[Yojana May 2023 Summary] Innovation in Space Tech – Explained, pointwise

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Since its inception, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has played a vital role in driving innovation in space technology across various domains. From its beginnings in Thumba to becoming a global player, ISRO’s 53+ year journey has seen remarkable advancements. Especially in areas such as space transportation, infrastructure, science, applications, human exploration, robotics, artificial intelligence, and quantum technologies.  

How has Innovation in Space Tech Shaped the Evolution of India’s Space Transportation System?

 Innovation in Space Tech
Source: Hindustan Times

From Sounding Rockets to SSLV: India’s journey in space transportation began with the development of solid-propulsion-based Sounding Rockets in the 1970s, followed by the first generation Satellite Launch Vehicles (SLV) and Augmented SLV (ASLV). The integration of solid and liquid propulsion technologies paved the way for the second-generation workhorse, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).  

Cryogenic Engine and GSLV Launch Vehicles: The indigenous development of a cryogenic propulsive engine marked a significant leap in technology, leading to the creation of third-generation GSLV launch vehicles capable of placing a 2000 kg payload in Geo-Synchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).

Launch Vehicle MK3 (LVM3) and Heavy Payloads: LVM3 was powered by the world’s 3rd largest solid boosters and high-capacity engines. This advanced LVM3 was developed to launch high throughput communication satellites, with the capability of putting a 4000 kg payload in GTO.  

Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) and Quick Turnaround: The latest addition to ISRO’s rocket family is the SSLV, a three-stage launch vehicle designed for quick turnaround and the ability to launch a 500 kg satellite into a 500 km planar orbit.  

How has Innovation in Space Tech Contributed to the growth of India’s space infrastructure?

Innovation in Space Tech
Source: SP Aviation

The Birth of India’s Space Infrastructure: In the early 1970s, ISRO laid the foundation for designing, building, and operating spacecraft. This led to the launch of India’s first satellite, ‘Aryabhata’, on 19 April 1975, and subsequent experimental missions like Bhaskara and APPLE.

Advancements in Key Spacecraft Technologies: ISRO’s self-reliance in spacecraft technology was bolstered by the indigenous development of advanced propulsion, power systems, thermal systems, deployable structures, space bus systems, communication systems, and more.  

Evolution of Remote Sensing and Communication Capabilities: India’s remote sensing capabilities have grown from a coarse 1 km resolution to a fine 28 cm resolution, with day & night and all-weather functionality. Communication transponders have also expanded from a single unit to 317 numbers.  

Expanding Space Infrastructure Portfolio: Today, India’s space infrastructure includes 25 Earth observation satellites, 22 communication satellites, 7 navigation satellites, 2 space science satellites, and various experimental, small, and student satellites.  

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

How has innovation in space tech-enabled India’s Space Science and Interplanetary Missions?

Innovation in Space Tech-
Source: Yojana

Journey to the Moon and Beyond: ISRO successfully reached the Moon and Mars, opening a new era of planetary exploration. Chandrayaan-1, India’s first lunar orbiter mission, achieved the scientific breakthrough of discovering water on the Moon.  

Exploring Mars with Mangalyaan: India’s first interplanetary mission, Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), made India the first Asian nation to reach Martian orbit and the first nation globally to do so on its maiden attempt. MOM explored Mars’ surface, mineralogy, and atmosphere with five onboard scientific instruments.  

Developing Key Technologies for Interplanetary Missions: During MOM, ISRO developed crucial technologies for designing, planning, management, and operations of interplanetary missions, such as orbit raising maneuvers, trans-Mars injection, trajectory correction maneuvers, and Mars orbit insertion.  

AstroSat’s Multi-Wavelength Space Astronomy: AstroSat, a multi-wavelength space astronomy mission, served astronomers from nearly 50 countries and made breakthrough discoveries, such as detecting UV emissions from star formation in a galaxy 9.4 billion years away.  

Read more: Indian Space Association (ISpA) – Explained, pointwise

How has Innovation in Space Tech Revolutionized Space Applications for India?

Meeting Diverse Earth Observation Needs: ISRO’s Earth Observation (EO) applications have been institutionalized across various sectors, including national security, agriculture, disaster management, and resource mapping, contributing to India’s major flagship programs.  

Advancements in Ground Infrastructure and Imaging Technologies: Significant development in ground technologies, such as multiobject tracking radar, polarimetric Doppler weather radar, and advanced ground stations, has facilitated uninterrupted satellite services usage.  

Innovative Imaging Technologies for Earth Observation: Technological advancements in imaging, such as push-broom, stereo imaging, and synthetic aperture radar (SAR), have allowed ISRO to accomplish 47 missions with varying spatial, temporal, and spectral resolutions.

Read more: India and Outer Space: Issues & Challenges – Explained, pointwise

How has Innovation in Space Tech contributed to Human Space Exploration in India?

Gaganyaan – India’s Maiden Human Spaceflight Mission: ISRO’s Gaganyaan mission is a complex project that aims to send astronauts to space and safely return them to Earth, involving the development of numerous technology elements.  

Key Technology Developments: These include human-rated launch vehicles, crew escape systems, habitable orbital modules, life support systems, and crew management activities for onboard safety.  

Successful Tests and Progress: ISRO has conducted successful tests such as the Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE), pad abort test, and Integrated Main Parachute Airdrop Test (IMAT) for the Gaganyaan mission, which is now at an advanced stage of realization.  

What are the Latest Innovations in Space Tech and their applications in India?

Reusable Launch Vehicles and Air Breathing Propulsion: ISRO is developing reusable launch vehicles, air-breathing two-stage to-orbit vehicles, and scramjet engines for cost-effective future space transportation systems.

Recently, ISRO made a significant development in RV technologies with an RV landing experiment (RLV-LEX) demonstrating the autonomous landing of a winged vehicle on a runway. Its Current focus is on the development of critical technologies towards the realization of a vehicle-integrated scramjet engine called the Hypersonic Air Breathing Vehicle with Airframe integrated system (HAVA).  

PSLV Orbital Experimental Module (POEM): ISRO has innovatively repurposed the spent 4th stage of PSLV for carrying out scientific experiments under the name POEM. It provides a microgravity platform for conducting various scientific experiments in space. The opportunities are open for academic institutions and industries to utilize this unique and cost-effective platform for conducting their experiments in a space environment.  

Space Robotics and 3D Printing: ISRO has pursued research and development in space robotics, including Vyommitra (a humanoid robot), landers and rovers for the Chandrayaan-3 mission, and on-orbit satellite refuelling. Additionally, they are exploring 3D printing in space.  

Quantum Communication: ISRO has demonstrated free-space quantum communication over a distance of 300 m, developing key technologies such as entangled-photon sources and polarization compensation techniques.  

Space Data Economy and Smart Cities: Space data, combined with artificial intelligence and machine learning, contribute to smart city applications, smart manufacturing, and supply chain management.  

Societal Applications and Spin-offs: Technological advancements in the space sector have led to societal applications, such as ventricular assist devices, microprocessor-controlled limbs, and medical ventilators.  

Growing Private Sector Participation: Space sector reforms encourage the involvement of nongovernmental entities, fostering a thriving space ecosystem and driving scientific and technological progress. 

Read more: Space Industry in India: Potential and Challenges – Explained, Pointwise

Source: Yojana

Syllabus: GS 3: Science and Technology – indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

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