Saturday, September 20, 2008

India in Space - 2020

By Debanjan Ghosh
One of the most exciting and spectacular developments in the recorded history of mankind is the exploration of space and application of space technology for solving the complex social, economic and environmental problems confronting mankind. Since ancient times the infiniteness of space fired the imagination of Indians and their minds soared high to unravel its mysteries. In more modern times pioneers of India's space program considered space research and space technology as essential and indispensable for national reconstruction.

India launches a powerful GSLV rocket toward space.

The Launch of the GSLV

In recent years, India has concentrated much of its space development work on complex applications satellites and more powerful rockets. The nation's two main interests are satellites for remote sensing and communications, used for weather pictures, disaster warning and feeds to 552 television and 164 radio stations on the ground.

A partial chronology of ISRO

1963 - The first sounding rocket was launched Nov. 21 from TERLS.

1965 -Space Science & Technology Center (SSTC) was established in Thumba, Trivandrum.

1967 - Satellite Telecommunication Earth Station was erected at Ahmedabad.

1969 - Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was created on August 15 in the Department of Atomic Energy. Since then, ISRO has managed India's space research and the uses of space for peaceful purposes.

1972 - The government established the Space Commission and the Department of Space (DOS) in June. DOS conducts the nation's space activities for ISRO at four space Centers across the country. DOS reports directly to the Prime Minister.

1972 - ISRO placed under DOS on June 1.

1975 - ISRO made a Government Org. on April 1.

1975 - Aryabhata, the first Indian space satellite, was launched for India on April 19.

1979 - Bhaskara-I, an experimental satellite for earth observations, launched on June 7.

1979 - The first experimental launch of an SLV-3 rocket on August 10 did not place its Rohini Technology Payload satellite in orbit.

1980 - India successfully launched its own Rohini-1 satellite on July 18 on a Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) rocket from the Sriharikota Island launch site.

1983 - The Rohini-3 communications satellite, launched in August, had by the end of 1985 extended nationwide television coverage from 20 percent to 70 percent of the population. Today it is about 90 percent.

1984 - The first Indian cosmonaut, Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma became the 138th man in space when he spent eight days aboard the USSR's space station Salyut 7.

1992 - The Indian-built INSAT-2 geostationary communications and meteorological satellite superseded an American-built INSAT-1.

1993 - The even larger Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) debuted in September, but failed to attain orbit. Its individual elements were successful. PSLV can lift a one-ton satellite to a Sun-synchronous polar orbit.

2001 -- The first launch of a still larger Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) rocket was successful on April 18.

2002- On 2nd September 1st MET Satellite was launched from Satish Dhawan Space Center at Srihorikota. It keeps continuous watch on weather through its high resolution Radiometer.

2003-The multipurpose, INSAT-3A was launched from France on 10th April. A communication satellite weighing 1800 Kg was launched aboard the GSLV-D2 from Sriharikota on 8th May.

In recent years, India has achieved some remarkable successes in the field of space technology. It has made significant strides both in the fields of satellite and launch vehicle technologies. Since these technologies are dual use in nature, they have both civilian and military applications.

By using the PSLV, India launched the Technology Experiment Satellite, which has a resolution capacity of one meter. The satellite also has a sun-synchronous orbit, which is significant from the military standpoint.

Similarly, the INSAT communication satellites, although primarily used for civilian purposes, possess military application. They can be used for multi-purpose access digital data transmission, tele-conferencing and remote area emergency communications, features that could well be utilized in a military command and control network and for military operations such as search and rescue.

Recently, Dr. Marc Garneau, President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Dr. Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), reaffirming their pursuit of international space cooperation for peaceful purposes while working towards economic and social development for both countries. The Memorandum lays the framework for continuing cooperation in projects and activities in which we share a common interest. The Memorandum will foster the study of cooperative programs in satellite communications and satellite remote sensing as well as encouraging cooperation in the field of exploration and use of space by the private sector and academia in both countries.

Now, ISRO markets $40 million worth of images from it's five satellites. India seems to be on a good wicket to take on the competition, what with launch costs here said to be a small fraction of that of the other three or four space-faring nations. Besides, it is good that India’s launch capability (to put into orbit large communications satellites) has taken off just when the renaissance in such systems is around the corner. Zee television plans to design and launch a satellite of its own, which will be suited to the media needs of the subcontinent. The future of broadband communications is now hitched to satellites like never before. The sky could soon be filled with more than 400 satellites providing internet users with low-cost, direct to home connections that are hundreds of times faster than the fastest ground-based networks accessed via dial-up modems.

The best part is that the new systems will operate at extremely high, narrow-beam, radio frequencies and all that is required for receiving signals would be ultra-small antennas that can be easily mounted on most homes.

However, ISRO wants to continue to make custom-designed remote-sensing satellites which are unique and role-specific. They are going to develop more sophisticated launchers like the GSLV, capable of putting above 2,000 kg satellites into orbit and, generally speaking, continue to meet the development needs of the country.

ISRO wants to shape its future on the rather successful French model. In France, most of the research and development relating to space technology is conducted by the Center National D'etudes Spatials (CNES) in Paris. Once a product has been adequately tested, it is transferred to Arianespace Corporation, a purely commercial arm. Araianespace then produces the components and launchers in bulk on a production line.

Talks have already begun with various industries and possibly, PSLV may be bought by a consortium of Indian industries. Godrej and Boyce, Larsen and Toubro and Walchandnagar Industries are already major suppliers of components and, most probably, one of them will come forward to head the consortium, say ISRO officials. Going a step further, the ISRO chairman says that sophisticated test facilities developed by ISRO at considerable expense can be very easily shared with the private sector. He categorically emphasized that there was no need to build another launch pad as the existing facilities can be shared by the private sector and the government.

ISRO is a vast organism today spread all over India. It has dedicated facilities for research, design, fabrication, management and marketing for its many abilities: liquid and cryogenic propulsion, satellites, inertial systems, telemetry, space imaging, control systems and of course launch services. Success breeds success and it’s happening with ISRO. In near future we can see sea of changes. The various programs that may be considered by our space scientists are as follows:

Science Program:

Development, construction and operation of satellites, space probes and high-altitude sounding rockets for performing and evaluating missions in the fields of astronomy, astrophysics, exploration of the solar system and the planets as well as gravitational physics.

Infrastructure programs:

Development of transport technologies, space transportation systems as well as satellite and operation technologies. Development of an automated supply vehicle and of equipment for future experimental programs. Development of rescue vehicles to ensure return of the crew from the Space Station; further development of the ground infrastructure, of user Centers and astronaut training facilities for the operation and exploitation of the Space Station and the satellite systems.

Space transportation systems/launcher technologies:

Systems design and analysis for future (reusable) transportation systems, technologies for highly stressed structures and materials; guidance, navigation and control (GNC) systems

technologies and components for engines of future space transportation systems, consistent use of potential synergies for non-space applications.

Technology for space systems/robotics:

Development of space robot technologies for inspection, maintenance and repair work running experiments on the International Space Station (Space Station payloads) the maintenance and supply of satellites and the exploration of other planets with automatic vehicles. Development of new applications with terrestrial and commercial prospects. Necessary technical developments to accommodate wide range of satellites and multiple number of satellites in a single launch have been undertaken to increase versatility of our launch vehicles. The payload capacity of PSLV is enhanced from about 1000 Kg to 1400 Kg in sun synchronous orbits. A number of potential micro and small satellite customers around the world are identified and they have been contacted and provided with relevant information on the capabilities of our launch vehicles suiting their launch needs.


The Committee was informed that telemedicine is an emerging area where there is a lot of scope to successfully apply space technology. Most of the States are interested to adopt telemedicine practices to extend medical facilities to people inhabiting remote and inaccessible areas. Doctors are showing keen interest to offer their services to patients through telemedicine. Tele-medicine mainly consists of customized medical software integrated with computer hardware, along with medical diagnostic instruments connected to the commercial VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) at each location, which is linked to satellite.

Disaster Management Support:

The disaster management support program encompasses following aspects:

Flood Monitoring: Near real-time monitoring of major floods is being continued using data from IRS and RADARSAT. The information generated is being disseminated to State administrations. They propose to use the digital database for generating village level information on flood inundation and affected population.

Landslide Hazard Zone Mapping: An atlas containing landslide hazard and management maps were brought out for the pilgrim routes of Himachal Pradesh and Himalayas at 1:25,000 scale. These atlases were supplied to the various implementing agencies and user workshops were conducted at Dehradun and Shimla for familiarizing them in their use.

Digital Database Creation: One of the critical requirements to provide special information on floods and other disasters is the availability of digital database. A Technical Committee has worked out the database requirements in terms of themes, special scale, updating cycle, methodology and priority districts. Based on these inputs, a major project has been formulated to create digital database.

Space Capsule Recovery Equipment:

Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE) envisages development of recoverable capsule. It is intended to develop and demonstrate technologies related to conducting micro gravity experiments in space, recovery from orbit through re-entry into earth’s atmosphere and recovery of the capsule on sea or land. It is proposed to be launched along with a passenger through one of the forthcoming launches of PSLV into polar sun-synchronous orbit during 2004/05.

Geo Sphere Biosphere Program:

Global climate change is of great concern to the world. Realizing the importance this program encompasses the study of land-air-ocean interaction, past climate, changes in atmospheric composition, aerosols, carbon cycle, bio-mass estimation, bio-diversity and other related areas of scientific investigation. The ISRO-GBP is aimed at using maximum data from ISRO’s own satellites.

Exploration of outer space:

Implementation of national projects or cooperation in international in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics and for the exploration of our solar system (sun, small bodies, planets, interplanetary space) as well as on issues of basic physics (e.g. gravitation theory) using space technology. Making use of the special conditions in space which cannot be reproduced in ground labs in order to obtain basic findings on the behaviour of physical and biological systems in this environment, deriving parameters for improving application and industry related techniques in ground labs when addressing materials and life science problems.

Security and military aspects:

Media reports suggest that the ISRO is shortly going to launch its next polar satellite launch vehicle rocket with the Cartosat surveillance satellite as its principal payload, exclusively for defense use. Cartosat would be equipped with a powerful camera, which will enable the field commanders to acquire point-specific information about target areas. Possible threats through space by rogue states could be confronted by a package of military measures (including a purely defensive shield) and political and economic sanctions.

International terrorism cannot be defeated from space, but space assets can contribute substantially to its containment.

International Cooperation:

ISRO should emphasize working together with other countries and international bodies in promoting the development and use of space technology for different applications. They may envisage the facts:

(a) Working with other space agencies in programs of mutual interest,

(b) Participating in international committees and other forums dealing with space policies and coordination of space operations,

(c) Seeking support from other countries for India’s space activities and

(d) Providing expertise and services to other developing countries in the applications of space technology.

At present, Department of Space and ISRO have formal Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) or Agreement with Australia, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, China, EUMETSAT-1, European Space Agency (ESA), France, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Russia, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, U.K., Ukraine, and USA.

Sponsored Research:

Sponsored Research (RESPOND) program is aimed at strengthening the academic interaction with colleges, universities, and institutes of technology and research institutions. The activities include (a) research and development project in space sciences, applications and technology (b) space technology cells (c) space science and applications cells (d) space education programs (f) conferences, publication and promotional activities relevant to the Indian space program. DOS reviews the sponsored projects. This will help generate human resources at the academic institutions to support the space program.

Planetary prowess:

India limbers up for space race as prime minister asks for the moon . A $78 million unmanned lunar mission-plan seeks to showcase India's scientific expertise and stake its claim to join a select club for future planetary missions.

India's lunar mission, which is awaiting the government's nod, will launch a 400 kg satellite into orbit within the next five years using a locally built polar satellite launch vehicle. "It will go around the polar orbit about 100 km above the moon," Kasturirangan said.

The satellite will probe the physical characteristics of the lunar surface, certain aspects of physical, chemical and "geochronological aspects" of the moon, he said.

"It will further add to an overall database which properly modeled, could improve our understanding of the origin of moon, which is still not answered," he said. Kasturirangan said India might scout global markets for small instruments for the satellite.

Critics have said cash-strapped India should not undertake a lunar mission but instead restrict its space programs to satellite launches and use its funds for social welfare.

India's Anna University To Develop Microsat:

Adding to the cache, on February 15, 2002 the Anna University proposed to develop a micro-satellite in collaboration with ISRO.

The satellite will be developed in about three years. Being the first of its kind for an Indian university in spacecraft development, the micro-satellite will be a comparatively simple one weighing around 60 kg. It will have body-mounted solar panels generating about 40 Watt of electrical power and will be spin-stabilised. It will have a data store-and-forward payload for conducting experiments on message transfer across the country.

These micro-satellites could be used to test advanced technologies for future operational satellites or for larger scientific missions. The advantage of micro-satellites is that they can be launched as piggyback payloads along with a primary satellite like IRS thus making the Micro-satellite launch affordable.

For ease of understanding the milestones that need to be overcome to achieve the dream successful are listed below:

1. Building up a sound international cooperation
2. Proper management of disasters, food problems, health hazards through sat-communication. Thereby gaining public faith for the expensive project which is devoted for the nation’s overall development
3. Break through in cryogenics and discovery of more sophisticated devices
4. Sanctioning of a larger budget from government for space research,
5. Development of reusable space probe and space capsule recovery technology.
6. Development of space station of its own
7. Development of space robot technologies for inspection, maintenance, repair work on the International space stations
8. Discovery of technology to accommodate multiple satellites in a single launch
9. Strengthening of academic interaction with India’s premier tech. institute to boost research work
10. Greater interactions and tie-ups with national and international business groups.


Actually, satellite technology seems to be emerging as the right platform for the whole gamut of national development. But it is a moot point whether the commercial arm of ISRO is in a position to leverage its resources and acquire market share in the lucrative launch segment. We already have a functional polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV), for much smaller remote sensing satellites, but commercial usage has been minimal. That surely needs to change.

The long saga of the GSLV has also provided a much-required avenue of expression for the latent pool of scientific talent available in the nation. The involvement of over 150 organizations, including industries in the private sector and leading academic institutions in this success story only proves the need for a convergence of the available domestic capabilities for furthering scientific advances. With appropriate adaptations, the success of the ISRO's linkages with industry and academia could be replicated in other crucial areas. To build on the successful launch of the GSLV, there should be adequate support from Parliament as well as the Government. Especially at a time when the Tenth Plan allocations are under way. The thrust of the future of ISRO should be to make the required quantum leap to take the nation closer to the rapid developments that are taking place in the select group of nations involved in space technology. India should not be happy with merely remaining in the space club. It is important that it does not remain a laggard.


No comments: