Sounding Rockets

sounding rocket

Sounding rockets are one or two stage solid propellant rockets used for probing the upper atmospheric regions and for space research. They also serve as easily affordable platforms to test or prove prototypes of new components or subsystems intended for use in launch vehicles and satellites. With the establishment of the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in 1963 at Thumba, a location close to the magnetic equator, there was a quantum jump in the scope for aeronomy and atmospheric sciences in India. The launch of the first sounding rocket from Thumba near Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala on 21 November 1963, marked the beginning of the Indian Space Programme . Sounding rockets made it possible to probe the atmosphere in situ using rocket-borne instrumentation. The first rockets were two-stage rockets imported from Russia (M-100) and France (Centaure). While the M-100 could carry a payload of 70 kg to an altitude of 85 km, the Centaure was capable of reaching 150 km with a payload of approximately 30 kg.


ISRO started launching indigenously made sounding rockets from 1965 and experience gained  was of immense value in the mastering  of solid propellant technology. In 1975, all sounding rocket activities were consolidated under the Rohini Sounding Rocket (RSR) Programme. RH-75, with a diameter of 75mm was the first truly Indian sounding rocket, which was followed by RH-100 and RH-125 rockets.  The sounding rocket programme was the bedrock on which the edifice of launch vehicle technology in ISRO could be built. It is possible to conduct coordinated campaigns by simultaneously launching sounding rockets from different locations. It is also possible to launch several sounding rockets in a single day.

Operational sounding Rockets

Currently, three versions are offered as operational sounding  rockets , which cover a payload range of 8-100 Kg and an apogee range of 80-475 km.

Vehicle RH-200 RH-300-Mk-II RH-560-MK-II
Payload (in kg) 10 60 100
Altitude (in km) 80 160 470
Purpose Meterology Aeronomy Aeronomy
Launch Pad Thumba Balasore SDSC-SHAR SDSC-SHAR

Several scientific missions with national and international participation have been conducted using the Rohini sounding rockets.