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ISRO Gets Exemption From Explosive Rules: Report

In practice, the most recent exemption means ISRO will no longer require approvals and inspections from the PESO for stable propellant utilisation and manufacture

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The Indian Space Research Organisation has been exempted from a costly central inspection and approval regime that was implemented in 2008 for the production of stable propellants for area rockets.

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has exempted the organisation from “operation of all provisions of the explosives rules, 2008, for manufacturing, storage, use and transportation of Solid Propellant for Space Rockets falling under UN Class 1 (Explosives),” according to a media report.

The exemption, granted solely to ISRO, was announced by the Centre last week.

The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisations (PESO), formerly known as the Department of Explosives, regulates the security of hazardous substances such as explosives, compressed gases and petroleum throughout the country.

In practice, the most recent exemption means ISRO will no longer require approvals and inspections from the PESO for stable propellant utilisation and manufacture.

“ISRO is a world-class national space agency. They are fully qualified to handle explosive materials. As a result, it was decided that they did not need to be subjected to multiple PESO inspections and approvals. ISRO had made a request and it was deemed reasonable to grant the exemption in light of the adequate safety mechanisms in place. Prior to 2008, they also had such an exemption. As a result, it was decided to restore the same,” an official told on condition of anonymity.

While ISRO was exempt from PESO oversight during the early years of India's space program, the Explosive Rules 2008 did not. According to officials, permissions for stable propellants were granted and even expedited by PESO on a case-by-case basis for ISRO. Still, the delays had become a source of concern. There was also the argument that ISRO was well-equipped to handle stable fuels and didn't need PESO oversight and monitoring.

The ISRO debate arose from many years of work on stable propellant-based rocket know-how, which was thought to be primarily home-grown and heralded in 1963 with the launch of the primary composite stable propellant ‘Mrinal’ from Thumba. ISRO's Solid Propellant Space Booster Plant in Sriharikota is at the forefront of the same. Nonetheless, the 2008 rulebook was increasingly seen as a constraint.

ISRO may be required to follow the Storage and Transportation of Explosives Committee guidelines for the development of buildings for the manufacture, storage, transportation and use of explosives, as well as to conduct a biennial security audit of the stable propellant manufacturing services with the participation of a member from the Defence Ministry's Center for Fire, Explosive and Environmental Safety.

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