An Alternative Stack for India’s Space Programme

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 31, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Ever since appearing in this article by Srinivas Laxman, he has teased me as being a Vehicle Director and I do fancy myself as one. The idea of the alternative stack has stuck with me.

Later that day, I was speaking to my rocketeer friend, Hemil Modi from Pune. We were discussing some of the frustrations we were facing in flying rockets in India – amateur rockets. We were also discussing the lack of a NewSpace company in India like SpaceX or at least something in development. We thought that a failure such as GSLV’s would not really affect the communication satellites programme and India would have other indigenous alternatives other than the Ariane-5 to fall back on. I commented that this could be some time in the future.

The talk of SpaceX make me go back and look at the recently tested Falcon-9. This rocket developed by SpaceX has tested the capability (and still undergoes tests) of supplying cargo and one day humans to the International Space Station. SpaceX uses the Merlin liquid fuel engine and 9 of them in a single stack. The second stage of the two-staged Falcon-9 uses a modified Merlin that performs in vacuum conditions of space.

My own vehicle stack suggestion is based on this two stage configuration. Under the current conditions, I think ISRO could consider 7 Vikas engines coupled with each other could form a formidable first stage with an indigenous cryogenic engine forming the second stage.

I call this project the ILPX -Indian Liquid Propellant Vehicle Experiment. For starters, I hope to demonstrate liquid propellant recoverable sub-orbital capability. This will use the LOX/RP1 fuel mixture. This does not move into space regimes but demonstrates payload capability. This itself is no small task and I have no idea how I will proceed. The ultimate aim is to provide an alternative medium lift (2-4 tonnes to GTO) reusable capability from India. I think alternatives of this could be used for heavy lift (4-10 tonnes to GTO) reusable capability as well. This would work towards reducing cost of missions to the Moon, asteroids and Mars.

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