Launch Vehicles a Top Priority in ISRO 2008-2009 Budget

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BANGALORE, India — Launch vehicle development commands the largest share of a 2008-2009 Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) budget of 40.74 billion rupees ($1 billion), an increase of nearly 40 percent over last year.

The budget includes 15.89 billion rupees for launch vehicles and 7.22 billion rupees for satellite development, according to ISRO budget documents released to the parliament. India’s fiscal year runs from April through March.

Also included is 1.25 billion rupees for ISRO’s fledgling human spaceflight program that aims to develop a “fully autonomous” two-person capsule that would orbit at 400 kilometers before returning the crew to Earth, the budget documents said.

Detailed studies have begun “on the technologies required for realizing the flight safety and reliability, propulsion systems, advanced materials etc.,” the budget documents said. Formulation of the project proposal for government approval “is in progress,” the documents said.

ISRO is preparing for the launch, scheduled for later this year, of its first Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) featuring an indigenously developed cryogenic upper-stage engine. Previous GSLV versions have been outfitted with Russian-built upper-stage engines. ISRO also is working on a heavy-lift variant of the vehicle.

According to the budget documents, ISRO has earmarked 220 million rupees for development of a high-thrust semi-cryogenic engine that will use kerosene as fuel and liquid oxygen as oxidizer a “future advanced launch vehicle.”

The new budget also provides for development of a small satellite for oceanography studies; a geostationary imager for constant environmental surveillance; a Technology Experiment Satellite in Hyper Spectral Imaging; a Radar Imaging Satellite for Disaster Management; and an advanced mapping satellite called Cartosat-3.

The budget provides 4.1 billion rupees for “Administration and Other Program,” which includes an effort to facilitate production of various space-related electronic components, materials and chemicals by Indian industry. That portion of the budget “also includes procurement of certain long lead and critical items for futuristic missions,” the documents said.

ISRO’s Institute of Space Science & Technology, which was established in September to cultivate talent for India’s space program, is slated to receive 650 million in the upcoming year. The institute admits 150 students per year; tuition is free but graduates must work at ISRO for five years.