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The Hindu
The Hindu
The Hindu Bureau

Kulasekarapattinam spaceport will launch small satellites within two years: ISRO chairman

The Kulasekarapattinam spaceport will be ready in two years to launch small satellites, Indian Space Research Organisation chairman S. Somanath has said.

During an informal chat with reporters after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the Kulasekarapattinam spaceport on Wednesday, February 28, 2024, Mr. Somanath said the construction of ISRO’s second satellite launch facility would be completed within two years to launch SSLVs, (Small Satellite Launch Vehicles) in order to inject small satellites into a predetermined orbit. The upcoming facility would have the capacity to launch 24 satellites per year.

On the launch of the Rohini Sounding Rocket from the mobile launch pad on Wednesday to mark the commencement of physical work on the spaceport, Mr. Somanath said it would reach an altitude of up to 60 km.

When a satellite is launched into space from ISRO’s Sriharikota facility in Andhra Pradesh, the rocket first heads east, and then turn south. Since Sri Lanka is located to the south of Sriharikota, this diversion is made to avoid the neighbour country’s airspace. But the satellite launch from Kulasekaranpattinam spaceport doesn’t have to take this diversion and the rockets can now head straight in the southern direction. Also, Kulasekaranpattinam is closer to the equator than Sriharikota. Both these factors could contribute to saving fuel, Mr. Somanath explained.

 ISRO has designed SSLVs to launch light-weight satellites at low costs. These SSLVs can be used to launch satellites that weigh less than 500 kg into the lower earth orbit. Launching these satellites from Sriharikota incurs more expense due to the longer distance the rocket has to travel. Since more fuel needs to be carried to cover the longer distance, this reduces the rocket’s payload capacity. ISRO scientists have noted that launching small rockets from Sriharikota is difficult for these reasons, he said.

Scientists believe that the upcoming spaceport in Kulasekaranpattinam could be an ideal solution to this problem. Moreover, the ISRO Propulsion Research Complex located in Mahendragiri, in Tirunelveli district is relatively closer to the Kulasekarapattinam spaceport. It is at this centre that the propellants meant for rockets are synthesized, tested and transported 780 km to reach Sriharikota. However, the distance between Kulasekaranpattinam and the Propulsion Research Complex is a mere 88 kilometres. This makes it easier to transport the rocket components safely, and within a much shorter time, thus reducing the costs involved. All these factors make Kulasekaranpattinam a better option.

ISRO plans to launch the small satellites on a commercial basis from the Kulasekaranpattinam spaceport. Therefore, the new spaceport is going to be very beneficial for the launches, Mr. Somanath said.

“Kulasekaranpattinam, better known for its Dussehra celebrations at Sri Mutharamman Temple, is all set to witness phenomenal growth, thanks to satellite-based space technology and the efforts of the Central government. Scientists predict that a number of allied industries will come up in the neighbourhood. This will create thousands of jobs, thus benefitting the entire Thoothukudi district,” said Tamilisai Soundararajan, Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, in a statement.

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