Vikram SaraBhai Space Centre (VSSC) is the lead Centre for development of satellite launch vehicles and associated technologies. The Centre pursues active research and development in a host of distinct technology domains like aeronautics, avionics, composites, etc with a view to achieve self-reliance in the high tech realm of launch vehicle technology.The modern era of space research in India can be said to have formally started in 1961 when the Government of India entrusted the study of the subject of space research and of the peaceful uses of outer space to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), functioning under the able leadership of Dr. Homi J Bhabha. In 1962 DAE set up Indian National Committee for space Research (INCOSPAR) with Prof. Vikram Sarabhai as chairman to organize a national space programme. One of the first things that INCOSPAR took up was the establishment of Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) at Thumba, near Thiruvananthapuram
November 21, 1963 was a golden day in the Indian Space chronology, when rocket-based research in the country had formally begun. (Dr Homi J Bhabha).A two-stage sounding rocket, Nike Apache, imported from the United States was launched on that day, heralding the operationalisation of Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS). TERLS was established at Thumba because the geo-magnetic equator of earth passed over the very place. Hence Thumba was selected as the site for establishes a rocket station that would launch sounding rockets intended for meteorological and upper atmospheric research
In 1969, INCOSPAR was reconstituted as an advisory body under the India National Science Academy (INSA) and the Indian Space Research Organisation was born. Government of India constituted the Space Commission and established the Department of Space (DOS) in 1972 and brought ISRO under DOS on June 01, 1972.After the sudden demise of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai on December 30, 1971, the whole space establishments at Thiruvananthapuram was rechristiened as Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.
Over the last four decades VSSC has matured into a Centre of Excellence in launch vehicle technology. The successful completion of ASLV-D3 and ASLV-D4 missions and the subsequent operationalisation of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) have established the soundness of the indigenous capability in design and development of complex launch vehicles and in carrying out launch missions.The Organisation of VSSC is structured in a matrix form comprising of Projects and Entities. The core proje ct teams manage project activities. System level activities of the projects are carried out by system development agencies. Major programmes of VSSC include Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), Rohini Sounding Rocket, Space Capsule Recovery Experiment, Reusable Launch Vehicles and Air Breathing Propulsion.VSSC is a major R&D Centre with core competencies in varied disciplines. The Centre has well-defined and focused research activities and pursues research and development in the fields of aeronautics, avionics, composites, computer and information technology, control guidance and simulation, launch vehicle design, mechanical engineering, mechanisms vehicle integration and testing, propellants polymers and materials, propulsion propellants and space ordnance, and systems reliability.These research Entities are the system development agencies for the Projects and thus provide for the realization of the project objectives. Management systems area provides for programme planning and evaluation, human resource development, budget and manpower, technology transfer, documentation and outreach activities. The Centre has strong administrative and auxiliary services to support in its activities.
Most of launch vehicle development is carried out at VSSC. After the first Nike Apache sounding rocket, a series of rockets were launched from Thumba, which was followed by many other sounding rockets of various types such as Arcas and Dragon from USA, Judi-dart, Petrel and Skua from UK and Centaure from France. The USSR meteorological sounding rockets called M-100 were launched from TERLS every week from 1970 until 1993, launching 1161 rockets during that periodOver the years VSSC has designed, developed and launched a family of sounding rockets under the generic name, Rohini Sounding Rockets (RSR) to serve a range of scientific missions. The currently operational Rohini Sounding Rockets are RH-200, RH-300, RH-560 and their different versions. These sounding rockets are launched for carrying out research in areas like meteorology and upper atmospheric processes up to an altitude of about 500 km.
VSSC has a large workforce of about 4500 employees, most of them specialists in frontier disciplines. With its state of the art facilities in all the disciplines the Centre has grown expertise in a host of technology areas. Aerodynamic and aero thermal design, trajectory optimization for launch vehicles, mission planning, wind modeling, structural load estimation, are some of the specialist areas in aeronautics. The Centre is almost self reliant in avionics systems with capability for development, qualification and production of critical systems like navigation guidance and control, telemetry tracking and command, and control actuation systems. The Centre has matured in the development qualification and production of a larger spectrum of composite structures for launch vehicles and satellites. Expertise in design planning and production of launch vehicle hardware has been possible with the establishment of large in-house and industrial facilities. Aerospace mechanisms, integration activities and checkout operation of launch vehicles are its forte. Its R&D efforts have yielded some of the best solid propellant formulations with facilities to produce them. The materials and chemical requirements, propulsion studies, space ordnance systems and pyrotechnic devices are developed and produced in house. Considerable development has taken place in various areas of navigation systems so much so that a separate Unit called ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU) has been established at Vattiyoorkavu
VSSC has its own contributions in the continuing expansion of space applications programmes like village resources centres, tele-medicine, tele-education, disaster management support and outreach through direct-to-home television, India’s first mission to Moon- Chandrayaan-1, etc. Thus the Centre is agog with activities that continue to pursue successful goals on all fronts in meeting the larger objective: achieving self-reliance in space technology and its applications for national development.