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ISRO conducts 200th consecutive successful launch of RH200 sounding rocket

Tall rockets like the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle), GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle), and SSLV have received most of ISRO's attention (Small Satellite Launch Vehicle). However, the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), the principal ISRO facility, launched its 200nd successive "RH-200" Rohini Sounding rocket on Wednesday at midday. Even though this is a routine launch, it is noteworthy because the ISRO's history with rocketry began with sounding rockets.

Small, inexpensive sounding rockets are used for experiments, meteorological research, and atmospheric studies. Before actually launching them on larger rockets or on satellites, they are used to test newly created sub-components or to study the earth's atmosphere.

Given that they employ solid fuel, which is less technical than liquid fuel, these rockets require much less time to assemble and launch. In most cases, sounding rockets are not space-traveling rockets and are launched at sub-orbital altitudes (less than 100 kilometers). There are, however, larger sounding rockets that can also enter low-Earth orbit (550kms altitude).

The first sounding rocket launch from the former Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station on November 21, 1963, is largely considered as the start of the Indian space programme (now a part of the larger VSSC campus).

The first rocket to be launched from Indian soil back then was a "Nike Apache" rocket built in the US. Later, two-stage rockets (the M-100 from Russia and the Centaure from France) were also launched.

The Centaure could travel 150 kilometres with a payload of about 30 kg, although the M-100 could only reach 85 km with a payload of 70 kg. The Hydrometeorological Services of the USSR and ISRO agreed to launch their M-100 meteorological sounding rockets from TERLS once a week beginning in 1970. This program ran continuously until 1993.

Beginning in 1967, ISRO began using TERLS to launch a number of homegrown sounding rockets with the name of "Rohini." The first authentically Indian sounding rocket, the RH-75, had a diameter of 75mm. It was followed by the RH-100 and RH-125 rockets. The foundation of launch vehicle technology was in fact laid by the sounding rocket programme. The acquired knowledge helped greatly in the development of the launch vehicle's auxiliary systems and solid propellant technology. The Rohini sounding rockets have been used for a number of research missions with collaboration from both domestic and foreign sources.

India currently uses three different sounding rocket models: the RH-200, RH-300-Mk-II, and RH-560-Mk-III. These have a payload capacity of 8 to 100 kg and have a range of 75 to 550 kilometers.

This Wednesday's launch will be the RH-200 "Rohini" sounding rocket's 200th consecutive flight. Former Indian president Ram Nath Kovind will attend the celebration at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, along with ISRO Chairman Dr. S. Somanath, Director Dr. S. Unnikrishnan Nair, and other agency representatives.

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Edited by: Satyavrat Singh

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