Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station TERLS

26 Jul 2023

Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station TERLS

Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station: India’s Gateway to the Stars


The Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) is a remarkable facility situated in Thumba, Kerala, India. Established in 1963, it has played a pivotal role in India’s space exploration journey, contributing to numerous space missions and scientific research. Managed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), TERLS is one of the oldest rocket launching stations in the world and has been instrumental in advancing India’s capabilities in space technology and research.

Location and Importance

Situated near the southern tip of India, in Thumba, a small fishing village about 30 kilometers north of Thiruvananthapuram, TERLS benefits from its unique geographical location. The station is located close to the equator, which provides several advantages for launching satellites and conducting scientific experiments.

Launching rockets from near the equator allows them to take advantage of Earth’s rotational speed, providing an additional velocity boost. This phenomenon is known as the “slingshot effect,” which helps conserve fuel and launch heavier payloads into space. Additionally, TERLS’s location at a low latitude allows for a wide range of orbital inclinations to be achieved, catering to various types of missions.

Early History and Establishment

TERLS was established in 1962, a time when India’s space program was still in its infancy. Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, widely regarded as the father of the Indian space program, recognized the potential of launching rockets from near the equator. After careful consideration, Thumba was chosen as the ideal location for the station due to its proximity to the magnetic equator, making it an excellent spot for atmospheric and ionospheric studies.

With the assistance of the Soviet Union, India established TERLS in 1963 and conducted its first sounding rocket launch on November 21, 1963. The inaugural launch marked the beginning of India’s journey into space research and exploration.

Contributions to Space Research

Over the years, TERLS has made significant contributions to space research and technology development. Some of its key accomplishments include:

  1. Sounding Rockets: TERLS has been actively involved in launching various types of sounding rockets to study the Earth’s atmosphere, ionosphere, and space phenomena. These rockets carry scientific instruments to gather data during their brief flight, aiding researchers in understanding atmospheric processes and space weather.
  2. Rohini Satellite Series: TERLS played a vital role in launching the Rohini series of satellites, which were India’s first indigenously developed satellites. These satellites were instrumental in conducting telecommunications and remote sensing missions.
  3. Antrix Corporation: TERLS has contributed to the commercial space sector through Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of ISRO. Antrix has facilitated the launch of numerous foreign satellites, generating revenue for ISRO and boosting India’s reputation in the global space market.
  4. Interplanetary Missions: TERLS has also been involved in launching interplanetary missions, such as Chandrayaan-1, India’s first lunar probe, and Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission), India’s first mission to Mars. These missions showcased India’s growing capabilities in space exploration.

To see the other Rocket Launching Stations in India, check the link – Rocket Launching Station in India

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