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ISRO plans to reuse dead rockets in space to run science experiments

ISRO will be the first space agency to try bringing the last stage back to life.

  • Published: December 13, 2018 3:58 PM IST
gslv-isro

Image Credit: ISRO


ISRO is working on a new technology that could add life to dead rockets in space. A dead rocket in space is generally considered to be nothing but debris but ISRO believes that it can be useful. The Indian Space Research Organisation is working on a technology that will use the last stage of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) for space experiments.

The technology demonstration of this new system will be performed when the space agency launches the PSLV C44 rocket in January. Normally, the last stage of a rocket becomes dead after releasing the primary satellite in space and is categorized as debris. However, it remains in the same orbit as that of the released satellite.

“Now, we are working on a new technology where we will give life to this “dead” last stage of PSLV, also called PS4 stage, for six months after its launch,” K Sivan, ISRO Chairman told TOI. “This rocket stage will double up as a satellite. This will be the most cost-effective way to perform experiments in space as we don’t have to launch a separate rocket for the purpose,” he added.

“India is the only country in the world that is working on this new technology,” Sivan claimed while explaining the technology. ISRO plans to make the rocket stage of PSLC C44 alive with the help of a new system that will include batteries and solar panel. The PSLV C44 is scheduled to carry a microsat as the primary satellite in January.

Even after the primary stage separates from the PSLV, the last stage of the rocket will remain active. ISRO plans to use it as an experimental platform for new space technologies. Students or space scientists can attach their micro or nano satellites to this last stage and carry out experiments after the primary stage is separated.

“ISRO can do the same with the GSLV rocket as well where we can use its last stage as an experimental platform,” Sivan added. He confirmed that the space agency will soon invite proposals from students and space scientists to make use of its technology.

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Space agencies around the world use a rocket only once to deliver satellites in space. SpaceX, a space startup founded by Elon Musk, remains an exception by reusing the first stage of the rocket. While ISRO plans to reuse the last stage in space, SpaceX recovers only the first stage and has never experimented with the last stage of its Falcon9 rocket.

  • Published Date: December 13, 2018 3:58 PM IST