‘Svalbard Mission’ of 1997: ISRO’s Rohini RH-300 Mk-II Rocket Launch from Svalbard, Norway

Svalbard Mission

On November 20, 1997, a significant event took place in Svalbard, Norway. The Rohini RH-300 Mk-II sounding rocket, powered by solid propellant, was launched from there, marking the operationalization of a new rocket launching range. The rocket was transported from India for the purpose, and a team of senior officials from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) traveled to Norway to ensure the success of the mission. This achievement laid the foundation for further collaboration and deepening of space sector ties between India and Norway.

The recent visit of Norwegian Ambassador Hans Jacob Frydenlund to ISRO headquarters serves as a reminder of this remarkable Svalbard Mission that occurred 26 years ago in Ny-Alesund, Svalbard.

About Rohini RH-300 Mk-II

  • The Rh-300 sounding rocket is a single-stage rocket that originated from the French Belier rocket engine technology.
  • It is designed to reach altitudes of up to 100 kilometers during launch.
  • A variant of the rocket, known as the RH-300 Mk-II, can achieve even higher altitudes, reaching a maximum of 116 kilometers.
  • The rocket has a payload capacity of up to 80 kilograms, with a specific capacity for scientific payloads of 20 kilograms.
  • The payload compartment has dimensions of 380 mm in diameter and 500 mm in length.
  • With its high acceleration capability of up to 20 G (gravities) reaching Mach 6, the rocket can carry and test multiple payloads in a single flight.

Svalbard Mission

  • The Indian space research program began in 1963 with the launch of a U.S.-made Nike-Apache sounding rocket from the Thumba launching station. Since then, Indian scientists have been actively conducting upper atmospheric studies using sounding rockets.
  • The Norwegian Space Agency issued a tender for a rocket to perform upper atmospheric studies from their new testing range in Svalbard.
  • The contract was awarded to Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO.
  • To fulfill this mission, the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram developed the Rohini RH-300 Mk-II sounding rocket.
  • The rocket, powered by solid propellant, was specifically designed to withstand the extreme Arctic weather conditions of the Svalbard archipelago.
  • It underwent qualification tests in India before being shipped to Norway.
  • This qualification process was necessary because the Rohini rockets had previously been used only in the tropical hot and humid conditions of India.
  • The Svalbard region, located in the Arctic Ocean, experiences extremely low temperatures.

The successful launch of the Rohini RH-300 Mk-II sounding rocket from Ny-Alesund in Svalbard marked an important milestone in India’s space research and collaboration with Norway.

The Outcome of the Launch

  • The renamed Isbjorn-I (Polar Bear) rocket, launched on November 20, 1997, did not reach the expected elevation during its flight. Instead of reaching the planned height, the rocket only reached a height of 71 km.
  • To maintain the rocket’s ambient temperature at 18°C, scientists used a velostat shroud to cover the rocket. However, during the launch, the rocket did not pierce through the shroud as intended, resulting in the shroud being dragged along with the rocket. The increased drag caused by the shroud led to the rocket falling short of the expected height.
  • Despite not achieving the desired elevation, the Norwegian Space Center expressed satisfaction with the launch.
  • The flight still provided valuable data, which led to new and interesting findings according to ISRO veterans P. V. Manoranjan Rao and P. Radhakrishnan in their book “A Brief History of Rocketry in ISRO” (2012).

Growing Space Ties between India and Norway

  • The recent visit of Norwegian Ambassador Hans Jacob Frydenlund to the ISRO headquarters in June 2023 showcased a shared commitment to enhancing collaboration in the space sector between India and Norway.
  • During the visit, the Ambassador held meetings with the ISRO chairman and representatives from the Kongsberg Satellite Service (KSAT).
  • Following these discussions, ISRO affirmed that there is a mutual understanding between the two nations to foster a long-term partnership and maintain regular interactions in the fields of space exploration and technology.

This visit highlights the intention of both countries to strengthen their cooperation in advancing their respective space programs.


When was ISRO formed?

ISRO was formed on August 15, 1969. It was established by Vikram Sarabhai. ISRO succeeded its predecessor organization named Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR), which was established in 1962.

Which is the capital of Norway?

The capital of Norway is Oslo. It is the most populous city in Norway with a population of over 700,000 people.


  • Shubham Mittal

    Shubham Mittal is a renowned current affairs writer and expert in government exam preparation, inspiring readers with insightful articles and guiding aspirants with his expertise.

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