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  • Writer's pictureayush devak

India's second spaceport: $118 million sanctioned for land acquisition, setting up launch infra..

Indicating steady progress of work in building India's second spaceport, the Indian government revealed that 81 per cent of land required for the project at Kulasekarapattinam, Tamil Nadu has been acquired. The remaining parcels of land are in advanced stage of acquisition, the government said.

Land acquisition is under progress by Government of Tamil Nadu. Till date, acquisition of land to an extent of 1946.44 acres (out of 2376 acres) is completed by Government of Tamil Nadu and the same is taken over by Department of Space," as revealed in lower house of Parliament of India.

In a written reply, Minister of State, Prime Minister's Office, Dr Jitendra Singh mentioned that a total of Rs 980.56 crore (approx. $118 million) has been sanctioned for the ‘Acquisition of Land and establishment of space launch centre infrastructure at Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu’. Of this sum, Rs.210.20 crore (approx. $25 million) has been remitted to the Government of Tamil Nadu towards land acquisition, read the minister's response. It was also added that the construction activity would commence only after the entire land acquisition process is completed.

About time of completion of the spaceport, it was broadly mentioned that it would take 2-3 years after land acquisition and after all clearances.

Tamil Nadu is a southern Indian state. The new spaceport will be constructed in southern part of the state. The new spaceport at Kulasekarapattinam will offer some advantages over the existing and only spaceport in India at Sriharikota.

Rockets flying into polar orbit from Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh need to perform a turn-maneuvers to avoid flying over Sri Lanka. This needs fuel and reduces the mass that can be carried to orbit. While this doesn't have much impact on large rockets, it adversely impacts the capacity of small rockets such as the SSLV (Small satellites Launch Vehicle) and those being built by Indian start-ups.

A launch from Kulasekarapattinam will enable a straight flight path to the polar regions (without having to overfly/ bypass Sri Lanka), thereby saving fuel and payload capacity. Given that smaller rockets are easier to manufacture, assemble and take lesser time to launch, it is important for India to have a dedicated spaceport for smaller rockets. Notably, smaller rockets are also attractive to foreign and domestic customers who are looking to launch small satellites at low costs.

Two Indian start-ups are actively working on building indigenous rockets (to carry 500 kg and lesser to Low Earth Orbit) and would find the second spaceport an attractive location to launch from. Recently, a start-up Skyroot Aerospace demonstrated their sub-orbital rocket successfully and are hoping for an orbital launch by 2023-end. Another start-up Agnikul Cosmos is building a private launchpad at the existing spaceport in Sriharikota, in the run up to their maiden launch.

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