ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed of the day] Expanding India’s share in global space economy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Missions of ISRO

Mains level : How to increase share of ISRO in international space sector

Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss this at any cost.

CONTEXT

  • From a modest beginning in the 1960s, India’s space programme has grown steadily, achieving significant milestones. These include fabrication of satellites, space-launch vehicles, and a range of associated capabilities.
  • The draft Space Activities Bill introduced in 2017 has lapsed and the government now has an opportunity to give priority to a new Bill that can be welcomed by the private sector, both the larger players and the start-ups alike.

ISRO’s thrust areas

1.Satellite communication –

  • The first area was of satellite communication, with INSAT and GSAT as the backbones, to address the national needs for telecommunication, broadcasting and broadband infrastructure.
  •  About 200 transponders on Indian satellites provide services linked to areas like telecommunication, telemedicine, television, broadband, radio, disaster management and search and rescue services.
  • A second area of focus was earth observation and using space-based imagery for a slew of national demands, ranging from weather forecasting, disaster management and national resource mapping and planning.
  • These resources cover agriculture and watershed, land resource, and forestry managements.
  • With higher resolution and precise positioning, Geographical Information Systems’ applications today cover all aspects of rural and urban development and planning.
  • Beginning with the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) series in the 1980s, today the RISAT, Cartosat and Resourcesat series provide wide-field and multi-spectral high resolution data for land, ocean and atmospheric observations.

3.Navigation

  • The GPS-aided GEO augmented navigation (GAGAN), a joint project between ISRO and Airports Authority of India, augmented the GPS coverage of the region, improving the accuracy and integrity, primarily for civil aviation applications and better air traffic management over Indian airspace.
  • This was followed up with the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), a system based on seven satellites in geostationary and geosynchronous orbits.
  • It provides accurate positioning service, covering a region extending to 1,500 km beyond Indian borders, with an accuracy greater than 20 metres; higher accuracy positioning is available to the security agencies for their use.
  • In 2016, the system was renamed NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation).

4. Space science and exploration missions

  • With growing confidence, ISRO has also started to undertake more ambitious space science and exploration missions.
  • The most notable of these have been the Chandrayaan and the Mangalyaan missions, with a manned space mission, Gaganyaan, planned for its first test flight in 2021.

5. Launch-vehicle technology

  • Beginning with the Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) and the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV), ISRO has developed and refined the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) as its workhorse for placing satellites in low earth and sun synchronous orbits.
  • The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) programme is still developing with its MkIII variant, having undertaken three missions, and is capable of carrying a 3.5 MT payload into a geostationary orbit.

Share in international space market

  • Today, the value of the global space industry is estimated to be $350 billion and is likely to exceed $550 billion by 2025.
  • Despite ISRO’s impressive capabilities, India’s share is estimated at $7 billion (just 2% of the global market) covering broadband and Direct-to-Home television (accounting for two-thirds of the share), satellite imagery and navigation.
  • Already, over a third of transponders used for Indian services are leased from foreign satellites and this proportion will rise as the demand grows.

New Space

  • Developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data analytics has led to the emergence of ‘New Space’ — a disruptive dynamic based on using end-to-end efficiency concepts.
  • A parallel is how the independent app developers, given access to the Android and Apple platforms, revolutionised smartphone usage.
  • New Space entrepreneurship has emerged in India with about two dozen start-ups who are not enamoured of the traditional vendor/supplier model but see value in exploring end-to-end services in the Business-to-Business and Business-to-Consumer segments. 

‘New Space’ start-ups

  • The New Space start-ups discern a synergy with government’s flagship programmes like Digital India, Start-Up India, Skill India and schemes like Smart Cities Mission.
  • They see a role as a data-app builder between the data seller (ISRO/Antrix) and the end user, taking advantage of the talent pool, innovation competence and technology know-how.
  • They need an enabling ecosystem, a culture of accelerators, incubators, Venture Capitalists and mentors that exists in cities like Bengaluru which is where most New Space start-ups have mushroomed.

Small Satelite revolution

  •  Globally, 17,000 small satellites are expected to be launched between now and 2030. ISRO is developing a small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV) expected to be ready in 2019.
  • It is a prime candidate, along with the proven PSLV, to be farmed out to the private sector. This requires giving it responsibility for AIT activities.

Rural area revolution

  • Years ago, ISRO launched the idea of Village Resource Centres to work in collaboration with local panchayats and NGOs but only 460 pilots have begun.
  • Expanding this for rural areas is a formidable challenge but has the potential to transform rural India if properly conceived as a part of the India Stack and the Jan Dhan Yojana.

Conclusion

With the Ministry of Defence now setting up a Defence Space Agency and a Defence Space Research Organisation, ISRO should actively embrace an exclusively civilian identity. A new Space law for India should aim at facilitating growing India’s share of global space economy to 10% within a decade which requires a new kind of partnership between ISRO, the established private sector and the New Space entrepreneurs.

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