This Article is From Aug 18, 2023

"Can't Have Frugal Engineering Alone, Need Bigger Rockets": Ex-ISRO Chief

K Sivan said the government has taken a step in this direction by opening up space activities to the private sector.

'Can't Have Frugal Engineering Alone, Need Bigger Rockets': Ex-ISRO Chief

Mr Sivan said India's ambitions will get a boost with the Gaganyaan mission.

New Delhi:

India's Mars mission may have cost less than some Hollywood films, but the era of jugaad and frugal engineering in the country will need to make way for more money and bigger rockets in the future, former ISRO chief K Sivan has said. 

While Chandrayaan-3 launched on July 14 and the lander is expected to touch down on the Moon on August 23, Russia launched its lunar mission on August 10 and a landing is planned on August 21. 

The huge difference in the time taken by the missions is because India opted to slingshot to the Moon, which involves using the Earth's gravity to propel a spacecraft on its trajectory, while Russia used a heavier rocket to place the satellite directly into the lunar orbit. 

In an exclusive interview with NDTV today, Mr Sivan said, "We need bigger rockets and bigger systems. We cannot live with frugal engineering alone. We need to have high-power rockets and high-end technology. For that, this government has done one good thing: they have opened up space activities to private industries."

The former ISRO chief said the private sector is showing interest and the results have already started showing. "I am sure they will soon be able to take up high-end technology as well. Investment won't be a problem," he said. 

He said India's ambitions will get a boost with the Gaganyaan mission, which will be the country's first manned mission in space. "Once this technology is proven and available, we can think of a space station, a permanent human habitat on the Moon and many other things."

Casting light on the reaction of scientists to Chandrayaan-1 finding water on the Moon in 2009.  Mr Sivan said it was a really exciting moment for the entire Isro community. "When something was told that it is not there and we discovered it (sic). I also rejoiced at the discovery."

On the importance of rockets and ISRO's evolution from using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), then the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and now the Launch Vehicle Mark-III (LVM3), Mr Sivan said, "For space systems, whether it is a rocket or spacecraft or anything else, how they differ from terrestrial systems is in terms of quality and reliability. Without these, we would not achieve any of the missions. 

"Space systems will get a chance to work only once, and that too in space. So our systems have been built perfectly to the level of quality and reliability that we expected," he added.

On the significance of India developing cryogenic engines despite pressure from the West, the former ISRO chief said the engines are essential to enhance payload capabilities. 

"Without that, the mass of the satellites that we can carry would be reduced. We started developing cryogenic engines on our own. Initially, we worked with Russians to produce engines of a similar kind. We have now developed new, high-power cryogenic engines that are working very well. Now, we are working on semi-cryogenic engine technology," he said.

Asked whether India is working on reusable rockets, like SpaceX is doing, the former ISRO chief said technology demonstrations are being conducted for vertical landing and such rockets can be developed once that is done.

Mr Sivan said ISRO gives equal opportunities to men and women, and urged young Indians to develop a scientific temper so that they can help the country in the future with their discoveries.