The foot soldiers of rocket science: How ISRO brought a machine from Mumbai to Tvm

Multiple departments came together to clear the path for the autoclave machine which travelled 1750 kilometres and reached Thiruvananthapuram on Monday.
Aerospace Autoclave machine ISRO
Aerospace Autoclave machine ISRO
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An aerospace autoclave machine manufactured in Nashik for the Indian Space Research Organization(ISRO) reached Thiruvananthapuram on Monday, after a long road journey of 1750 kilometres. The massive part of the machinery, which travelled for almost an year, reached ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Vattiyoorkavu of Thiruvananthapuram after overcoming multiple hurdles on its way.

Though the machine weighed only 70 tonnes, its size was huge at 7.5 metres in height and 6.5 meters in breadth. For the vehicle carrying the machine to pass through, everything that came in its path, including electricity lines, cables and even trees, had to be either moved or removed.

The journey of the gigantic autoclave started from Mumbai in July, 2019. It travelled in a 74-wheel Volvo FM heavy duty truck. It is a part of an aerospace autoclave machine used to make extensive and light weight structures for satellites and launch vehicles and will be placed in the Inertial Systems Unit.

"We travelled only around six to seven kilometers a day. Electricity board staff, Public Works Department, police and several others had to be roped in to clear the path. A staff of 30 to 40 members walked with the machine. As it had to move very slowly, we could not travel in vehicles and walking was the only option,” said Ranjith, the staff of GPR logistics, the company that brought the cargo from Kanyakumari.

The staff who walked with the machine had to coordinate with the forest department  and local government bodies along with other government departments to assist them in clearing their path. Among the staff, there were several technicians and supervisors to ensure easy movement.

Ranjith recalls that the crossing of the Marthandam bridge in Kanyakumari to be the hardest to navigate through. "The machine and the vehicle together weighed around 150 tonnes so we were reluctant to cross the bridge. Later, the company which constructed the bridge sent their staff to the location and they assured us it can hold the weight. There were other instances where we had to break compound walls to pass through. PWD helped us to reconstruct them," Ranjith said.

The autoclave machine was brought from Mumbai till Suchindram in Kanyakumari district by another logistics agency. From Suchindram to Thiruvananthapuram, it was brought by GPR logistics. The lockdown also caused a month’s delay in the movement of the machine as they were able to move only at night.

Ranjith also recalls how the public gathered on both sides of the road when they would pass through. “Several people would gather around when we reached most places. They would come to us with their doubts. Many people asked us whether we were carrying a rocket. Some had even commented that it is a machine meant to be used when the India-China war would  begin," he added.

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