Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hot Times for Cryogenic Launchers

With all the fuss and bother around the Obama administration and the recent changes being made (or at least attempted) in the American space program, it's interesting to note that some of the most important changes are new capabilities being developed outside the US in countries with ongoing and strong Canadian connections.

For example, according to the NDTV news website article "GSLV failure: Work on cryogenic engine to continue," the Indian government will continue work on what they call the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) using an Indian developed cryogenic rocket engine which is generally considered as one of the keys to developing a heavy lift launch vehicle. According to the article:
"India has no choice but to master this technology in the long run as it is technology that has been denied to the country, the sources said.

It took the country more than 15 years to develop the cryogenic engine as technology for this was denied when, in the 1990s, America put pressure on Russia and forced the cancellation of an Indo-Russian technology transfer deal. The argument given was that India would use these engines to make missiles.
Of course, the Indian government ended up making missiles anyway and now has a comprehensive inventory developed through their Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP). It looks like they'll shortly master the core cryogenic technology as well.

Their goal is the large and lucrative global satellite market which has always been dependent on heavy lift launch vehicles using cryogenic rockets and is currently controlled by the United States, Russia, China, Ukraine and the European Space Agency.

Even the Voice of America, traditionally tied to the United States government (and certainly no friend of missile proliferation), is willing to accept that the present Indian activities are essentially commercial, at least according to their article "India's Efforts to Master Cryogenic Engine Tech Setback Commercial Space Program" which states:
India's dependence on Russian built cryogenic engines to launch heavy satellites has hampered growth, and prompted Indian scientists to develop the technology.

Indian space scientists hope to offer satellite launch services at much cheaper rates compared to Western countries, and expand the business to about $120 million a year.
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and other organizations which already use facilities operated through the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) cannot help but benefit from the lower launch costs promised by this Indian initiative.

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