'India, France now equal partners'

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    The Hindu : Sci-Tech : 'India, France now equal partners'

    Extracts from an exclusive interview with Dr. K Radhakrishnan, Chairman ISRO who speaks on Indo-French cooperation in space as it enters its 30th year.

    “We have a very close collaboration with the French going back many decades. In the 60s the French had sounding rocket technology called the Centaur to measure activity in the upper atmosphere at altitudes of up to 200 kilometres. This technology was made available to us and we began producing sounding rockets in Thumba.

    “In the 70s there was another major association, on the liquid propulsion Viking engine, a technology that we needed for the PSLV launch vehicles. There was no transfer in cash, just close scientific collaboration and the Viking later became the Vikas. We have understood, assimilated and upgraded this technology and we continue to use it today for the PSLV 2nd stage and GSLV 2nd stage. We use indigenous materials and components and we have developed 60 to 70 such engines in India.

    “Another milestone occurred when the French developed the Ariane rocket. They asked the international community if anyone was interested in using their developmental flights. That meant you did not pay for the satellite launch but that if the mission failed, you had to bear the loss. There was a risk factor involved and India decided to take that risk, successfully launching APPLE, the Ariane Passanger Payload Experiment on 19 June 1981. That was Ariane’s 3rd developmental flight. And this paved the way for indigenously produced communications satellites, that is the INSAT-2 series, INSAT-3 series and now the GSAT series. India has so far built 55 satellites – communications, remote sensing and satellites for space science including the Chandrayaan.

    “This is the part of the story when we gained from France. After that we became equal partners and perhaps the most significant programme that sums up this equal partnership is Megha-tropiques — combining the Sanskrit word Megha meaning cloud and the French tropiques which indicates the area we hope to study — ocean and meteorological observations in the tropics. In this partnership the instruments are made by the CNES the French National Centre for Space Studies, the satellite is made by India and the launch takes place from India in Sriharikota. This programme is now in the final stage and the satellite will be finished by end of August and by September Megha-tropiques should be launched. Once completed the data collected by this programme will made available to the global community. This is not a commercial but venture but a programme for the world’s scientists.

    “The next step will be a major Science Seminar in Bangalore for the scientists of the two countries to meet and discuss issues like climate change, the instruments needed to measure climate change and other developments.”
     
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