[Yojana January Summary] India as a Space Power – Explained, pointwise

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Recently, S. Somanath has been appointed as the chairperson of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). ISRO aims to continue to achieve new milestones and further development of India’s space programmes under his tenure. The beginnings of the Indian Space Programme resonated strongly with its founding father Dr Vikram Sarabhai’s vision, that India must be ‘second to none in the application of advanced technologies for the benefit of society.’

About India’s Space Programme

The space programme formally took off with the formation of the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) in 1962, followed by the first sounding rocket launch from Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in 1963.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was formed in 1969, superseding INCOSPAR. Today, with a total workforce of over 18,000, ISRO’s establishments are functioning in many parts of the country with each concentrating on a specific specialised domain.

With the establishment of the Space Commission and the Department of Space (DOS) in 1972, ISRO was brought under DOS.

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What are the salient achievements of India’s space programme?
Evolution of Space Research in India
Read here: Space research evolution in India
Launch vehicles for India’s space programme

The space transportation domain, with the successful advent of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in 1994, witnessed a quantum jump in the indigenous launch capabilities. The PSLV has proven to be a workhorse of ISRO, logging over 50 successful missions, launching national as well as foreign satellites.

In the 1990s, the commissioning of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) was the next step in India’s space program. The launch vehicle was designed with three stages (including the cryogenic upper stage), with four liquid strap-ons.

The next-generation launch vehicle of ISRO, with a capability for putting a 4 Ton payload in geostationary transfer orbit(GTO), came in the form of GSLV-Mk III.

Recent missions and achievements of India’s space programme

Chandrayaan-1 mission – The mission made India the fourth country to send a probe to the lunar surface after the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan. The mission conclusively discovered water molecules on the lunar surface, it was widely hailed as a path-breaking discovery.

Mars Orbiter Mission – With this, ISRO has become the fourth space agency to successfully send a spacecraft to Mars orbit.

AstroSat – It is the first dedicated Indian astronomy mission aimed at studying celestial sources in X-ray, optical, and UV spectral bands simultaneously. AstroSat recently made a major breakthrough by discovering one of the earliest galaxies in extreme-Ultraviolet light.

Chandrayaan-2 Mission – It is India’s second mission to the moon with the objective to map and study the variations in lunar surface composition. The instruments onboard the Orbiter is continuously providing useful science data which will enrich India’s understanding of the moon’s evolution and mapping of the minerals and water molecules in the Polar regions.

Operationalisation of Navic – It provides highly accurate Position, Navigation, and Time information to users in India and its surroundings. The Global Standards body3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), which develops protocols for mobile telephony, has approved NavIC. Major mobile chipset manufacturers have incorporated NavIC in their releases.

Other recent reforms in the space sector

1. Towards capacity building in human resources and to meet the growing demands of the Indian Space Programme, the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST), a deemed university, was established at Thiruvananthapuram in 2007. 2. The creation of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe) to promote, handhold, and authorise Non-Government Private Entities (NGPEs) to undertake space activities shall unleash the next wave of advancements in the sector. 3. Launching of Indian Space Association: It is the premier industry association of space and satellite companies, which aspires to be the collective voice of the Indian Space industry.

Read more: Explained: Why launch of Indian Space Association is significant
What are the upcoming missions of India’s space programme?

Gaganyaan Programme – The stated objective of the mission is to demonstrate human space flight capability to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) for a defined duration and safe recovery after the mission. The Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) was constituted in ISRO in January 2019, for implementing the vision on human space flight. Recently, ISRO has successfully demonstrated the Pad Abort Test (PAT), which is the first in the series of tests to qualify the Crew Escape System (CES).

Disha: It is a twin-satellite system that will study Earth’s aeronomy, the uppermost layer of Earth’s atmosphere.

EOS-4 and EOS-6: These are Earth Observation Satellites. They will be launched onboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat): It is an space observatory to study the polarization of cosmic X-rays; planned to be launched in the second quarter of 2022. The telescope is being developed with the help of Raman Research Institute.

Space exploration missions of India’s space programme

Aditya L1: The aim is to take a space observatory to the Lagrangian point one (L-1) to study the Sun. The objective of the mission is to study the dynamic nature of the sun’s outermost layers, the corona and the chromosphere.

Read more: Objectives and importance of ISRO’S Aditya-L1 mission.

Shukrayaan Mission: It is expected to be launched in 2024 by ISRO. It will study Venus for four years.

Chandrayaan-3: It is a third lunar mission of ISRO. It is planned to demonstrate India’s capability of soft landing on a celestial body, with the rover then communicating with Earth via the existing orbiter from Chandrayaan-2. It is planned to be launched in the third quarter of 2022.

Upcoming collaborative missions of India’s space programme

Trishna: It stands for Thermal Infrared Imaging Satellite for High-resolution Natural resource Assessment. It is a joint mission of ISRO and CNES, the French space agency. It is meant for accurate mapping of land surface temperature. It is scheduled for a 2024 launch.

NISAR [NASA-ISRO SAR] mission: It is scheduled for launch in 2023. It is optimised for studying hazards and global environmental change and can help manage natural resources better and provide information to scientists to better understand the effects and pace of climate change.

Read more: Functions of “NSIL | New Space India Limited”
What are the challenges faced by India’s space programmes?

Less share of ISRO in the global arena: The value of the global space industry is estimated to be $350 billion and is likely to exceed $550 billion by 2025. India’s share is estimated at $7 billion (just 2% of the global market).

Lower Spending: The funds allocated to the space sector are very less in comparison to other countries. The US spent 10 times and China 6 times more than India in the space sector in 2019-20.

Brain Drain: India produces the best brains in the world but is unable to retain them. People emigrate from the country for better opportunities and careers that might hamper the development of the space sector.

Managing big constellations of satellites: Although India has a good potential to launch satellites, managing a huge number of satellites in space could be a challenging task in the future. This should be done keeping in mind the possibilities of a future space war.

Technological issues and challenges:  Despite various progress, ISRO is still a long way away in some critical technologies. For instance, On the Gaganyaan mission, ISRO is still building its capabilities and developing critical technologies required to send astronauts being into space.

Too much dependence on PSLV: India is dependent mainly on a single type of launch vehicle such as that of PSLV, which hampers the capacity expansion of the programme.

Lack of robust Dispute Settlement Mechanism: This discourages private investment in the space sector. The void was seen in Antrix – Devas cancelled the satellite deal. The Government of India owes nearly $1.2 billion to Devas Multimedia as per an order of a tribunal of the International Chamber of Commerce.

What steps can be taken to improve India’s space programme?

1. The plan to set up an independent tribunal to adjudicate disputes among private space entities should be implemented promptly. 2. The passage of the Space Activities Bill should also be done in order to give private players greater clarity and protection. This should involve proper consultation and discussions with the concerned stakeholders. 3. The focus should be on aiding space start-ups to penetrate rural India and encourage youth to build careers in space applications and sciences. 4. NSIL should function more than a marketer of ISRO’s technologies. It should find newer business opportunities and expand the sector itself. 5. The government should also enhance spending towards the sector considering the huge future potential and robust returns on investment.

Indian Space sector possesses huge untapped potential which can be realized with adequate policy measures by the government. This would boost the confidence of the private sector and deliver optimum results, thereby cementing India’s position as a 21st-century space power.

Source: Yojana, ISRO

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