Washington portrays itself as a pioneer of the free market. The problem is, the moment a competition arises, their first instinct is to stifle it. By all indications, Nambi Narayanan’s arrest also looks to be a step in that direction.
Foreign hand in Nambi’s implication
S.V Raju, Additional Solicitor General of India has opposed the anticipatory bail pleas of former Gujarat DGP R.B. Sreekumar and other former police and IB officers. Appearing for CBI, he told the Kerala High Court that the case involving Nambi Narayanan and others were part of a foreign conspiracy. The Conspiracy was to stop India from having its own cryogenic technology.
Through Cryogenic rocket technology, super-cooled liquid fuels are used to produce massive amounts of thrust. This helps in lifting heavy payloads into space. For India, availing Cryogenic technology at that juncture was crucial as it would quicken our graduation from Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) to Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV). PSLV which is not cryogenic can only lift satellites weighing 20 tons up to an altitude of 600-900 km. On the other hand, having Cryogenic thrust helps GSLV to lift 50 tons of satellite to 36,000 km altitude.
India’s struggle for Cryogenics
The difference is massive and that is why India wanted Cryogenics. If India would avail it in early 90s, it would replicate it with ultra-low cost and possibly could throw NASA’s expensive ones out of business. Space writer Brian Harvey revealed in his book ‘Russia in Space: The Failed Frontier’ that India first approached Japan for cryogenics.
Then General Dynamic Corporation offered its own expensive American engine. India did not like it. Soon, Russians offered two engines and technology transfer at reasonable cost. It included RD-56 or KVD-1, which was part of the Soviet manned moon landing programme in 1964. ISRO and Russian space agency Glavkosmos had chalked a deal regarding the same in 1991. They had also planned a way around the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
Russian scientists helped India
Despite that George Bush Senior slapped sanctions on both space agencies. Americans pressured Boris Yeltsin, then Russian President to not go ahead with the deal. Current American President Joseph Biden had led from the front regarding the same. At that time Russia needed money to sustain its economy and the US was offering $24 billion in international assistance. Joe Biden himself moved an amendment in US aid, threatening Russia that future aid won’t be available to it if India gets cryogenic technology.
Yeltsin gave in to the pressure and refused to transfer technology. However, Russian scientists wanted to help India. ISRO and Russia’s Ural Airlines decided to execute a transfer of technology. Being in charge of the cryogenics division of ISRO, Nambi told the media that he was on the flights that transferred technology to India. He became quite famous.
Fame came with consequences. Nambi was soon implicated in a false espionage case. It literally derailed the growth of India’s cryogenic engines by several years, if not decades. The pendulum of suspicion keeps oscillating, but it will stop at the ultimate beneficiary of this scandal. We hope CBI will soon tell us.
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