New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) Boeing has offered to partner with India on manned space missions, including on the very significant “composite cryogenic tanks” for the launch and propulsion control of rockets.
The development is apparently a fallout of US President Barack Obama’s visit here last November and the recent removal of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) from the so-called US Commerce Entities list which prohibited the transfer of dual use high technology to them.
According to Vivek Lall, Boeing’s Defence, Space and Security vice president in India, the company had an established and leading role in US space missions, including in the space shuttle programme, and that with the experience built over decades, “we believe we can provide value-added assistance to India’s space programme”.
He told India Strategic defence magazine (www.indiastrategic.in) that Boeing had the necessary clearance to initiate discussions with India, “but how forward the two countries go would depend upon what India wants and the bilateral agreements between the two governments”.
“At the moment, we have indicated the intent to cooperate. It is up to ISRO now to tell us what it wants, and we will do our best,” Lal said, adding that he had recently called on ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan to make the offer.
Any specifics however would have to be cleared procedurally by the US government (Departments of State, Defence and Commerce), he said but pointed out: “We have submitted a formal request to the US Department of State to enable us to proceed down this path should our services be accepted. Our initial discussions focus on ISROs requirements for the future.”
The soft-spoken US-educated Lall, who has successfully spearheaded the Boeing campaign for military aircraft and systems in India for the past few years, said that while the levels of technologies to be transferred from the US to India was between the two governments, Boeing was willing to share its expertise in “Launch Escape System (LES), Vehicle Health Monitoring System and Abort Triggers (VHMSAT), Life Support System, Crew Accommodations and other areas such as reusable space systems and composite cryogenic tanks”.
It may be noted that India’s own effort at developing cryogenic tanks – which contain highly volatile rocket fuels like liquid methane and liquid hydrogen – has not been fully successful, and ISRO has relied so far on tanks given by Russia for its heavy payload rockets.
There was a time when the US objected to the Soviet Union, and later Russia, in sharing its cryogenic technology with India.
Notably though, now, US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who led a high-level delegation to India and visited Bangalore to attend the AeroIndia 2011 on Feb 9, also met with Indian space officials there.
Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs, the officer who actually authorizes the release of military or dual use technologies to other countries and was a member of Locke’s delegation, told newsmen that the US was releasing “unprecedented levels of high technologies to India”.
Composite cryogenic tanks, which are made of high-strength fibers embedded in a resin matrix-like epoxy, are up to 30 percent lighter than aluminum containers and suffer less wear and tear. Boeing is using these space-age composites on new aircraft like its 787 Dreamliner passenger jet and the tilt-rotor V 22 aircraft, satellites, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Lall said that the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had recently awarded Boeing and Biglew Aerospace a contract for Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) missions to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).
“This programme also opens the door for collaboration between Boeing and India/ISRO in these areas of human spaceflight and commercial crew transportation,” he noted.