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Heralding a significant milestone in India’s space exploration programme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday laid the foundation stone for the second spaceport at Kulasekarapattinam in this southern district that would offer geographical advantages in India’s space exploration endeavours. In an event at VOC Port in Thoothukudi, he also laid the foundation stone for various new facilities. About the second spaceport, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said it would be exclusively used only for launching Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) Missions to place satellites in low earth orbit.

The spaceport of Sriharikota will continue to be the primary centre for all rocket launch missions, including PSLV, GSLV, LMV-3 and other missions. The SHAR Range has two launch pads. The establishment of Kulasekarapatnam spaceport will mark a significant milestone in India’s space exploration programme, besides offering geographical advantages in India’ space exploration endeavours.

The second rocket launch centre will come up in a 2,233 acre area at a cost of about Rs 950 crores, and it would herald a new era in India’s space exploration journey. The strategic significance of the Kulasekarapattinam spaceport was that it would optimise fuel consumption during satellite launches. Unlike launches from the Sriharikota, which necessitate southeast trajectories to circumvent Sri Lanka, launches from Kulasekarapattinam will enable satellites head directly towards southward trajectory, that will result in conservation of fuel. The second spaceport at Kulasekarapattinam will be dedicated exclusively for SSLVs developed by the private sector and it will come up in about two years time. It will be a full launch centre in Thoothukudi district that will be dedicated for SSLV launches. This launch pad will be used only by the private sector.

“This is of use only for the private sector because there will be no ISRO rockets launched from there. The SSLV will be completely transferred to the private sector. SSLV is a 3-stage launch vehicle capable of launching approximately 500kg satellites in 500-km planar orbit.

According to ISRO, the key features of SSLV are low cost, with low turnaround time, flexibility in accommodating multiple satellites, launch-on-demand feasibility, and minimal launch infrastructure requirements. Meanwhile, ISRO has proposed to launch Rohini Sounding Rocket from its launch facility at Kulasekarapattinam in the district on Thursday. In a statement, Thoothukudi District Collector G.Lakshmipathi said ISRO has planned to launch a Rohini Sounding Rocket ‘RH – 200’ from its new spaceport at Kulasekarapattinam between 9.30 a.m. and 2 p.m. tomorrow.

Hence, ISRO had declared the area stretching up to 10 nautical miles (18 km) from the shoreline between Manappad Lighthouse and Periyathazhai groyne a ‘danger zone’ and warned fishermen and small ships against entering the zone, Mr. Lakshmipathi said. ISRO has planned to celebrate the historic occasion of the Prime Minister laying the foundation stone for the new spaceport at Kulasekarapattinam with the launch of Rohini Sounding Rocket. ISRO said a small space manufacturing park would also come up near the spaceport in Kulasekarapattinam.