Chennai, Aug 23 : Indian space scientists say that a rocket launch pad in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin district is technically an ideal location for space missions provided other requirements are also met.
"Tuticorin is a good location for a rocket that needs to fly southwards. As a matter of fact, Tuticorin was long ago considered for locating a rocket launching site but the locals opposed this," a senior official of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) told IANS preferring anonymity.
"A rocket launch site should be on the east coast and near the equator. And Tuticorin district satisfies that condition," a former ISRO official told IANS.
According to him, a spaceport in Tuticorin district will be ideal for putting satellites in polar orbit normally undertaken through ISRO's polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) and not for satellites for geostationary orbits undertaken by the geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV).
"In the case of a GSLV mission, the first stage/engine after it burns out might fall on Sri Lanka or in its maritime waters. Such a thing cannot be allowed to happen," he added.
Tamil Nadu can become a hotspot for the Indian space programme like what it is now for the country's nuclear power sector if Karunanidhi's demands of housing a rocket launch pad and an aerospace and propulsion technology institute is set up in the state.
Tamil Nadu has fast reactor research organization, the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS), 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR), Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) and other organisations connected with the atomic energy sector.
On Aug 19 when ISRO called off the much-expected launch of its GSLV rocket due to a fuel leak in its second stage/engine, DMK president M. Karunanidhi wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to set up the country's second launch site at Kulasekarapattinam in Tuticorin district around 600 km from here.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithhaa has so far refrained from commenting on the matter.
"Considering the data and details available with me, I am of the view that Kulasekarapattinam in Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) District in Tamil Nadu will be best suited to construct a new launch site," Karunanidhi wrote.
He said the place was near the equator and other ISRO centres and is also considered the best site next to French Guinea, from where some Indian satellites are launched.
Citing the shortage of aerospace and propulsion experts in the country, Karunanidhi also suggested that an Indian Institute of Aerospace and Propulsion Technology be set up at Mahendragiri in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here.
ISRO has its Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) at Mahendragiri where it assembles the second and fourth stage/engines for the PSLV. The centre also assembles the second stage engine for the GSLV rocket.
"Instead of transporting the second and fourth stages to Sriharikota from Mahendragiri it will be easier to shift them to the launch pad if it is built in Kulasekarapattinam which is around 100 km away. Further it is also near the equator," LPSC Staff Association general secretary M. Manoharan told IANS over the phone from Mahendragiri.
He said the association had already written letters on the subject to the prime minister and the ISRO top brass, among others.
Responding to criticism that a rocket launch pad in Tuticorin will be suitable only for PSLV missions, Manoharan said: "Most of the space-faring nations have more than one rocket launch site. India plans to launch several PSLV rockets. So a second rocket launch site in Tuticorin district will be better for faster and economical launches."
According to him sufficient land is available in Kulasekarapattinam and the low habitation should enable ISRO to build a spaceport there.
On setting up the aerospace and propulsion technology institute, Karunanidhi said: "The Indian Institute of Space Technology in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, established by ISRO, focusses mainly on Space Science-related studies. But there is an urgent and pressing need to establish an Institute dedicated to aerospace and propulsion Studies."
He said there was an acute shortage of aerospace and propulsion experts in our country.
Karunanidhi said the LPSC campus in Mahendragiri is ideally suited for setting up the Indian Institute of Aerospace and Propulsion Technology to focus on fields like aerospace, propulsion, high speed flights, aircraft and helicopter building and others as there is sufficient extent of land and technical expertise.
According to him, south Tamil Nadu is not industrially advanced despite its strategic and geographical advantages and the availability off talented manpower. He said the setting up of the institute and the second launch site will bring a technological revolution in this part of the country.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)