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BW Businessworld

Current Policy Does Not Allow Exports: Jayant Patil, Sr VP, Defence & Aerospace, L&T

BW Businessworld’s Manish Kumar Jha chats with L&T’s Senior Vice President, Defence & Aerospace, Jayant Patil, about industry’s role in space research

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Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has  supplied several critical flight hardware and more than 180 large and small hardware assemblies for the Chandrayan 2 launch vehicle. BW Businessworld’s Manish Kumar Jha chats with L&T’s Senior Vice President, Defence & Aerospace, Jayant Patil, about industry’s role in space research

Please tell us about the role L&T has played in India’s space programme.
L&T’s association with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) dates back to the 1970s. L&T has played a significant role in India’s space programmes for over five decades and has been associated with all generations of ISRO launch vehicles, right from the first Indian space launch, to SLV3, ASLV, PSLV, GSLV and the latest GSLV Mk-III, which is being used for the Chandrayaan 2.

How was L& T associated with Chandrayaan 2?
For the Chandrayan 2 launch mission, L&T has provided several critical flight hardware, which includes metallic and composite sub-systems and assemblies. L&T has supplied more than 180 large and small hardware assemblies or sub-assemblies for the launch vehicle. Just to give an example of  the complexity of ultra-high precision assemblies involved, one solar array actuation system assembly fitted on the Chandrayan 2 has 1,800 parts, of which 1,100 are individually precision manufactured and calibrated, which we count as one assembly.  

The GSLV MkIII launch vehicle was powered at lift-off by twin S200 solid boosters comprising head-end, middle and nozzle-end segments. We manufacture these at L&T’s Powai Aerospace Workshop. These boosters are critical for providing brute thrust for take-off of the launch vehicle during the densest atmospheric phase.

What should the government do to involve the private sector more actively in space exploration?
The ISRO has initiated actions to involve both the public and private industry to complete the PSLV launch vehicle production along with satellite integration. The ISRO has floated a new commercial entity, the New Space India Limited (NSIL) for commercialisation of various space products, including production of launch vehicles, transfer of technologies and marketing space products. The idea is to hand over the entire PSLV assembly to the private sector which will be followed by SSLV.

The current policy does not allow exports in the space segment. Opening up the space segment, till now reserved for the state, will unlock huge opportunities for Indian players to be a part of the global supply chain. Additionally, access to larger markets will also encourage industry to invest in research & development and build products to cater for the space segment.

What is the private sector doing to facilitate India’s space exploration and expedition?
The ISRO has continued to trust private sector companies with development and production of a large range of sub-systems and hardware for satellites and launch vehicles, and create critical ground infrastructure, including test facilities and infrastructure which is utilised to carry out repeated simulation trials to achieve accuracy and ascertain reliability of the systems. Industry is also involved in ISROs strategic efforts towards building special aerospace grade alloys as raw materials, to create strategic material independence for the country. Besides, we were involved in developing precision grade instrumentation radars and Deep Space Communication Infrastructure.  

How many private players are involved in space projects?
Larsen & Toubro is among two of the oldest and five major industry partners of the ISRO. The ISRO outsources higher levels of aggregates for hardware, software, systems and services from industry where more than 500 small, medium and large-scale industries are participating in the programme. This approach enables ISRO to focus on core research activities and helps create manufacturing capability in the industry.

How much has L&T invested in space exploration?
L&T has over the years invested in establishing requisite infrastructure and manufacturing facilities to cater for requirements specific to ISRO. L&T has state-of- the-art facility for manufacturing booster segments, clean rooms for ultra-precision solar array deployment devises at Powai, high-end composites manufacturing facilities at Vadodara and Coimbatore as well as precision manufacturing facilities at Coimbatore, to cater for the exacting requirements of ISRO.

Tell us about the funding that you received.
The advancement in space technology in India can be attributed to the inclusive model followed by ISRO which enabled development of a competent industry ecosystem with long- term partners. The key capabilities are identified and facilities are funded by ISRO, wherever low-scale does not justify the economic model to support investment, so that industry responds to developing requisite special capabilities and capacities to respond to the strategic needs of the nation.

What was your eureka moment?
I joined L&T in corporate R&D in the domain of machinery development with an M. Tech in Mechanical Engineering with specialisation in Production Engineering - Machine Tools. I was a member of a core team that designed and developed super heavy rotating industrial machinery systems for cement, chemical, fertiliser and mineral processing plants. It has been an extremely satisfying experience.

The “Aha!” (eureka) moments came when we partnered with the scientific community towards differentiated capabilities as force multipliers across defence as well as aerospace domains, e.g, Chandrayan, Mangalyan, Hypersonic Test Facilities, and many more…

What have been the tangible benefits of your own space programme for  your company? 

The experience in the space segment which involves design and manufacturing of high precision metallic and composite systems, has led to our foray into the flight segment of defence. The challenging and exacting requirements served as great opportunities to engage our brightest minds to innovate, evolve engineering solutions and revel in the very satisfying experience of  ‘Partnering to Create the near Impossible’.  

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