CSIR labs can step in to develop materials for space missions: VSSC Director

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Highlighting the need to achieve self-reliance, Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) Dr S Unnikrishnan Nair today said the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratories can play a key role in providing cost-effective indigenous materials to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in various stages of its space missions and other projects.

Noting that depending on imported materials is not always viable, Dr Nair said ISRO needs many special materials like titanium alloy, Haynes 25 alloy and C-103 (Cobalt-based alloy for engine parts) and the country’s space agency is still facing shortage of materials like quality titanium sponge.

Dr Nair was delivering the inaugural address at thematic session on “Strategic and Regional Materials,” held as part of the ongoing ‘One Week One Lab (OWOL)’ programme of CSIR-National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (CSIR-NIIST), a constituent laboratory of CSIR, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India,at its campus at Pappanamcode here.

Dr Nair said ISRO can have a strong collaboration with CSIR-NIIST in many ways by focusing on self-reliant strategies.

Elaborating ISRO’s initiatives, Dr Nair said the country’s space agency has invested in more than 12 industries with over Rs 500 crore for manufacturing indigenised materials and products.

“For low thermal expansion glass ceramics one facility has been set up at International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), Hyderabad and we have also held discussions with CSIR labs for manufacturing space quality optical glass,” he said.

Dr Nair explained that the special viewport for astronauts made out of special glass that should withstand rigours of re-entry and at the same time should give a clear view is not made in the country. He said the difficulty is that a minimum order of quantity is required for importing the glass.

The silica gel-based products, which are used for Chandrayaan land up, cost around US$ 15,000 per kilo while importing.

Stressing the need for a viable technology, Dr Nair wanted researchers to think about ways to rescue and recycle helium gas. “There is hardly any attempt for manufacturing carbon fibre in India. Its tolerance to high temperature and high strength and other properties make it attractive for many of the space applications,” he pointed out.

Presiding over the session, Dr C Anandharamakrishnan, Director, CSIR-NIIST, Thiruvananthapuram, said CSIR-NIIST is planning to set up in-house metal,bio material and food 3D printer along with their designing and modelling group. It will definitely help bringing in a lot of visibility as well as support to strategic materials.

Dr Avanish Kumar Srivastava, Director, CSIR-Advanced Materials and Processes Research Institute (CSIR-AMPRI), Bhopal, said strategic materials have direct corelation with economy and out of 37 labs of CSIR 24 are working on strategic materials.

An MoU was exchanged between CSIR-NIIST and Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited (KMML), Kollam, on a project, “Extraction of Rare Earth Elements from the Acid Leach Liquor of KMML,” at the function. The document was exchanged between Dr Anandharamakrishnan and Mr Janardhanan Chandrabose, Managing Director, KMML, Kollam.

Three more MoUs for the joint ventures between CSIR-NIIST and industries on strategic sectors were exchanged on the occasion. Dr Anandharamakrishnan handed over the MoUs to officials of Tachlog Pvt. Ltd., Zealous Endeavour Pvt. Ltd. and Future 3D Pvt. Ltd.

Later in the day, in a session themed “Strategic Materials,”Dr V Narayanan, Director, LPSC-ISRO, Thiruvananthapuram, said low-cost access to space and cost-effective materials in the lower stages are the mantras ISRO follow while launching projects.

Dr Govind, Group Director, MMG, VSSC, ISRO, Thiruvananthapuram, said any material considered crucial to national security concerns and military applications are known as strategic materials.

According to him, recycling of strategic material is an important solution to overcome any criticality.

Dr V Srinivasa Rao, Group Director, Aerostructures ADE-DRDO, Bengaluru, said cutting edge technologies have to be nurtured within the country as technological growth is the measure of country’s economy.

“Indigenous technologies nurture Indian industries and create employment opportunities. We can also save valuable foreign exchange,” he noted.

Mr D Subramanya Shastry, Assistant General Manager, HAL, Bengaluru, said India has to produce value-added castings to meet the shortage of materials in the aeronautical industry.

Dr M Ravi, Coordinator, Strategic Materials, was the moderator. Mr Janardhanan Chandrabose, Managing Director, KMML, Kollam, also spoke.

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