Context: ISRO’s evolution and its importance in embracing civilian identity and its future in global space economy.
More in News:
- Government introduced Space Activities Bill in 2017, though it has lapsed, government now has an opportunity to give priority to a new bill that can be welcomed by the private sector.
- Chandrayaan-2 will be launched from Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota on-board GSLV Mk-III on 15th July 2019.
Evolution of Space Research in India:
- Space activities in India, which started in early 1960s, are hitherto pursued by Department of Space (DOS), as nodal agency for space activities in India. The INCOSPAR (Indian National Committee for Space Research) was established in 1962 under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), later superseded by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in 1969.
- In 1967, by establishing ‘Experimental Satellite Communication Earth Station (ESCES)’ located in Ahmedabad, ISRO first focused on testing the efficacy of television medium for national development with the help of foreign satellites. Thereby introducing the TV program ‘Krishi Darshan’, followed by, Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) which is hailed as largest sociological experiment in the world during 1975-76.
- The first Indian spacecraft ‘Aryabhata’ was developed and was launched using a Soviet Launcher. In the experimental phase during 80’s, Bhaskara-I & II missions were pioneering steps in the remote sensing area whereas ‘Ariane Passenger Payload Experiment (APPLE)’ became the forerunner for future communication satellite system.
- Development of the complex Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV), also demonstrated newer technologies like use of strap-on, bulbous heat shield, closed loop guidance and digital autopilot. This paved the way for learning many nuances of launch vehicle design for complex missions, leading the way for realization of operational launch vehicles such as PSLV and GSLV.
- ISRO has achieved a major milestone by successfully conducting the ground test of Indigenous High Thrust Cryogenic Engine at ISRO Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri on April 28, 2015.
- Communication Satellites: The Indian National Satellite (INSAT) system is one of the largest domestic communication satellite systems in Asia-Pacific region established in 1983 with commissioning of INSAT-1B, it initiated a major revolution in India’s communications sector. Recently in June 2017 ISRO launched GSAT17 into the INSAT/GSAT system, weighing 3477 kg. It provides services to telecommunications, television broadcasting, satellite newsgathering, societal applications, weather forecasting, disaster warning and Search and Rescue operations.
- Earth Observation Satellites: India has one of the largest constellations of remote sensing satellites in operation, starting with IRS-1A in 1988. RESOURCESAT-1, 2, 2A CARTOSAT-1, 2, 2A, 2B, RISAT-1 and 2, OCEANSAT-2, Megha-Tropiques, SARAL and SCATSAT-1 are some of the operational earth observation satellites. The data from these satellites are used for several applications covering agriculture, water resources, urban planning, rural development, mineral prospecting, environment, forestry, ocean resources and disaster management.
- Satellite Navigation: Satellite Navigation service is an emerging satellite based system with commercial and strategic applications. ISRO is committed to provide the satellite based Navigation services to meet the emerging demands of the Civil Aviation requirements (GAGAN) and to meet the user requirements of the positioning, navigation and timing based on the independent satellite navigation system (NaVIC).
- GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation (GAGAN): This is a Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) implemented jointly with Airport Authority of India (AAI). The main objectives of GAGAN are to provide Satellite-based Navigation services with accuracy and integrity required for civil aviation applications and to provide better Air Traffic Management over Indian Airspace.
- Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) : NavIC, with the main objective is to provide Reliable Position, Navigation and Timing services over India and its neighbourhood, to provide fairly good accuracy to the user. The IRNSS will provide basically two types of services – Standard Positioning Service (SPS) and Restricted Service (RS)
- Space Science and Exploration: Indian space programme encompasses research in areas like astronomy, astrophysics, planetary and earth sciences, atmospheric sciences and theoretical physics.
- AstroSat is the first dedicated Indian astronomy mission aimed at studying celestial sources.
- Mars Orbiter Mission is ISRO’s first interplanetary mission to planet Mars with an orbiter craft designed to orbit Mars in an elliptical orbit of 372 km by 80,000 km. Mars Orbiter mission can be termed as a challenging technological mission and a science mission considering the critical mission operations and stringent requirements on propulsion, communications and other bus systems of the spacecraft.
- Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to Moon, was launched successfully in 2008.
- Chandrayaan-2 will be an advanced version of the previous Chandrayaan-1 mission to Moon.Chandrayaan-2 is configured as a two module system comprising of an Orbiter Craft module (OC) and a Lander Craft module (LC) carrying the Rover developed by ISRO.
Launch Vehicles: are used to carry spacecraft to space. India has two operational launchers: Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). GSLV with indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage has enabled the launching up to 2 tonne class of communication satellites. The next variant of GSLV is GSLV Mk III, with indigenous high thrust cryogenic engine and stage, having the capability of launching 4 tonne class of communication satellites.
- SatCom policy: Under this policy framework, Indian registered companies with foreign investment not exceeding 74% will be allowed to establish and operate satellite system. The policy is a failure as it has not attracted any FDI.
- Remote Sensing Data Policy, 2011: Under this policy, private, foreign and other users including web based service providers can obtain the data from remote sensing satellite. But there is no promising growth in remote sensing data sector.
- Make in India Space sector: FDI upto 100% is allowed in satellite establishment and operation, subject to the sectoral guidelines of the department of space/ISRO, under the government route. However there is no sign of progress in this field.
- ISRO’s programmes (Launches and satellites) are primarily meant for societal and country needs in the civilian defence sectors, the spare capacity is small for commercial needs.
Future of ISRO:
- Global space business is whooping around $330 billion and growing 2-3% annually. It is likely to exceed $550 billion by 2025. India’s share is estimated at $7 billion (just 2% of global market). Space Economy offers huge potential and India must work towards tapping this potential. The first step in this regard could be passage of Space Activities Bill and to create an ecosystem of investment system so that the private, foreign and domestic investors could come and invest.
- The market of small satellite is estimated to be $18 billion over the next 10 years, with a potential to generate Rs 1500-2000 crore business per year. Recently PSLV-C37 successfully launched 104 satellites in a single flight. Out of 104, 101 are nano satellites of foreign countries, so ISRO has the capability to tap small satellite sector.
- ISRO recently inaugurated Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) in January 2019 at Bengaluru. HSFC shall be responsible for implementation of GAGANYAAN Project which involves end-to-end mission planning, development of Engineering systems for crew survival in space, crew selection & training and also pursue activities for sustained human space flight missions.
- Developments in artificial intelligence and big data analytics has led to the emergence of ‘New Space’ – a disruptive and dynamic using end to end efficiency concepts. New Space entrepreneurship has emerged in India with about 2 dozens start-ups in India. So government should create an enabling ecosystem, a culture of accelerators, incubators and venture capitalists and mentors where these new space start-ups will develop.
Way Forward: In the dynamic Indian population, the demand for space based services is increasing day by day. To meet the demand of this vibrant population, the government must bring new space laws and create an ecosystem where a new kind of partnership between ISRO, private sector and new space entrepreneurs will flourish to take India to the new heights of development.