Educational tour to Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR at Sriharikota
The space race of a Nation shows the supremacy in spaceflight capability and has become the symbolic of ideological superiority over other Nations. It is becoming more and more competitive year after year. Educating and inducing motivation in students is therefore very essential for future space explorations and is the responsibility of each educational institution as potential younger generations could make tremendous contribution to India’s space programme. In view of exercising this responsibility, the department of Physics, Maris Stella College had arranged an educational tour to Sriharikota Higher Altitude Range (SHAR), Andhra Pradesh on 17.08.2017.
To visit and tour the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, the fulcrum of the Indian space programme at Sriharikota so as to provide additional knowledge to what students had studied about variable mass systems and multistage rocket launching techniques in the course “Mechanics and properties of Matter” during I semester.
· To learn more about variable mass systems, different launching methods of rockets into space and the process involved
· To learn about the final stage checking in Mission Control Centre (MCC), just prior to rocket launching
· To learn about the tracking techniques of a launched rocket using RADARs
· To learn about the purpose of launching rockets
Students learnt about:
· types of fuels enclosed in various stages of rockets
· the need of heat sink coverage of the rocket
· launching techniques
· functioning of Mission Control Centre just before the launching
· tracking techniques of launched rockets using RADARS
· purpose of launching rockets and parameters studied and
· job opportunities in Indian space programme at Sriharikota
Plan in arranging and execution of this tour
After getting permission from our Principal, a request letter was sent to the Director, Public Outreach and Space Museum, SHAR, Sriharikotta on 10.07.2017. We received permission letter on 08.08.2017 and were permitted to visit SHAR on 17.08.2017. We hired two forty seater non-ac buses from DURGA travels. Four staff members Dr.G.Little Flower, Mrs.T.Grace Eunice, Miss.T.Bhagyalakshmi and Miss.D.Ujwala Bharathy from the department of Physics, 78 students from B.Sc MPC, MPCS and MECS, three drivers, two bus cleaners and the travel agent Mr.T.Pradeep accompanied us.
A brief report of the visit to Sriharikota
SHAR is located on the spindle-shaped island of Sriharikota in the East coast of Andhra Pradesh, surrounded by the Bay of Bengal and Pulicat Lake that captivates the eyes of visitors. Every year, Pulicat Lake witnesses the annual migration of thousands of birds during winter. An ornithologist and nature lover’s paradise, the little island is in many ways an inspiration to scientists working in SHAR. After learning the science behind flying, launching of rockets to outer space in order to explore the possibilities of moving beyond Earth’s gravitational influence and study various parameters became the fascination and passion of many scientists.
The Sriharikota range is the second-best located spaceport in the world, next to the Kennedy space centre in the U.S. Located near the equator, it is the ideal launch site for geo-stationary satellites. SHAR’s location on the east coast ensures that it gains an additional velocity of 0.4 km/s due to Earth’s rotation to easily launch rockets and being a coastal area with no habitation provides additional advantage.
Sri K. Yacob, B. SCF/TOMD, Sriharikota, who is the father of one of our students received us at the main gate and helped us to undergo smooth security check ups and extended all the needed support. Sri P.Viswanadha Sarma, Head, PO & SM, Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, SRIHARIKOTA welcomed us at the library and we were directed to the auditorium situated above the Library by Mr. V. Janardhan, Technician–D where an half-an hour video about the history of launching rockets from SHAR was shown to us. Sri Anil Moora Library Assistant-A, LDF/MSA, SDSC SHAR was our tour guide and he explained wonderfully about the overall functioning of SHAR.
After series of security checks, we were taken to Mission Control Centre (MCC) a DOME Structure (Spaceship-shaped) with plinth area of 7000 sqm with 1+3 floors building. This centre is the hub of SHAR during its rocket launching operations. It becomes the home to SHAR’s scientists and the launch vehicle is monitored from here during the countdown phase till the injection of the satellite into the orbit. It is equipped with giant screens, hundreds of computers, large digital countdown timers, an array of electrical switches, knobs and coloured buttons on panels. MCC becomes the home to SHAR’s scientists during the crucial launch phase. Equipped with two galleries VVIP and VIP, Elite persons like our Prime Minister, Chief Minister and other VIIP’s will be witnessing from VVIP gallery and other Eminent Scientists and foreigners would be seated in the MCC’s gallery room to watch the entire launching process from preliminary checks on operational systems onboard to the countdown and tracking of the rocket till it places the satellite in orbit. A video about thirty ninth flight (PSLV-C37), ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle successfully launching the 714 kg Cartosat-2 Series Satellite along with 103 co-passenger satellites on February 15, 2017 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota was shown to us. This huge room thus brought a revered hush to the excited students. They felt it as their privilege to stand in such a reputed hall and observe the giant screens.
A DOME Structure Mission Control Centre (MCC)
Next we visited the Second Launch pad (SLP) situated at the border of the ocean located 6 kms from the MCC. During launch time, air, sea and land area within nearly 6 kms in the radius of SHAR is cordoned off. We were informed that entire stages of the launch vehicle is assembled and checked-out on a mobile pedestal in a dedicated Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and then moved in vertical position to the Launch Pad. This concept reduces the pad occupancy and enables the vehicle to move back to VAB for protection, in event of any cyclone warning.
The important facilities under SLP
· Launch Pad with an umbilical tower of 70 m tall and a jet deflector.
· A Vehicle assembly building which is 83 m tall 40m long and 32m broad. The VAB has two overhead cranes that move on rails.
· A twin rail tracks of a kilo meter length connecting the VAB with Launch Pad
· Mobile Launch Pedestal over which the vehicle in integrated, moves on a 16-whelled Bogie. The Bogie positions the pedestal and drives it with the vehicle standing on it.
The UT feeds the propellants to the vehicle before the Lift-off. We could see a 12-meter deep (JET DEFLECTOR DUCT) well-trough at the launch site that deflects the exhaust from the rocket during launch. Huge amount of water would be sprayed through water sprinklers to control the Vibration and acoustic levels and reduces the impact of exhaust from the rocket and safe guard the building and the launch pad. Students were excited to peep into the trough and giant umbilical tower. This umbilical tower is 68.5 meter tall and has the foundation of almost same depth so as to have a strong and a stable structure. Thus, the assembling building is stationary and the assembled rocket is moved to launching pad.
A twin rail tracks of a kilo meter length connecting the VAB with Launch Pad
Next we, visited first Launch Pad FLP, called IOP – Integration on pad facilitates. The vertical integration of the stages of the PSLV and GSLV are assembled here. Working platforms provide access to the vehicle at various levels. Mobile Service Tower (MST) acts as a shelter to the vehicle and personnel during integration. After integration, 32 Hydraulic Wheels will be moving the MST about 200 m away from the Launch Pad leaving the rocket on the Launch Pedestal. The charred shrubs and trees in that area are the signs of the launchings that takes place here which put India into an elite league of countries having the capability to indigenously build cryogenic engines.
First Launch Pad FLP, called IOP (Integration on pad facilitates)
We also visited Telemetry, Tracking and command network unit with Radar I and II stations where scientists Mr. Narayana and Mrs. Sabina briefed us about how three RADARs track the launched rocket from the instant of launching. Initially, radar situated at SHAR tracks it followed by the second radar situated at Trivandrum and then followed by the third radar situated at Morisius for the rest of the rocket travel time. The entire data gathered will be transmitted to the scientists of satellite team. From the tracking record, one can accurately predict the range of the rocket. They also explained about polar satellites and geostationary satellites and how they can be tracked with the help of RADARS. The position of the satellite can be raised or lowered or can be speeded up or destroyed whenever any deviation takes place in the path of the rocket from the launched orbit using electronics systems placed inside the satellite which can be remotely handled. Geo stationary satelittes are useful in TV, radio, telecommunication, video conferences, meteorological studies etc.
Students got amused at the space museum. The information regarding the past, present and future rocket launches, the exhibits and models enlightened the young minds. Our guide Sri Anil Moora also addressed the students about various job opportunities in Indian space programme at Sriharikota. Our entire team acknowledges our gratitude to Sri P.ViswanadhaSarma, Head, PO & SM, SatishDhawan Space Centre SHAR for granting permission to visit SHAR, Sri K.Yacob for his kind support throughout the tour and Sri Anil Moora for his eminent explanation about the functions of various units of SHAR. Thus, this tour to Sriharikota was very educative and very much inspiring.