As India Gets Its Second Space Port, Rocket Startups Excited

ISRO says the new site will be ready in another two years time and will cost a little under Rs 1000 crores.

As India Gets Its Second Space Port, Rocket Startups Excited

The Kulasekharapatnam site is expected to be operational in two years.

New Delhi:

India's spacefaring efforts will receive a significant boost today as Prime Minister Narendra Modi lays the foundation stone for the country's second launch site in Kulasekharapatnam, located in the Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu. The small rocket community in India, both at ISRO and startups, is buzzing with excitement over the new launch pad, anticipating increased efficiency in launching small rockets.

Until now, the country had a single spaceport situated at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, from where all rockets launching satellites into space were deployed. India has conducted 95 launches from Sriharikota to date, with 80 of them deemed successful. Named the Satish Dhawan Space Center, it had humble beginnings in 1971 with the launch of an RH-125 sounding rocket. The center is currently preparing for the launch of Gaganyaan, India's human space flight effort. Positioned as one of the southernmost rocket ports globally, the Satish Dhawan Space Center enjoys a clear advantage, but it also faces a significant drawback. For rockets launching southward or in polar trajectories, the land mass of Sri Lanka poses a safety concern, preventing rocket debris from falling on foreign soil.

To mitigate this, ISRO has historically performed a special maneuver known as the 'dogleg maneuver' to bypass Sri Lanka during direct southward launches. This maneuver incurs a penalty but is manageable for larger rockets like PSLV, GSLV, and LVM-3, where ample fuel is carried. However, as India masters the launch of smaller rockets like the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), which can carry satellites weighing up to 500 kilograms, the limitations of using Sriharikota as the preferred launch site become apparent.

A rocket specialist from ISRO explains that launching small rockets with payloads of about 500-700 kilograms from Sriharikota in polar or southern trajectories becomes nearly impossible. Consequently, Kulasekharapatnam, with its burgeoning market for small rockets, has been selected as the second launch site to address these challenges.

India's Science Minister, Dr. Jitendra Singh, informed the parliament that the Tamil Nadu government has allocated over 961 hectares in the Thoothukudi area for the second launch site. ISRO authorities emphasize that the rocket launch pad at Kulasekharapatnam, being close to the equator, is ideal for placing satellites in polar orbits. Skyroot Aerospace Private Limited, the first private company to achieve a sub-orbital launch, anticipates benefits from the new launch site. Pawan Chandana, the founder of Skyroot, expresses enthusiasm, stating that the site enables southward launches to Sun-synchronous polar orbits without compromising payload, catering to the growing market for such missions.

Agnikul Cosmos Private Limited, currently gearing up for the launch of its small on-demand rocket called Agniban, sees the new site as ideal for their small liquid-fueled rockets. According to ISRO, the Kulasekharapatnam site is expected to be operational in two years, with a projected cost of just under Rs 1000 crores. This development is poised to provide a substantial boost to new private space companies, ensuring the full efficiency of their rockets to maximize returns.