THE Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) created history by commissioning the world’s third-largest hypersonic wind tunnel at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram. A wind tunnel is used to study the effects of air flowing past a solid object – in ISRO’s case, space vehicles.The space agency has lined up big missions such as the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV), Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) rockets, air breathing propulsion systems, and the human space flight programme for the future. Aerothermodynamic modelling of such vehicles in a hypersonic environment is vital for optimal design.ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar on Monday commissioned two facilities – a 1-m Hypersonic Wind Tunnel and a 1-m Shock Tunnel.“These facilities are the third largest in terms of size and simulation capability in the world. These facilities – named after former ISRO chairman Satish Dhawan – have been indigenously designed, developed and made in India with the support of Indian Industries,” VSSC said in a statement.A few critical technologies, which are under embargo, were jointly developed by ISRO and industries. The facility is quite complex with 500 valves, two km of pipelines, 41 electric motors, 35 pumps, 320 instruments and 10 km of cables.“Commissioning of such facilities would provide adequate data for design and development of current and future space transportation systems in the country. The commissioning of the facility also symbolises the country’s capability in establishing such world-class facilities wherein technology from outside is restricted or not available,” Kiran Kumar said.VSSC director K Sivan said the new facility will help aerodynamic characterisation of advanced space transportation systems.Renowned aerodynamicist Roddam Narasimha and VSSC associate director S Pandian were present at the commissioning.