Source: PIB Relevance: GS Paper III Science & Technology - Defence


A propulsion system utilising environmentally friendly technology, developed through the DRDO’s Technology Development Fund (TDF) program, has effectively showcased its operational capabilities in space aboard a payload launched by the PSLV C- 58 mission.

What in the News:

A Bengaluru-based startup, Bellatrix Aerospace Pvt Ltd, was tasked with developing the 1N Class Green Monopropellant thruster for microsatellite altitude control and orbit maintenance.

The telemetry data from the PSLV Orbital Experimental Module (POEM) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru has been verified against ground- level solutions, and it has surpassed all performance benchmarks.

Features of this Innovative Technology:

  • This cutting-edge technology has introduced a non-harmful and eco-friendly propulsion method for satellites in low Earth orbit.

  • The system is made up of locally produced parts such as the Propellant, Fill and Drain Valves, Latch Valve, Solenoid Valve, Catalyst Bed, and Drive Electronics, to name a few.

  • It meets the high thrust needs of certain space missions.

  • The Development Agency completed the project with oversight from the Project Monitoring & Mentoring Group of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

  • It has proven its capabilities in both pulsed and continuous operation in space-like vacuum conditions, the safe neutralization of leftover fuel in space, the creation and implementation of propellant handling, and filling techniques under the Technology Development Fund (TDF) guidelines.

Overview of the Technology Development Fund (TDF):

  • The TDF aims to achieve independence in defence technologies, supporting the 'Make in India' campaign.

  • It is overseen by the Ministry of Defence and operated by the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) to serve the Armed Forces, Defence Production, and DRDO's technological needs.

  •  The fund encourages participation from the public and private sectors, especially targeting Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and startups, to foster a supportive ecosystem for the development of advanced defence technology capabilities.

Summary of the PSLV Orbital Experimental Module (POEM):

  • POEM transforms the PSLV's final stage, usually jettisoned, into a lab for space experiments, leveraging ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) technology.

  • The PSLV's design includes four stages; the initial three are jettisoned into the ocean, while the fourth stage (PS4), responsible for satellite insertion, often ends up as space debris.

  •  POEM features an advanced Navigation Guidance and Control (NGC) system for precise attitude stabilization, ensuring it remains correctly oriented.

  •  It utilizes solar panels fitted around the PS4 tank for power, with a Li-Ion battery for backup energy storage.

  •  By repurposing the PS4 stage of the PSLV, POEM not only helps reduce space debris but also enhances the value derived from ISRO's launch infrastructure.

Way Forward-

  • Boost Collaboration: Strengthen partnerships among research bodies, government entities, and industry players to advance green propulsion tech.

  • Such cooperation promotes sharing expertise, combining resources, and hastening tech progress.

  •  Increase R&D Funding: Pour more resources into R&D for eco-friendly space propulsion.

  • Support for groundbreaking projects, academic collaborations, and tech incubators is crucial for creating sustainable propulsion methods.

  •  Enhance Regulatory Environment: Establish regulations and policies that encourage the use of green propulsion in aerospace.

  • Incentives might include tax breaks, regulatory relaxations, and preferential buying policies for green technologies, fostering their broader acceptance and use.

In conclusion, the successful demonstration of the green propulsion system underscores the importance of innovation in space technology for environmental sustainability. This achievement paves the way for future advancements in eco-friendly propulsion systems, contributing to a more sustainable and responsible approach to space exploration.

Advait IAS