The 1st-stage booster & flex nozzle control tanks were manufactured at Walchandnagar Industries

Pune’s Walchandnagar Industries Ltd manufactured components of the lunar mission vehicle, such as the first-stage booster and “flex nozzle control tanks”

The launch of India’s second lunar exploration mission, Chandrayaan-2, has a strong Pune connect with critical components, such as the first-stage booster and the “flex nozzle control tanks” being manufactured in rural Pune by Walchandnagar Industries Ltd (WIL).

This 111-year-old firm, which has made a pioneering contribution to India’s defence and aerospace programmes, is located 130 km from Pune in Walchandnagar village (taluka Indapur), named after the company’s founder, Seth Walchand Hirachand Doshi.

For the Chandrayaan-2 mission, WIL manufactured the first-stage booster with a height of 80 feet and diameter of more than 12 feet, the company’s managing director and CEO, G K Pillai said in an interview.

“The booster has three parts and is filled with solid fuels. This is used for the first stage of the space vehicle. Also, we have successfully manufactured the ‘Flex Nozzle Control Tanks’ which are essential for direction control,” he said.

Pune,Chandrayaan,first stage booster
Students jump with joy after the Chandrayaan-2 was launched on Monday. A programme to screen the launch event was held at Fergusson College amphitheatre

A team of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) quality control engineers was stationed at Walchandnagar for two years to oversee the manufacturing. While the highly specialised metals and material for the manufacturing of the components were delivered by ISRO along with the basic engineering specifications, the detailed engineering was done by the Walchandnagar Industries Aerospace division with 80 workers and 10 engineers.

Walchandnagar Industries contribution to the prestigious ISRO mission does not come as a surprise as the firm had worked on not just the Chandrayaan-1 project, but on all ISRO launch missions since 1976.

It was his firm, Hindustan Aircraft Limited, established in 1942 which later became the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Likewise, Doshi founded Hindustan Shipyard at Visakhapatnam in 1948 and the company’s first ship, Jal-Usha was commissioned by prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

The company also focused on manufacturing and setting up sugarcane plants; coal generation power plants and cement plants with its current focus on defence, nuclear and aerospace production. It has three manufacturing plants at Walchandnagar, Satara and Dharwad in Karnataka.

Walchandnagar’s MD Pillai said that ever since India’s first nuclear test in May 1974, WIL got involved in the nation’s nuclear and aerospace programmes as Western nations had blacklisted India from importing critical technology for these sensitive sectors.

APJ Abdul Kalam, a key figure in India’s nuclear and missile programmes had visited Walchandnagar several times as he felt that this firm could manufacture equipment for the nation’s space and nuclear sectors, Pillai said.

“Walchandnagar Industries Ltd has been involved in manufacturing components for all the 48 launches till now, right from the first launch of PSLV-D1 in 1993,” said Pillai.

According to Pillai, the entire journey with ISRO has been a rich learning experience for both Walchandnagar Industries and space scientists as they mastered critical technologies through trial and experiments.

In fact, engineers from ISRO and Walchandnagar Industries have already begun work on India’s manned mission to the moon, the Gaganyaan Mission, in 2022.

Puneites glow in the light of Chandrayaan’s take-off

At 2.43 pm on Monday, just as the entire country rejoiced as country’s most crucial ‘Chandrayaan 2’ lunar mission vehicle was launched towards the moon, Pune was no exception.

To celebrate this movement there were many programmes related to watching this historical ‘take-off’ held in Pune at various places like Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (Iucaa), National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA), Fergusson College and in schools.

Talking about the launch, Ajit Kembhvi, former director of Iucaa and currently the astronomy professor, said, “Chandrayaan 2 mission is an important milestone in the Indian space science and till now the process is going flawlessly for this project. It has shown the world that India will not remain behind in space science and this is the start of it.”

“On the other hand, this mission has given inspiration to the youths who are trying to make a career in astronomy and space science,” said Kembhvi.

“In forthcoming years there will be a lot of scope for Indian scientists and researchers as there are many space projects lined up in the country,” he added.

Soumavo Ghosh, research student, from IIucaa, galaxies department, said, “Watching the launch of Chandrayaan 2 vehicle was a moment of joy for all of us, especially when you are working in the same field.”

“It is an excellent mission which has boosted the morale of research students like me,” said Ghosh.

Another research student of at Iucaa Ashwinya Sharma, said, “It feels great to be a proud Indian today after the Chandrayaan 2 was successfully launched.”

“I am more interested in its outcome when it completes all the tests and research on the moon,” said Sharma.

Shamin Padalkar who had come along with her 5-year-old son Vibhormitra to witness this movement at Iucaa, said, “Today’s generation should know about such historical movements of our country, so I brought my son along with me to see the launch event ‘live’.”