ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organisation, is currently engaged in an ambitious project to develop a powerful 100-tonne LOx Methane engine. This endeavor comes on the heels of their successful demonstration of a 20-tonne technology demonstrator using LOx Methane engines. The propulsion system employs a combination of liquid oxygen as the oxidizer and methane as the fuel, which can be synthesized using resources available in space, such as water and carbon dioxide. This remarkable capability makes LOx Methane a highly sought-after space fuel, often hailed as the fuel of the future.
Taking charge of this significant program is ISRO’s prestigious Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre located in Trivandrum, Kerala. The centre has been at the forefront of India’s liquid propulsion technology development for space missions. With its expertise and dedication, the centre is spearheading the efforts to propel ISRO into the realm of LOx Methane-powered engines.
The shift towards LOx Methane as a propulsion fuel is a global trend, and ISRO’s advancements in this field are highly regarded by the international space community. The inherent properties of methane provide several advantages over conventional fuels like kerosene. One key advantage is that methane prevents the formation of deposits in the engine, a phenomenon commonly referred to as coking. This attribute helps to maintain the engine’s efficiency and prolong its operational life. Additionally, methane exhibits superior performance characteristics, enabling cost optimization and enhancing the overall affordability of space missions.
The development of the 100-tonne LOx Methane engine aligns with ISRO’s future plans, particularly the Next-Gen Launch Vehicle (NGLV) program. The NGLV aims to design and deploy a cost-efficient reusable rocket capable of carrying substantial payloads. Specifically, the NGLV is projected to transport a payload of 10 tonnes to the Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) or up to 20 tonnes to the low Earth orbit (LEO). This significant leap in payload capacity will facilitate a wide range of missions, including communication satellite deployments, interplanetary probes, and lunar missions.
The timeline for the first launch of the NGLV, incorporating the powerful LOx Methane engine, is tentatively set for 2030. This gives ISRO ample time to perfect the engine’s design, conduct extensive testing, and ensure its reliability for space applications. The successful integration of the 100-tonne LOx Methane engine into the NGLV will mark a remarkable milestone for ISRO and position India as a prominent player in advanced propulsion technologies.
As ISRO continues its relentless pursuit of space exploration and technological innovation, the development of the LOx Methane engine represents a significant step forward in enhancing the country’s space capabilities. With its potential to revolutionize space propulsion systems, this engine holds tremendous promise for future missions, driving exploration deeper into space while making space travel more accessible and cost-effective.