Foreign Powers likely part of ISRO Case - Daily Current Affair Article

Why in News:

The CBI on Monday stated before the Supreme Court that there may be a “larger conspiracy involving foreign powers” in the ISRO frame up case, which stalled the technology to develop the cryogenic engine by decades.

What is Cryogenic technology?

Cryogenic technology involves the use of rocket propellants at extremely low temperatures. The combination of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen offers the highest energy efficiency for rocket engines that need to produce large amounts of thrust. But oxygen remains a liquid only at temperatures below minus 183 0 Celsius and hydrogen at below minus 253 0Celsius. Building a rocket stage with an engine that runs on such propellants means overcoming engineering challenges.

A brief on India’s journey to obtain Cryogenic Technology?

  • Under Mikhail Gorbachev, Glavkosmos, the Soviet Union space agency, agreed to transfer cryogenic engines and technology to ISRO in 1991.
  • Back then very few countries had access to cryogenics as the US, Europe, Japan and China were completely averse to sharing technology.
  • But the Russians then made an exception for India. India and USSR asserted cryogenic technology was strictly for non-military uses i.e., to be used only for communication and weather satellites.
  • Disbelieving them, in 1991, the US invoked the Missile Technology Control Regime, MTCR, an association to stop the proliferation of missiles that could be used for mass destruction, to impose sanctions on the Soviet and Indian space agencies.
  • Soon after, the Soviet Union disintegrated and the new government (under Yeltsin) favouring the West arrived at a compromise with the US (Bill Clinton) in 1993 that Russia would not transfer the technology, but it would sell seven cryogenic engines to India.
  • Hence, India decided to fight back by developing its own cryogenic technology. Indian scientists conducted the first successful cryogenic engine test in the year 2003 and the first successful flight was conducted in 2014.

Why Cryogenic Technology is crucial for India?

  • Crucial for the advancement of the Space programme – Cryogenic Engine is used by ISRO for its GSLV Programme.
  • Lighter weight - High energy per unit mass is released which makes it economical and cost effective in launching space rocket.
  • Missile Programme for the Defence- Cryogenic technology is useful for the development of futuristic rocket engines
  • Clean technology - Cryogenic technology uses Hydrogen and oxygen as fuel and releases water as a by-product. This is one of its greatest achievements as no pollution is caused by its use.
  • India rises as a Space power- Earlier India was refused to be helped with technology by other countries. Only the US, Japan, France, Russia & China had this technology. Now India stands neck to neck with them.
  • Application of Cryogenic Technology in blood banks, food storage etc.

Challenges:

  • Low temperature of propellants i.e complex storage.
  • Transfer system and operation.
  • Need of ignition system.
  • Overall cost of propellants relatively high.

Way forward:

After many hurdles India has developed its own cryogenic technology engines for space vehicles i.e. CE-7.5.

But there is a need to expand this technology to other area like medical field, power generation etc. so it is time for the government to frame the policies supportive of science and technological research as India is being eyed as a technology power in the years to come.

Source: The Hindu

General Studies Paper 3
  • Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology