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Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station


Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station

Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station
थुम्बा इक्वेटोरियल रॉकेट लॉन्चिंग स्टेशन

Launch of RH-300 Mk2 from TERLS
Agency overview
Formed 1962 (1962)
Jurisdiction Indian federal government
Headquarters Thumba, Thiruvananthapuram, India
Employees Unknown (2008)
Annual budget See ISRO
Parent agency ISRO
Website ISRO TERLS home page

The Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) is an Thumba, Thiruvananthapuram which is near the southern tip of mainland India, very close to earth's magnetic equator. It is currently used by ISRO for launching sounding rockets.


  • Location 1
  • History 2
  • Facilities 3
    • Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre 3.1
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Thumba is located very close the magnetic equator of the Earth (located just north of Thumba), making it the ideal location for scientists to conduct atmospheric research. In fact, Thumba's location at 8°32'34" N and 76°51'32" E is ideal for low-altitude, upper atmosphere and ionosphere studies. Thumba is a small fishing village situated close to the Thiruvananthapuram airport in Kerala.[1] Thumba is also one of the farthest points from Pakistan and China.[2]


In 1962, the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was established. Homi Bhabha, then the father of India's nuclear program, along with Vikram Sarabhai, took into consideration number of sites situated in Kerala to construct a rocket station. After long discussion they both finalized Thumba as the appropriate place. Thumba is a small village, until then, known only for fishing situated near the Thiruvananthapuram airport in Kerala.[3]

The newly built rocket launching pad was set amidst coconut groves. A local Catholic church, the St Mary Magadelene's Church served as the main office for the scientists. The bishop's house was converted into a workshop. A cattle shed became the laboratory in which the young Indian scientists worked on the first sounding rockets. The very first sounding rocket to be launched was a two stage Nike-Apache sounding rocket, which came from the USA and had a French payload that left a vertical trail of sodium vapour in the upper atmosphere from a 100 to 120 km altitude. The primary purpose of this flight was to measure atmospheric winds, temperature, diffusion and turbulence by photographing the trail of the ejected sodium. Upon launching the first sounding rocket (Nike-Apache) on 21 Nov 1963, Prof. Sarabhai shared with his team his dream of an Indian Satellite Launch Vehicle. Over the next 12 years, the United States, Britain, France and the USSR helped India build and launch more than 350 sounding rockets from Thumba.[4]

The Rohini Sounding Rocket (RSR) program to develop indigenously developed and fabricated sounding rockets launched the first single-stage Rohini (RH-75) rocket (32 kg rocket with 7 kg payload to ~10 km altitude) in 1967, followed by a two-stage Rohini rocket (100 kg payload to over 320 km altitude).[5]


When TERLS was first established, it had a single launch pad in the midst of coconut plantations. The St Mary Magadelene's Church served as the main office for the scientists. The bishop's house was converted into a workshop. A cattle shed became the laboratory in which young Indian scientists like A. P. J. Abdul Kalam worked on the first sounding rockets.

Subsequently, TERLS developed infrastructure for all aspects of rocketry, ranging from rocket design, rocket propellant, rocket motor casting, integration, payload-assembly, testing, evaluation besides building subsystems like payload housing and nose cones which could be jettisoned. Fiber Reinforced Plastics composite materials for nosecone were used in early programs at TERLS.

Presently the site has the capability to launch rockets up to 0.56 metres in diameter. The three launch pads at the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station have facilities for a variety of sounding rockets, including the French Centaure Dragon, the Indian Centaure and Rohini, Britain's Skua and Petrel, America's Nike-Apache, Nike-Tomahawk and Arcas and Russia's M-100.

Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre

After the death of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai on December 30, 1971, the whole space establishment at Thiruvananthapuram was rechristened as Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre. Over the last four decades VSSC has matured into a centre of excellence in launch vehicle technology.[6]


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External links

  • Celebrating 40 years since the establishment of TERLS
  • Official website of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre

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