modern military equipment is already arriving, but the supporting space systems are yet to come in. The DPP in effect opens new vistas for the Indian defense industry to reorient business strategies and collaborate with foreign firms for space products.
India’s handicap lies in its patently civil space program that has civil origins and, unlike most other major spacefaring nations, is focused only on civil uses. Thus, India’s space capabilities are severely limited in their security applications. The glaring military vacuum is evidenced in the fact that although India has constellations of communications and observation satellites, it has only one dedicated military satellite. Apparently, civil use of space by India’s millions leaves few resources for its security applications. A shift of focus from civilian development to military uses is neither prudent nor affordable and hence not expected in the near future.
Properties like high strength to weight ratio and excellent corrosion resistance make Titanium alloys (like Ti6Al4V) useful for liquid propellant tanks for launch vehicles and satellites, gas bottle/liners, inter tank structures and interface rings for satellites. Realisation of Titanium alloy wrought products and fabrication of hardware are carried indigenously. However, the raw material for aerospace grade Titanium alloys with high purity Titanium sponge (min. 99.7% Titanium) was being imported from countries like Russia, Japan and China despite the fact that India is endowed with the third largest reserve of Titanium bearing minerals.
ISRO took the initiative to set up a Titanium Sponge Plant (TSP) in the country to meet the requirements in strategic areas. The annual requirement of Titanium sponge for space programme is approx. 200 – 300 Metric Tonnes (MT). ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) has established a dedicated 500 MT per annum plant at M/s Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd (KMML), Chavara, Kollam. The plant is set up with necessary infrastructure to enhance the production capacity to 1000 Tonnes Per Annum (TPA) in future. This is the only integrated plant in the world that undertakes all activities right from mining of Ti minerals to the manufacturing of aerospace grade Ti sponge under one roof.
In order to qualify the sponge for space applications, VSSC has realised aerospace grade Titanium alloy Ti6Al4V products at Midhani, Hyderabad through double vacuum arc re-melting route followed by rolling/forging and heat treatment into wrought products in annealed condition and extensive qualification tests have been performed on the material. Hemispherical domes were made from Ti6Al4V plates through hot forming process at BrahMos, Thiruvananthapuram. These domes are further machined and joined by electron beam welding to gas bottles. Two numbers of such 600 mm diameter gas bottles required for PS2/GS2/L-110 stage pressurisation systems for a rated capacity of 330 bar were realised and qualified. These are used in PSLV, GSLV and GSLV Mk III launch vehicles. All the bottles were subjected to proof pressure testing at 495 bar and accepted. One of the gas bottles was subjected to burst test and the gas bottle withstood 700 bar pressure against 660 bar requirement. With this, indigenous Ti sponge is completely qualified for space applications giving a big boost to indigenization campaign.