Bangalore: The Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore's (IISc) innovative research on reducing drag experienced by rockets can slash rocket launching costs considerably apart from increasing their range and speed.
According to IISC scientists, if the innovative technology were to be applied on launch vehicles, it could cut cost from $20,000 per kg to just about $600. "Lifting each kilogram into space is an expensive affair. Current costs are estimated at $20,000. We are talking of reductions by more than 20 times," a scientist said.
Reports have said that NASA is considering shooting satellites from guns mounted on mountain tops in an attempt to drastically slash launch costs. The problem is that technologies meant to withstand heat at speeds that would be generated by such technologies, in the region of 11.5 km per second, are yet to be developed. IISc developed technology, aerospace scientists say, would allow dispatch of satellites at 9 km per second.
According to IISC scientists, "The face of rocket technology will change in two years. If NASA's experiment is successful, we are already in the race with this piece of research. It's only a matter of agreeing to have the spacecraft fly at 9 km per second as against 11 km per second. With our method, the spacecraft can withstand heat at that speed."
"We have the material for the spacecraft to survive the heat generated at that speed. All we need to do is apply chromium layer on the spacecraft. This will reduce drag by more than 40%, which means the spacecraft can travel far at no additional launching costs."
With the IISc technique the nose of the launch vehicle or spacecraft is coated with a thin layer of chromium. The metal coating evaporates due to the heating of the missile nose during hypersonic flight. The evaporated metal particles in atomic form react exothermically with oxygen atoms to release additional heat in front of the missile. This heat reduces drag up to 47% and enhances range and speed.
If NASA adopted this method, or if India used the gun-shot method of launching satellites, IISc's technique could have far-reaching implications, scientists said.