India’s First Rocket named “Nike-Apache” (which means sounding rocket) was launched by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) from Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS),Kerala on 21st November 1963. The rocket was so small that it could be carried by one hand, and hence was transported by a bicycle. The second rocket was a satellite which was a little bigger and heavier, was transported in a bullock cart.
The story goes back to 1962 when Dr.Homi Bhabha and Dr.Vikram Sarabhai, the chief of India’s nuclear program established the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR). They both were looking for a site to construct a rocket station and after a long discussion, finalized Thumba in Kerala. A small team of scientists including A.P.J.Abdul Kalam and G.Madhavan Nair soon got into business to build the rocket. The Rocket launching pad was set on a beach and a local Catholic church (St. Mary Magadelene’s Church) was used as the main office for the scientists. The drawings of few rockets were made in church, which is now a museum. The Bishop’s house was converted into a workshop and a cattle shed become the laboratory for the young scientists.
After launching “Nike-apache”, Prof.Sarabhai and his team dreamed for an Indian satellite Launch Vehicle (ISLV). After the Death of Dr.Sarabhai on 30 December,1971 the place got renamed as Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC) in his honor.