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Former ISRO Scientist: ‘International conspiracy’ halted India’s leap into space

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Bengaluru: The indigenous cryogenic engine which was put on the pedestal last Friday for the third time by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) in a ground test proved its mettle. This huge step towards a geostationary satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) in December could prove to be the country’s first heavy-lift version in this field.

This was the third and final successful ground test of the indigenous cryogenic engine by ISRO.

The GSLV-Mark-III can carry a payload of four tons, about twice the capacity of ISRO’s existing rockets. The C-20 engine that was “hot tested” for 635 seconds at the Liquid Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu will be used to power the rocket’s upper stage.

But S Nambinarayanan, former Project director of ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems, says this milestone could have been crossed 12 years ago had his project not been derailed by an “international conspiracy” to halt India’s leap into space.

It was Nambinarayanan who introduced the liquid fuel rocket technology in India in the 1980s. The Vikas engine used today by all ISRO launch vehicles, including the one that took Chandrayaan-1 to the moon in 2008 and Mangalyaan, was the result of two decades of work by his team with assistance from France.

And, as project director of the newly-launched indigenous cryogenic engine project, he plunged headlong into developing the propulsion systems for ISRO’s GSLV and interplanetary missions. With this in mind, in 1991, he signed a contract on behalf of ISRO with the Russian space agency Glavkosmos for the technology transfer of a cryogenic propulsion system.

But things did not turn out as planned. Glavkosmos, in 1993, reneged under pressure from the United States. And Nambinarayanan was arrested on November 1994 on charges of selling India’s “rocket secrets to Pakistan through two Maldivian women ‘spies’ leading to his suspension from his job.” With Nambinarayanan out of the scene, the cryogenic engine development suffered.

“Cancellation of the contract and my arrest were part of an agenda of the US, accomplished by conniving with officials of our Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Kerala Police,” Nambinarayanan told this correspondent in an email. As an evidence of conspiracy, he refers to the dismissal of an IB officer of the rank of the joint director in 1996 for his alleged links with the CIA.

In fact, in 1996, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), which took up the “ISRO spy case” found it to be false and fabricated by the IB and the Kerala Police- a finding endorsed by the Supreme Court in April 1998 and by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in September 1999.

The NHRC also passed strictures against the Kerala government for having “tarnished (Nambinarayanan’s) long and distinguished career in space research apart from the physical and mental torture to which he and his family were subjected.”

Nambinarayanan says he managed to obtain the supplies and documents relating to the cryogenic engine from Russia’s Glavkosmos before it cancelled the contract and arranged a private airline (Ural Aviation) to transport the cargo to India in four shipments.

“With this, I hoped ISRO could master the cryogenic technology,” he said. But his suspension from ISRO’s cryogenics systems project put an end to that.

“Had there been no conspiracy, ISRO would have achieved space power status long back, maybe as early as 2000,” Nambinarayanan told reporters. “Today, we are not only delayed by more than 12 years but have also lost several billion dollars worth of launch business.”

The rocket scientist feels sad that while the CBI concluded that the ISRO “spy case” was false and fabricated, nobody bothered to unearth the motives behind it or punish those officers of the IB and the Kerala Police who were charged with negligence and dereliction of duty by CBI.

“The government should constitute a special investigation team to find out the total truth in the ISRO spy case,” he said.

While ISRO is celebrating last week’s successful “hot test” of its new cryogenic engine, Nambinarayanan, 75, who started this work two decades ago, is now spending much of his time fighting court cases, to get Rs 1 crore (Over $145,000) in damages he had claimed from the state and central governments.

He is also seeking action against police officers who framed him and others in a false case that harmed India’s space program. (K.S. Jayaraman, IANS)

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  • Ravi

    What a loss for the nation ! Some people would sell their mother for money. Look at the gravity of the crime committed against Shri Nambinarayan! Those responsible should be punished and their ill gotten wealth to be confiscated.

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Hubble Returns To Normal Functioning Soon: NASA

After the engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations, NASA stated

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NASA, tissue
NASA to send tissue chips to space to test human health, genetic changes. Flcikr

NASA has brought Hubble Space Telescope’s seven-year old backup gyroscope (gyro) back to life, after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro earlier this month, the US space agency said on Tuesday.

A gyro is a device that measures the speed at which the spacecraft is turning and is needed to help Hubble turn and lock on to new targets.

Hubble’s backup gyro, which had been off for more than 7.5 years, was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates, NASA said in a statement.

Hubble
The Hubble Telescope hovering in space. Wikimedia Commons

This gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on October 5.

Additional tests will be performed to ensure Hubble can return to science operations with this gyro, NASA said.

To correct high rotation rates, the Hubble team executed a running restart of the gyro on October 16.

This procedure turned the gyro off for one second, and then restarted it before the wheel spun down.

However, the data showed no improvement in the gyro’s performance.

Hubble Telescope. red dwarf
This gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on October 5. Flickr

The team, then on October 18, commanded a series of spacecraft maneuvers, or turns, in opposite directions to attempt to clear any blockage that may have caused the float to be off-centre and produce the exceedingly high rates.

During each maneuver, the gyro was switched from high mode to low mode to dislodge any blockage that may have accumulated around the float.

They noticed a significant reduction in the high rates, allowing rates to be measured in low mode for brief periods of time.

On October 19, the team again commanded Hubble to perform additional maneuvers and gyro mode switches, which appear to have cleared the issue.

NASA mars, UAE, Hubble
The planet Mars is shown May 12, 2016 in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope view when it was 50 million miles from Earth. VOA

The rotation rates produced by the backup gyro have since reduced and are now within an expected range, NASA noted.

Also Read: New Gamma-Ray Collection Named After Hulk, Godzilla: NASA

The team plans to execute a series of tests to evaluate the performance of the gyro under conditions similar to those encountered during routine science observations, including moving to targets, locking on to a target, and performing precision pointing.

After these engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations, NASA stated. (IANS)