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AN INDUSTRIAL VISIT TO INDIAN SPACE RESEARCH ORGANIZATION

A CONCISE REPORT

Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh

13th February, 2018

About: The Satish Dhawan space centre is located in a small island off the coast of Andhra Pradesh (in the Nellore region). The justified reason for it being close to the coast is simple; the stages of the rockets fall on the sea. Secondly the thick smoke generated during the launch time encompasses a wide area. A launch pad cannot possibly be located in a densely populated area and a landlocked region. The space centre houses two launch pads, a huge Vehicle assembly Building, a mission control centre, a sound rocket facility and reservoirs for liquid propellants. The second centre is in Bangalore; where the solid propellants, satellite equipment and the components and stages of the rocket are manufactured.

First Launch Pad: This is the older of the two launch pads, which was originally inaugurated by Sri. A.P.J Abdul Kalam. The umbilical tower is approximately seventy metres in height and the lower heat dissipation V-base has a depth of thirty metres. At a distance of about two miles from the first launch pad, the vehicle assembly building is located. The four stages of the rocket, assembled with the satellite at the summit is loaded on the troller and transported to the umbilical tower. The launch pad has four pipelines across four directions of the towers for provision of liquid propellants. The first launch pad was the launching zone for the GSLV satellites and the PSLV MK2 satellites.  

Second Launch Pad: The second launch pad is specifically chosen for the launch of the most recent development: the PSLV MK3 satellites. The second launch pad has a bigger reservoir of water for cooling purposes, which is only for the mentioned satellite. It is seventy six metres tall, and the V-base located underneath is only about six to seven metres in depth. Unlike the first launch pad, the second one here is portable, resting on a pair of rail tracks owing to which it can be moved back and forth. The troller carrying the assembled rocket need not transport much. The tower does it itself. The justification of a smaller V-base is the height compensation. The PSLV MK3 satellite having a height of only forty nine metres can be fixed much above. By the time the exhaust fumes hits the surface, a significant amount of heat has already been dissipated. It also has a higher number of vertical compartments, enabling a decreased loading and unloading time for the rockets.

Both of the launch pads are heavily restricted with barbed wires and electrical fences. Mobile phones and similar electronic equipments are strictly prohibited within the zone. They are constantly monitored for unsteady weather conditions.

Mission Control centre: The mission control centre is the brain of the Spacecraft. The space crafts launched upward are controlled and monitored from the mission control centre. It houses an array of workstations, each of them having an intercom radio. The live status of the launch is viewed from a panoramic wide screen at the front of the centre. The screen has a timer to count the time elapsed till the crash lf the first stage and the second stage. The mission control centre is similar to an amphitheatre. The back portion of the centre has a huge centre for accommodating audience. This is because notable launch events are witnessed by dignitaries like the defense minister, prime minister, cabinet of union minister and similar personalities.

Vehicle Assembly building: The only place to be kept strictly off bounds from visitors is the vehicle assembly building. This is because the assembly of the spacecraft, including the addition of solid propellant stages of the rocket is done here. It is at a straight distance of two miles from the launch pad. The launch pad and the vehicle assembly building are connected by a straight unobstructed road which is used for transportation of the rocket in a trolley. The solid propellants added to the rockets are manufactured in Bangalore.  

Sound rocket facility: It is a facility which was not open to visitors. It was visible while the bus took a curved route from the launch pad back to the museum, marking the end of the trip.

Museum: The museum has a number of laminated pictures, galleries and models of space crafts, the models that have been manufactured by ISRO over the years, a brief insight into space propulsion and rocketry. Mobile phones are allowed here and the museum is open to photography.

On a concluding note, the trip was an enlightening experience for students. The theories which are taught in classrooms are actually applied here and put to good use. A simple trivial error in calculations, design, assembly, manufacture or any part can lead to pre-timed failure and burning of the rocket. With crores of rupees at stake, the risk involved and the margin of error is minimal and merciless. It is a lesson that the studies that are taught in college academics are crucial.

-          Ayushman Dutta

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