Guess how was India’s first rocket transported to Thumba Equatorial Launching Station about 43 years ago for the lift-off? It was transported on a bicycle! The rocket was so small weighing only few kilos that it could be easily carried in one hand — a sharp contrast from the GSLV rockets which are nearly 70 m long and weighing more than 400 tons. The second rocket, which was launched by ISRO sometime later, was a little bigger and heavier and it was transported in a bullock cart for the lift off.
November has special importance for the ISRO because it was in November 21, 1963, that the first rocket roared into the sky from Thumba. In the four decades since then, more than 3000 sounding rockets have been flown for various experiments, said P S Thakker, senior scientist with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The sounding rockets were the early rudimentary rockets when the technology was at the begining stage.
Since then, India has taken rapid strides in space technology and brought several benefits to the nation, Thakker added. A picture in the back cover of an ISRO journal of Oct-Dec 2003 issue showing this Nike-Apache rocket being taken on a cycle by a man for lift-off tells poignantly the tale of rapid advancement in India’s space technology.
ISRO has now achieved technological excellence. In 1980, it launched successfully SLV-3 which weighed about 17 tons at lift off and placed Rohini satellite weighing about 40 kg in the orbit.
Now, it has the capacity to take 1,600 kg and 2,000 kg satellites into the polar orbit and geosynchronous transfer orbit using the PSLV and GSLV respectively, Thakker added. ISRO is now developing the GSLV mark III which will have fewer stages and better reliability besides much reduced cost once the new vehicle is developed, Thakker said adding it would open new avenues in future.