ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO has been in news over these two years and for all the right reasons.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO places Brazil’s Amazonia-1 satellite

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Amazonia satellite

Mains level : Not Much

The successful launch of Brazil’s Amazonia-1 satellite by the Indian Space Research Organisation marks a new high point in space cooperation between the two countries.

Note why Amazonia-1 Satellite is distinct in itself. It paves for statement based MCQs.

Amazonia-1 Satellite

  • The Amazônia-1 or SSR- is the first Earth observation satellite entirely developed by Brazil.
  • It is optimized to peer at the cloud-covered region of its namesake, the Amazon forest since it has infrared capabilities that allow it to look at the forest cover regardless of the weather.
  • Brazil plans to use the satellite to “alert deforestation” in the region, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) said in an Amazonia 1 mission description.

Significance of the launch

  • This confirms the infinite potential of the India-Brazil partnership to overcome our development challenges through high technology.
  • The launch also marked the first dedicated mission of ISRO’s commercial arm NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL).

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Sun’s Rotation over the Century

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sun’s Rotation

Mains level : Not Much

Scientists at Kodaikanal Solar Observatory have estimated how the Sun has rotated over a century from data extracted from old films and photographs that have been digitized.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following phenomena:

  1. Size of the sun at dusk
  2. Colour of the sun at dawn
  3. Moon being visible at dawn
  4. Twinkle of stars in the sky
  5. Polestar being visible in the sky

Which of the above are optical illusions?

(a) 1, 2 and 3

(b) 3, 4 and 5

(c) 1, 2 and 4

(d) 2, 3 and 5

Sun’s Rotation

  • The Sun rotates around an axis that is roughly perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic; the Sun’s rotational axis is tilted by 7.25° from perpendicular to the ecliptic.
  • It rotates in the counterclockwise direction (when viewed from the north), the same direction that the planets rotate (and orbit around the Sun).
  • The Sun’s rotation period varies with latitude on the Sun since it is made of gas.
  • Equatorial regions rotate faster than Polar Regions.
  • The equatorial regions (latitude = 0 degrees) rotate in about 25.6 days. The regions at 60 degrees latitude rotate in about 30.9 days. Polar Regions rotate in about 36 days.

Key observations of the study

  • The Sun rotates more quickly at its equator than at its poles.
  • Over time, the Sun’s differential rotation rates cause its magnetic field to become twisted and tangled.
  • The tangles in the magnetic field lines can produce strong localized magnetic fields.
  • When the Sun’s magnetic field gets twisted, there are lots of sunspots.
  • The sunspots which form at the surface with an 11-year periodicity are the only route to probe the solar dynamo or solar magnetism inside the Sun and hence measure the variation in solar rotation.

Benefits offered

  • This estimation would help study the magnetic field generated in the interior of the Sun, which causes sunspots and results in extreme situations like the historical mini-ice age on Earth (absence of sunspots).
  • It could also help predict solar cycles and their variations in the future.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO collaborates to build alternative to Google Maps

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MapmyIndia, Various tools of ISRO

Mains level : Geospatial data and its utilization

The ISRO has joined hands with MapmyIndia to combine their geospatial expertise and build holistic solutions by leveraging their geoportals.

Note various geo-spatial solutions of ISRO mentioned in the newscard.

What is the Project?

  • It combines the power of MapmyIndia’s digital maps and technologies with ISRO’s catalogue of satellite imagery and earth observation data.
  • Indian users would not be dependent on foreign organisations for maps, navigation and geospatial services, and leverage made-in-India solutions instead.

Various components

The collaboration will enable them to jointly identify and build holistic geospatial solutions utilising the ISRO’s earth observation datasets such as-

  • IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System) called NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation, is India’s own navigation system, developed by ISRO.
  • Bhuvan is the national geo-portal developed and hosted by ISRO comprising geospatial data, services and tools for analysis.
  • VEDAS (Visualization of Earth observation Data and Archival System) is an online geo-processing platform using an optical, microwave, thermal and hyperspectral EO data covering applications particularly meant for academia, research and problem solving, according to ISRO.
  • MOSDAC (Meteorological and Oceanographic Satellite Data Archival Centre)is a data repository for all the meteorological missions of ISRO and deals with weather-related information, oceanography and tropical water cycles.

About MapmyIndia

  • MapmyIndia is an Indian technology company that builds digital map data, telematics services, location-based SaaS (Software as a service) and GIS AI services.
  • The company was founded in 1992 and is headquartered at New Delhi with regional offices in Mumbai and Bengaluru and smaller offices across India.
  • Its map covers all 7.5 lakh villages, 7500+ cities at street and building-level, connected by all 63 lakh kilometres of road network pan India and within cities, in total providing maps for an unparalleled 3+ crore places across India.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Mukundpura CM2

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Meteor terminology

Mains level : Study of asteroids and meteors

An asteroid which made its landfall in Mukundpura village near Jaipur has been named after the same village and is under the study of Geological Survey of India, Kolkata.

Try this question from CSP 2014:

Q.What is a coma, in the content of astronomy?

(a) Bright half of material on the comet

(b) Long tail of dust

(c) Two asteroids orbiting each other

(d) Two planets orbiting each other

Mukundpura CM2

  • The meteorite named Mukundpura CM2 was classified to be a carbonaceous chondrite.
  • This is a type of stony meteorite, considered the most primitive meteorite and a remnant of the first solid bodies to accrete in the solar system.
  • The composition of carbonaceous chondrites is also similar to the Sun.
  • Chondrites are silicate-droplet-bearing meteorites, and this Mukundpura chondrite is the fifth carbonaceous meteorite known to fall in India.

Why it is important to study meteorites?

  • Meteorites are representative of asteroids.
  • Asteroids are the remnant debris of the inner solar system formation process and thus offer the formation history or the building blocks of the planets.
  • Therefore, by studying meteorites in the laboratory and asteroids by exploration and sample return mission we try to reconstruct the activity of early solar system events.
  • Also, asteroids are often rich in volatiles and other minerals and can be exploited for future planetary exploration.

Do you know?

Meteorites are broadly classified into three groups – stony (silicate-rich), iron (Fe–Ni alloy), and stony-iron (mixed silicate–iron alloy).

Details of its study

  • The study revealed that Mukundpura CM2 had experienced varying degrees of alteration during the impact.
  • Some minerals like forsterite and FeO olivine, calcium aluminium rich inclusion (CAI) minerals escaped alteration.
  • Few magnetites, sulphides and calcites were also found.
  • Detailed spectroscopic studies revealed that the meteorite had very high (about 90%) phyllosilicate minerals comprising both magnesium and iron.
  • Further X-ray studies showed it also had aluminium complexes.

Relevance to asteroids

  • The results of the Mukundpura CM2 study are relevant to the surface composition of near-Earth asteroids Ryugu and Bennu.
  • In October 2020, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission collected samples from Bennu and is expected to return in September 2023.
  • Last month, Japan’s Hayabusa-2 mission landed on Earth with samples from Ryugu.

Back2Basics:

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

CMS-01 Satellite launched by ISRO

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CMS-01

Mains level : Not Much

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully placed into a transfer orbit India’s 42nd communications satellite, CMS-01, carried onboard the PSLV-C50.

CMS-01

  • It is a communications satellite envisaged for providing services in extended C Band of the frequency spectrum and its coverage will include the Indian mainland and the Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands, the ISRO.
  • The satellite is expected to have a life of over seven years.
  • It was injected precisely into its pre-defined sub- geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).
  • CMS-01 is considered to be a replacement of the aged satellite GSAT-12. It provides services like tele-education, tele-medicine, disaster management support and Satellite Internet access.

What is GTO?

  • A geosynchronous transfer orbit or geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) is a type of geocentric orbit.
  • Satellites which are destined for geosynchronous (GSO) or geostationary orbit (GEO) are (almost) always put into a GTO as an intermediate step for reaching their final orbit.
  • A GTO is highly elliptic.
  • Its perigee (closest point to Earth) is typically as high as low Earth orbit (LEO), while its apogee (furthest point from Earth) is as high as geostationary (or equally, a geosynchronous) orbit.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GMRT

Mains level : Not Much

The Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) has been selected as a ‘Milestone’ facility by the U.S.-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Note: GMRT is not an ISRO mission.

About GMRT

  • The GMRT located near Pune is an array of thirty fully steerable parabolic radio telescopes of 45-metre diameter, observing at metre wavelengths.
  • It is operated by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA), a part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.
  • It was conceived and built under the direction of Late Prof. Govind Swarup from 1984 to 1996.
  • At the time it was built, it was the world’s largest interferometric array offering a baseline of up to 25 kilometres (16 mi).
  • Astronomers from all over the world regularly use this telescope to observe many different astronomical objects such as HII regions (interstellar atomic hydrogen that is ionized), galaxies, pulsars, supernovae, and Sun and solar winds.

A significant feat

  • IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organisation dedicated to advancing technology in all areas related to electrical and electronics engineering.
  • The IEEE Milestones programme honours significant technical achievements which have a global or regional impact. This is only the third such IEEE ‘Milestone’ recognition for an Indian contribution.
  • The previous two Indian IEEE Milestones were for the pioneering work done by Sir J.C. Bose to demonstrate the generation and reception of radio waves in 1895 (recognised in 2012), and for the Nobel Prize-winning (in 1930) ‘scattering of light’ phenomenon observed by Sir C.V. Raman in 1928.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] IRNSS now part of World Wide Radio Navigation System

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IRNSS, IMO, NaVIC

Mains level : IRNSS

The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) has been accepted as a component of the World Wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS) for operation in the Indian Ocean Region by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Try this PYQ:

With reference to the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), consider the following statements:

  1. IRNSS has three Satellites in geostationary and four satellites the geosynchronous orbits.
  2. IRNSS covers entire India and about 5500 sq. km beyond its borders.
  3. India will have its own satellite navigation system with full global coverage by the middle of 2019.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only            

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) None

What is IRNSS?

  • The IRNSS, with an operational name of NavIC (acronym for Navigation with Indian Constellation) is an Indian regional satellite navigation system that provides accurate real-time positioning and timing services.
  • It covers India and a region extending 1,500 km around it, with plans for further extension.
  • The system currently consists of a constellation of seven satellites, with two additional satellites on ground as stand-by.
  • The constellation is in orbit as of 2018, and the system was expected to be operational from early 2018 after a system check.
  • It will provide two levels of service, the “standard positioning service”, which will be open for civilian use, and a “restricted service” (an encrypted one) for authorised users (including the military).

Benefits of the move

  • This move will enable merchant vessels to use IRNSS for obtaining position information similar to GPS and GLONASS.
  • This will assist in the navigation of ships in Indian ocean waters within the area covered by 50°N latitude, 55°E longitude, 5°S latitude and 110°E longitude (approximately up to 1500 km from Indian boundary).

Back2Basics: International Maritime Organisation (IMO)

  • IMO is the UN specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
  • Its primary purpose is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and its remit today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping.
  • IMO is governed by an assembly of members and is financially administered by a council of members elected from the assembly.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

EOS-01 Satellite

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EOS-01

Mains level : Not Much

India would launch its latest earth observation satellite EOS-01 and nine international customer spacecraft onboard it’s PSLV-C49.

Try this PYQ:

Q.The term ‘IndARC’, sometimes seen in the news, is the name of:

(a) An indigenously developed radar system inducted into Indian Defence

(b) India’s satellite to provide services to the countries of Indian Ocean Rim

(c) A scientific establishment set up by India in Antarctic region

(d) India’s underwater observatory to scientifically study the Arctic region

EOS-01

  • EOS-01 is intended for applications in agriculture, forestry and disaster management support.
  • This is the first launch by the Indian Space Research Organisation since the COVID-19-induced lockdown came into force in March.
  • This will be the 51st mission of ISRO’s workhorse, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

What is Earth Observation Satellite (EOS)?

  • An EOS or remote sensing satellite is a satellite used or designed for Earth observation (EO) from orbit, including spy satellites and similar ones intended for non-military uses such as environmental monitoring, meteorology, cartography and others.
  • Starting with IRS-1A in 1988, ISRO has launched many operational remote sensing satellites.
  • Today, India has one of the largest constellations of remote sensing satellites in operation.
  • Currently, *thirteen* operational satellites are in Sun-synchronous orbit and *four* in Geostationary orbit.
  • 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.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Indian Sat: Another satellite made by students

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Femto Satellites, Micro-gravity

Mains level : Not Much

An experimental satellite developed by three students of Karur (TN) has been selected for launch in sub-orbital space by NASA.

Try this PYQ:

Q.The term ‘IndARC’, sometimes seen in the news, is the name of:

(a) An indigenously developed radar system inducted into Indian Defence

(b) India’s satellite to provide services to the countries of Indian Ocean Rim

(c) A scientific establishment set up by India in Antarctic region

(d) India’s underwater observatory to scientifically study the Arctic region

Indian Sat

  • The Indian Sat is made of reinforced graphene polymer. It is 3 cm in size and weighs 64 gm.
  • It has its own radio frequency communication to transmit and receive a signal from earth to outer space. The solar cells attached to the satellite generate power for it.
  • The photographic film will absorb and measure the cosmic radiation inside the rocket.
  • It would study the effect of reinforced graphene polymers in microgravity. It would be in sub-orbital space flight for a few minutes before landing in the ocean.

What is micro-gravity?

  • The term micro-g environment is more or less synonymous with the terms weightlessness and zero-g, but with an emphasis on the fact that g-forces are never exactly zero—it is just very small.
  • On the ISS, for example, the small g-forces come from tidal effects, gravity from objects other than the Earth, such as astronauts, the spacecraft, and the Sun, and, occasionally, air resistance.

Back2Basics: Femto-satellites

  • Femto-satellites are satellites with a mass lower than 100 grams.
  • These new categories of satellites are, by concept, low cost devices if they are based on Commercial-of-the-Shelf (COTS) components.
  • Some examples of applications are related to low-cost missions with a short time of development.

 Kalamsat

  • Kalamsat was a communication satellite with a life span of two months launched in 2017.
  • The nanosatellite is a 10cm cube weighing 1.2 kg.
  • It will be the first to use the rocket’s fourth stage as an orbital platform.
  • The fourth stage will be moved to higher circular orbit so as to establish an orbital platform for carrying out experiments.
  • It is named after former Indian president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and was built by an Indian high school student team, led by Rifath Sharook, an 18-year-old from the Tamil Nadu town of Pallapatti.
  • It is the world’s lightest and first-ever 3D-printed satellite.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] 20 years of Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chandra Telescope, Chandra X Ray Observatory

Mains level : Not Much

In the cold, dry desert of Ladakh, 4500 meters above the mean sea level, for two decades, the 2-m diameter optical-infrared Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT) at the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) has been scanning the night sky for 20 years in search of stellar explosions, comets, asteroids, and exo-planets.

Chandra X-Ray observatory and now, it is Himalayan Chandra Telescope. Do you the key difference? The former is a NASA project while the HCT is the Indian one.

Himalayan Chandra Telescope

  • The HCT is a 2.01 meters (6.5 feet) diameter optical-infrared telescope named after India-born Nobel laureate Subrahmanyam Chandrasekhar.
  • It contains a modified Ritchey-Chretien system with a primary mirror made of ULE ceramic which is designed to withstand low temperatures it experiences.
  • The telescope was manufactured by Electo-Optical System Technologies Inc. at Tucson, Arizona, USA.
  • It is mounted with 3 science instruments called Himalaya Faint Object Spectrograph (HFOSC), the near-IR imager and the optical CCD imager.
  • It is remotely operated from Hosakote, about 35 km northeast of Bangalore via an INSAT-3B satellite link which allows operation even in sub-zero temperatures in winter.

Significant feats

  • The telescope has been used in many coordinated international campaigns to monitor stellar explosions, comets, and exo-planets, and has contributed significantly to these studies.
  • Some of the thrust research areas are the study of solar system bodies like; comets, asteroids, the study of star formation processes and young stellar objects, the study of open and globular clusters and variable stars in them.
  • It has helped in analysis of elements in the atmosphere of evolved stars, star formation in external galaxies, Active Galactic Nuclei, stellar explosions like novae, supernovae, gamma-ray bursts and so on.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] UVIT: India’s first multi-wavelength astronomical observatory

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UVIT

Mains level : Not Much

The satellite that detected the first extreme-UV rays in the Universe from the cosmic noon celebrated its 5th birthday today.

Try this PYQ:

Q.“Event Horizon” is related to:

(a) Telescope

(b) Black hole

(c) Solar glares

(d) None of the above

Ultra-Violet Imaging Telescope (UVIT)

  • The UVIT is a remarkable 3-in-1 imaging telescope.
  • Weighing all of 230 kg, the UVIT can simultaneously observe in the visible, the near-ultraviolet (NUV) and the far-ultraviolet (FUV).
  • UVIT comprises of two separate telescopes. One of them works in the visible (320-550 nm) and the NUV (200-300 nm).
  • The second works only in the FUV (130-180 nm).

Its achievement

  • It has carried out 1166 observations of 800 unique celestial sources proposed by scientists both from India and abroad.
  • It has explored stars, star clusters, mapping of the large and small satellite galaxies nearby to our own Milky Way galaxy called the Magellanic Clouds.
  • It is an energetic phenomenon in the Universe such as the ultra-violet counterparts to gamma-ray bursts, supernovae, active galactic nuclei, and so on.
  • Its superior spatial resolution capability has enabled astronomers to probe star formation in galaxies as well as resolve the cores of star clusters (3 times better than the last NASA mission, GALEX).
  • Observations from UVIT has recently led to the discovery of a galaxy located at a distance of about 10 billion light-years from Earth and emitting extreme ultraviolet radiation that can ionize the intergalactic medium.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Space industry and challenges

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Opportunities and challenges in outer space

The article analyses opportunities and challenges the outer space technology offers to us.

Emerging trends in space industry

  • The price for reaching low Earth orbit has declined by a factor of 20 in a decade.
  • It enhances human space travel possibilities by leveraging new commercial capabilities.
  • According to a Bank of America Report, the $350 billion space market today will touch $2.7 trillion by 2050.
  • Starlink, the constellation being constructed by SpaceX to provide global Internet access, plans more than 10,000 mass-produced small satellites in low Earth orbit. 
  •  In a decade, 80,000 such satellites could be in space compared to less than 3,000 at present.
  • Companies such as Planet, Spire Global and Iceye are using orbital vantage points to collect and analyse data to deliver fresh insights in weather forecasting, global logistics, crop harvesting and disaster response.
  • Space could prove attractive for high-tech manufacturing too.
  • In short, an exciting new platform is opening up for entrepreneurs.

3 Challenges

1) Governance of outer space

  • Framework for governance of outer space as it becomes democratised, commercialised and crowded is becoming obsolescent.
  • The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 enshrines the idea that space should be “the province of all mankind” and “not subject to national appropriation by claims of sovereignty”.
  • The Rescue Agreement, Space Liability Convention, and the Space Registration Convention expanded provisions of the Outer Space Treaty.
  • The Moon Treaty of 1979 was not ratified by major space-faring nations.
  • Space law does not have a dispute settlement mechanism, is silent on collisions and debris, and offers insufficient guidance on interference with others’ space assets.
  • These gaps heighten the potential for conflict in an era of congested orbits and breakneck technological change.

2) Acknowledging role of non-state entities

  • The legal framework related to outre space is state-centric, placing responsibility on states alone.
  • However, non-state entities are now in the fray for commercial space exploration and utilisation.
  • Some states are providing frameworks for resource recovery through private enterprises.
  • Some scholars and governments view this as against the principle of national non-appropriation, violating the spirit if not the letter of the existing space law.
  • The lack of alignment of domestic and international normative frameworks risks a damaging free-for-all competition for celestial resources involving actors outside the space framework.

3) The arms race in outer space

  • The space arms race is difficult to curb, especially since almost all space technologies have military applications.
  • For example, satellite constellations are commercial but governments could acquire their data to monitor military movements.
  • Investment in technologies that can disrupt or destroy space-based capabilities is under way.
  • Despite concerns about military activity in outer space for long, not much progress has been made in addressing them.
  • The UN General Assembly passes a resolution on Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space since 1982.
  • The current geopolitical situation does not hold hope for addressing concerns of a space arms race.

Need for space legislation in India

  • India has invested enormous resources in its space programme through the Indian Space Research Organisation.
  • More importantly, our space assets are crucial for India’s development.
  • The proposed involvement of private players and the creation of an autonomous body IN-SPACe for permitting and regulating activities of the private sector are welcome efforts.
  • However, the space environment that India faces requires us to go beyond meeting technical milestones.
  • We need a space legislation enabling coherence across technical, legal, commercial, diplomatic and defence goals.

Consider the question “Outer space technology is expanding its horizon day by day. However, there are certain challenges the expansion of the space technology faces. What are these challenges and suggest ways to deal with such challenges.”

Conclusion

Our space vision also needs to address global governance, regulatory and arms control issues. As space opens up our space vision needs broadening too.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ASTROSAT Satellite

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ASTROSAT; Space missions of ISRO and NASA

Mains level : NA

ASTROSAT, India’s first multi-wavelength satellite observatory, has detected an extreme ultraviolet (UV) light from a galaxy which is 9.3 billion light-years away from Earth.

Try out:

 

Consider the following statements regarding the AstroSat:

1)AstroSat is India’s multi-wavelength space telescope.
2)ASTROSAT mission is that enables the simultaneous multi-wavelength observations of various astronomical objects with a single satellite.
3)ASTROSAT observes the universe in the optical and high energy X-ray regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Which of the following above statements is true?

a.1 and 2
b.2 and 3
c.1 and 3
d.1, 2 and 3

AUDFs01

  • AstroSat has detected extreme-UV light from a galaxy, called AUDFs01, 9.3 billion light-years away from Earth.
  • The galaxy is located in the Hubble Extreme Deep field, through AstroSat.
  • This is a very important clue to how the dark ages of the universe ended and there was light in the universe.

About ASTROSAT

  • AstroSat is India’s first dedicated multi-wavelength space telescope. It was launched on a PSLV-XL on 28 September 2015.

It is the first dedicated Indian astronomy mission aimed at studying celestial sources in X-ray, optical and UV spectral bands simultaneously.

————–//—————-

Find some time to scroll through recent ISRO missions and discoveries.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Sarabhai Crater

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sarabhai Crater

Mains level : Chandrayaan 2 Mission

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has named a crater captured by Chandrayaan 2 Orbiter after Vikram Sarabhai.

Try this PYQ:

What do you understand by the term Aitken Basin? (CSP 2012)

(a) It is a desert in southern Chile which is known to be the only location on earth where no rainfall takes place

(b) It is an impact crater on the far side of the Moon

(c) It is a Pacific coast basin, which is known to house large amounts of oil and gas

(d) It is a deep hypersaline anoxic basin where no aquatic animals are found

Sarabhai Crater

  • “Sarabhai” Crater is named after Dr Vikram Sarabhai and around 250 to 300 kilometres east of this Crater is where the Apollo 17 and Luna 21 Missions had landed.
  • The crater captured in 3D images shows that the Crater has a depth of around 1.7 Kms taken from its raised rim and the slope of Crater walls is in between 25 to 35 degree.
  • These findings will help the Space Scientists to understand further the process of the lunar region filled with lava.

Who was Vikram Sarabhai?

  • Sarabhai was an Indian physicist and astronomer who initiated space research and helped develop nuclear power in India.
  • He is internationally regarded as the Father of the Indian Space Program.
  • Known as the cradle of space sciences in India, the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) was founded in 1947 by him. He was the founder of ISRO.
  • He started a project for the fabrication and launch of an Indian satellite.
  • As a result, the first Indian satellite, Aryabhata, was put in orbit in 1975 from a Russian cosmodrome.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Lithium Nucleosynthesis in Stars

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lithium, Nucleosynthesis, Big Bang

Mains level : Formation of stars

A forty-year-old puzzle regarding the production of lithium in stars has been solved by Indian researchers.

Try this question from CSP 2013:

Q.Consider the following phenomena:

  1. Size of the sun at dusk
  2. Colour of the sun at dawn
  3. Moon being visible at dawn
  4. Twinkle of stars in the sky
  5. Polestar being visible in the sky

Which of the above are optical illusions?

(a) 1, 2 and 3

(b) 3, 4 and 5

(c) 1, 2 and 4

(d) 2, 3 and 5

Lithium nucleosynthesis in Stars

  • Stars, as per known mechanisms of evolution, actually destroy lithium as they evolve into red giants.
  • Planets were known to have more lithium than their stars — as is the case with the Earth-Sun pair.
  • However, leading to a contradiction, some stars were found that were lithium-rich.
  • The new work by an Indian researcher shows that when stars grow beyond their Red Giant stage into what is known as the Red Clump stage, they produce lithium.
  • This is known as a Helium Flash and this is what enriches them with lithium.

Studying lithium-rich stars

  • About 40 years ago, a few large stars were spotted that were lithium-rich.
  • This was followed by further discoveries of lithium-rich stars, and that posed a puzzle — if stars do not produce lithium, how do some stars develop to become lithium-rich.
  • The planet engulfment theory was quite popular. For example, Earth-like planets may increase the star’s lithium content when they plunge into [their] star’s atmosphere when the latter become Red Giants.

Findings of the Indian research

  • Indian researchers have been working on this puzzle for nearly 20 years to devise a method of measuring lithium content using low-resolution spectra in a large number of stars.
  • The study demonstrated that lithium abundance enhancement among low mass giant stars is common.
  • Until now, it was believed that only about 1% of giants are lithium-rich.
  • Secondly, the team has shown that as the star evolves beyond the Red Giant stage, and before it reaches the Red Clump stage, there is a helium flash which produces an abundance of lithium.

Back2Basics: Lithium

  • Lithium is a chemical element with the symbol Li and atomic number 3. It is a soft, silvery-white alkali metal. Under standard conditions, it is the lightest metal and the lightest solid element.
  • S light element commonly used today in communication device technology, it has an interesting story.
  • It was first produced in the Big Bang, around 13.7 billion years ago when the universe came into being, along with other elements.
  • While the abundance of other elements grew millions of times, the present abundance of lithium in the universe is only four times the original [Big Bang] value. It is actually destroyed in the stars.
  • The Sun, for instance, has about a factor of 100 lower amount of lithium than the Earth.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Phobos: The closest and biggest moon of Mars

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MOM, Phobos

Mains level : Quest for Mars and its possibility to host life

The Mars Colour Camera (MCC) onboard ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) has captured the image of Phobos, the closest and biggest moon of Mars.

Try this question from CSP 2017:

Q.Which region of Mars has a densely packed river deposit indicating this planet had water 3.5 billion years ago?

(a) Aeolis Dorsa (b) Tharsis (c) Olympus Mons (d) Hellas

About Phobos

  • Phobos is the innermost and larger of the two natural satellites of Mars, the other being Deimos.
  • Both moons were discovered in 1877 by American astronomer Asaph Hall.
  • Phobos is a small, irregularly shaped object with a mean radius of 11 km and is seven times as massive as the outer moon, Deimos.
  • Phobos is largely believed to be made up of carbonaceous chondrites.
  • The violent phase that Phobos has encountered is seen in the large section gouged out from a past collision (Stickney crater) and bouncing ejecta.

Back2Basics: Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)

  • The MOM also called Mangalyaan is a space probe orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014. It was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • It aims at studying the Martian surface and mineral composition as well as scans its atmosphere for methane (an indicator of life on Mars).
  • It is India’s first interplanetary mission and it made it the fourth space agency to reach Mars, after Roscosmos, NASA, and the European Space Agency.
  • It made India the first Asian nation to reach Martian orbit and the first nation in the world to do so on its maiden attempt.
  • It was initially meant to last six months, but subsequently, ISRO had said it had enough fuel for it to last “many years.”

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

IN-SPACe: Future forerunner for India’s space economy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IN-SPACE, ANTRIX, NSIl

Mains level : ISRO and India's space economy

  • The government approved the creation of Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) to ensure greater private participation in India’s space activities.
  • This decision is described as historic being part of an important set of reforms to open up the space sector and make space-based applications and services more widely accessible to everyone.

Practice question for mains:

Q. What is IN-SPACe? Discuss how it would benefit ISRO and contribute to India’s space economy.

What is IN-SPACe?

  • IN-SPACe is supposed to be a facilitator, and also a regulator.
  • It will act as an interface between ISRO and private parties and assess how best to utilise India’s space resources and increase space-based activities.
  • IN-SPACe is the second space organisation created by the government in the last two years.
  • In the 2019 Budget, the government had announced the setting up of a New Space India Limited (NSIL), a public sector company that would serve as a marketing arm of ISRO.

Confusion over NSIL and ANTRIX

  • NSIL’s main purpose is to market the technologies developed by ISRO and bring it more clients that need space-based services.
  • That role, incidentally, was already being performed by Antrix Corporation, another PSU working under the Department of Space, and which still exists.
  • It is still not very clear why there was a need for another organisation with overlapping function.
  • The government now had clarified the role of NSIL that it would have a demand-driven approach rather than the current supply-driven strategy.
  • Essentially, what that means is that instead of just marketing what ISRO has to offer, NSIL would listen to the needs of the clients and ask ISRO to fulfil those.

Then, why was IN-SPACe needed?

(1) ISRO and its limited resources

  • It is not that there is no private industry involvement in India’s space sector.
  • In fact, a large part of the manufacturing and fabrication of rockets and satellites now happens in the private sector. There is increasing participation of research institutions as well.
  • Indian industry, however, is unable to compete, because till now its role has been mainly that of suppliers of components and sub-systems.
  • Indian industries do not have the resources or the technology to undertake independent space projects of the kind that US companies such as SpaceX have been doing or provide space-based services.

(2) India and the global space economy

  • Indian industry had a barely three per cent share in a rapidly growing global space economy which was already worth at least $360 billion.
  • Only two per cent of this market was for rocket and satellite launch services, which require fairly large infrastructure and heavy investment.
  • The remaining 95 per cent related to satellite-based services, and ground-based systems.

(3) Catering to domestic demands

  • The demand for space-based applications and services is growing even within India, and ISRO is unable to cater to this.
  • The need for satellite data, imageries and space technology now cuts across sectors, from weather to agriculture to transport to urban development and more.
  • If ISRO is to provide everything, it would have to be expanded 10 times the current level to meet all the demand that is arising.

(4) Promoting other private players

  • Right now, all launches from India happen on ISRO rockets, the different versions of PSLV and GSLV.
  • There were a few companies that were in the process of developing their own launch vehicles, the rockets like ISRO’s PSLV that carry the satellites and other payloads into space.
  • Now ISRO could provide all its facilities to private players whose projects had been approved by IN-SPACe.

How ISRO gains from all these?

  • There are two main reasons why enhanced private involvement in the space sector seems important.
  • One is commercial, and the other strategic. And ISRO seems unable to satisfy this need on its own.
  • Of course, there is a need for greater dissemination of space technologies, better utilization of space resources, and increased requirement of space-based services.
  • The private industry will also free up ISRO to concentrate on science, research and development, interplanetary exploration and strategic launches.
  • Right now too much of ISRO’s resources are consumed by routine activities that delay its more strategic objectives.

A win-win situation for all

  • ISRO, like NASA, is essentially a scientific organisation whose main objective is the exploration of space and carrying out scientific missions.
  • There are a number of ambitious space missions lined up in the coming years, including a mission to observe the Sun, a mission to the Moon, a human spaceflight, and then, possibly, a human landing on the Moon.
  • And it is not that private players will wean away from the revenues that ISRO gets through commercial launches.
  • The space-based economy is expected to “explode” in the next few years, even in India, and there would be more than enough for all.
  • In addition, ISRO can earn some money by making its facilities and data available to private players.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IN-SPACE, ANTRIX

Mains level : ISRO and the scope for its commercial operations

The Union Cabinet has approved the creation of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) to provide a level playing field for private companies to use Indian space infrastructure.

Note the key differences between IN-SPACe, ANTRIX and NSIL. We can expect a prelims question with shuffled objectives of these organisations.

IN-SPACe

  • The creation of IN-SPACe is part of reforms aimed at giving a boost to private sector participation in the entire range of space activities.
  • The IN-SPACe is expected to hand-hold, promote and guide the private industries in space activities through encouraging policies and a friendly regulatory environment.
  • It would endeavour to reorient space activities from a ‘supply-driven’ model to a ‘demand-driven’ one, thereby ensuring optimum utilization of the nation’s space assets.

Why need IN-SPACe?

  • India is among a handful of countries with advanced capabilities in the space sector.
  • Space sector can play a major catalytic role in the technological advancement and expansion of our Industrial base.
  • The proposed reforms will enhance the socio-economic use of space assets and activities, including through improved access to space assets, data and facilities.

Back2Basics: New Space India Limited (NSIL)

  • It functions under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS).
  • It aims to commercially exploit the research and development work of ISRO Centres and constituent units of DOS.
  • The NSIL would enable Indian Industries to scale up high-technology manufacturing and production base for meeting the growing needs of the Indian space programme.
  • It would further spur the growth of Indian Industries in the space sector.

ANTRIX

  • Antrix Corporation Limited (ACL), Bengaluru is a wholly-owned Government of India Company under the administrative control of the Department of Space.
  • It is as a marketing arm of ISRO for promotion and commercial exploitation of space products, technical consultancy services and transfer of technologies developed by ISRO.
  • Antrix is engaged in providing Space products and services to international customers worldwide.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Detection of Fluorine in hot Extreme Helium (EHe) Stars

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Extreme Helium (EHe) Stars

Mains level : NA

A study by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) has detected the presence of singly ionized fluorine for the first time in the atmospheres of hot Extreme Helium Stars.

UPSC may ask a simple statement-based question considering the following points:

If there is the presence of hydrogen, their abundance in universe and how it is different from neutron stars etc.

What are EHe stars?

  • An extreme helium star or EHe is a low-mass supergiant that is almost devoid of hydrogen, the most common chemical element of the universe.
  • There are 21 of them detected so far in our galaxy.
  • The origin and evolution of these Hydrogen deficient objects have been shrouded in mystery.
  • Their severe chemical peculiarities challenge the theory of well-accepted stellar evolution as the observed chemical composition of these stars do not match with that predicted for low mass evolved stars.

Why is the study significant?

  • Clues to the evolution of extreme helium stars require accurate determinations of their chemical composition, and the peculiarities, if any, become very important.
  • Fluorine plays a very crucial role in this regard to determine the actual evolutionary sequence of these hydrogen deficient objects.
  • The scientists explored the relationship of hot EHes with the cooler EHes, based on their fluorine abundance and spotted it in the former, thus establishing an evolutionary connection across a wide range of effective temperature.
  • This makes a strong case that the main form of these objects involves a merger of a carbon-oxygen (CO) and a Helium (He) white dwarf.
  • The detection of enhanced fluorine abundances in the atmospheres of hot EHes solves a decade-old mystery about their formation.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Earth’s Magnetosphere and its dynamics

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Earths magnetosphere

Mains level : Earths magnetosphere and its significance for space missions

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG) have developed a generalized one-dimensional fluid simulation code capable of studying a wide spectrum of coherent electric field structures of earth’s magnetosphere which can be useful in the planning of future space missions.

The newscard talks of not so new phenomenon but a basic terminology of space sciences. Kindly make a note of what the Magnotesphere is, how it is formed, role of solar winds, Geodynamo etc.

Earth’s Magnetosphere

  • The magnetosphere is the region of space surrounding Earth where the dominant magnetic field is the magnetic field of Earth, rather than the magnetic field of interplanetary space.
  • It is generated by the interaction of the solar wind with Earth’s magnetic field.

Features of the Earth’s magnetosphere

1) Bow shock,

2) Magnetosheath,

3) Magnetopause,

4) Northern tail lobe,

5) Southern tail lobe,

6) Plasmasphere,

7) Solar wind.

How is it formed?

  • Sun is the major source of plasma deposition in space around the Earth. Sun forces some of its plasma towards the earth in the form of the solar wind.
  • The speed of this wind varies between 300 to 1500 km/s, which carries with it solar magnetic field, called as Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF).
  • The magnetic field is generated by electric currents due to the motion of convection currents of a mixture of molten iron and nickel in the Earth’s outer core.
  • These convection currents are caused by heat escaping from the core, a natural process called a geodynamo.

Why study the magnetosphere?

  • The Earth’s magnetosphere is a vast region which has a finite number of satellites hurtling through this realm.
  • The morphology of the plasma processes around the satellite can be understood quite well.
  • However, when they leave the observational domain of one satellite to enter into another, a vast blind arena is created.
  • How the morphology of these processes changes over space and time can be ideally deciphered only through computer simulations.

Outcome of the study

  • Almost 99% of matter in the universe is in the form of plasma, Earth’s magnetosphere, too, contains this material and the plasma.
  • They have the ability to hamper the working of a number of satellites that have been placed in orbit in the magnetospheric region.

Significance

  • Apart from the well being of these expensive satellites, the academic understanding of this region is quite essential to comprehend the cosmos in its entirety.
  • The study will help advance the knowledge of plasma waves, instabilities, and coherent effects associated with wave-particle interactions that are useful in planning of future space missions.
  • It can also lead to precisely controlled fusion laboratory experiments for ever-expanding energy needs of humanity.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Super-luminous Supernova SN 2010kd

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Supernovae

Mains level : Not Much

Indian researchers have found that SN 2010kd, a super-luminous supernova stands out with the amount of mass as well as Nickel ejected during explosion.

Space science-related terms these days are often focused on Gravitational waves, Black holes etc. But basic terminologies are very important and need to be taken care of. For example, a layman may hardly find any difference between Novae-Supernovae, Neutron star, Nebula etc. UPSC often tries to bust you with such basic differences.

What are Supernovae?

  • Supernovae are kind of energetic explosions were the core of massive stars (a few times to that of the mass of our Sun) goes to a catastrophic phase of explosion liberating huge amounts of energy and mass.
  • These events are visible through very far away distances much beyond our own solar system.
  • Super-luminous supernovae are a special type of stellar explosions having energy output 10 or more times higher than that of standard supernovae.

What is so distinct about SN 2010kd?

  • The mass ejection from SN 2010kd is metallic and is much more than seen in case of normal core-collapse supernovae.
  • The scientists found that SN 2010kd exploded with a larger velocity but decayed slower than other similar supernovae.
  • The observations show that parameters like rotation and metallicity play a crucial role in stellar explosions.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] What is Big Bang Nucleosynthesis (BBN)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Big Bang Nucleosynthesis (BBN)

Mains level : BBN and its significance in the formation of our solar system

Indian researchers have discovered hundreds of Li-rich giant stars produced during BBN indicating that Li is being produced in the stars and accounts for its abundance in the interstellar medium.

Most of the space based theories and missions are focussed on the formation of our solar system. BBN is the most basic auxillary among them.

What is Big Bang Nucleosynthesis (BBN)?

  • BBN is the production of nuclei other than those of the lightest isotope of hydrogen during the early phases of the Universe.
  • Primordial nucleosynthesis is believed by most cosmologists to have taken place in the interval from roughly 10 seconds to 20 minutes after the Big Bang.
  • It is calculated to be responsible for the formation of most of the universe’s helium in various isotopic forms.
  • Essentially all of the elements that are heavier than lithium were created much later, by stellar nucleosynthesis in evolving and exploding stars.

Lithium in space

  • Lithium (Li), is one of the three primordial elements, apart from Hydrogen and Helium (He), produced in the Big Bang Nucleosynthesis (BBN).
  • However, the present measurement of Li in the interstellar medium and very young stars is about 4 times more than the primordial value.
  • Thus, identifying sources of Li enrichment in our Galaxy has been a great interest to researchers to validate BBN as well as a stellar mixing process.
  • In general, stars are considered as Li sinks. This means that the original Li, with which stars are born, only gets depleted over stars’ life-time as Li burns at relatively very low temperatures.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] What are Blazars?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Blazars

Mains level : Black Holes, Blazars

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bangalore have conducted the first systematic study on the gamma-ray flux variability nature on different types of Blazars.

Strange terminologies from space-based studies are very important from prelims point of view.  We can expect a statement based question seeking to identify the term which is being referred to in the paragraph.

What are Blazars?

  • At the center of most galaxies, there’s a massive black hole that can have mass of millions or even billions of Suns that accrete gas, dust, and stellar debris around it.
  • As these material falls towards the black hole, their gravitational energy gets converted to light forming active galactic nuclei (AGN).
  • A minority of AGN (~15%) emit collimated charged particles called jets travelling at speeds close to the speed of light.
  • Blazars are AGN whose jets are aligned with the observer’s line of sight.
  • Some blazars are thought to host binary black holes in them and could be potential targets for future gravitational-wave searches.

Studying blazars

  • Blazars are the most luminous and energetic objects in the known universe were found to be emitters of gamma-rays in the 1990s.
  • It is only with the capability of Fermi Gamma-ray space telescope (launched in 2008) to scan the entire sky once in three hours one is able to probe the flux variability characteristics of blazars on a range of time scales.
  • Gamma-ray band is one of the bands of the electromagnetic spectrum on which there is limited knowledge on the flux variability of blazars.
  • Major problem while studying them is to localize the site for the production of gamma-rays.

Significance

  • The study of blazars could provide clues to the processes happening close to the black hole, not visible through direct imaging.
  • Exploring blazars will provide key inputs to constrain the high energy production site as well as the high energy emission processes.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Aditya L1 Mission

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Parker Probe. Aditya L1 Mission, Lagranges points

Mains level : Read the attached story

 

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launched on August 12, 2018 has completed its fourth close approach — called perihelion very recently, whizzing past at about 3.93 lakh km/h, at a distance of only 18.6 million km from the Sun’s surface.

Aditya L1: Exciting ahead

  • The ISRO is preparing to send its first scientific expedition to study the Sun.
  • Named Aditya-L1, the mission, expected to be launched early next year, will observe the Sun from a close distance, and try to obtain information about its atmosphere and magnetic field.
  • ISRO categorizes Aditya L1 as a 400 kg-class satellite that will be launched using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in XL configuration.
  • The space-based observatory will have seven payloads (instruments) on board to study the Sun’s corona, solar emissions, solar winds and flares, and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), and will carry out round-the-clock imaging of the Sun.
  • Aditya L1 will be ISRO’s second space-based astronomy mission after AstroSat, which was launched in September 2015.

What is L1?

  • L1 refers to Lagrangian/Lagrange Point 1, one of five points in the orbital plane of the Earth-Sun system.
  • Lagrange Points, named after Italian-French mathematician Josephy-Louis Lagrange, are positions in space where the gravitational forces of a two-body system (like the Sun and the Earth) produce enhanced regions of attraction and repulsion.
  • These can be used by spacecraft to reduce fuel consumption needed to remain in position.
  • The L1 point is home to the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Satellite (SOHO), an international collaboration project of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
  • The L1 point is about 1.5 million km from Earth, or about one-hundredth of the way to the Sun.

But why is studying the Sun important?

  • Every planet, including Earth and the exoplanets beyond the Solar System, evolves — and this evolution is governed by its parent star.
  • The solar weather and environment, which is determined by the processes taking place inside and around the sun, affects the weather of the entire system.
  • Variations in this weather can change the orbits of satellites or shorten their lives, interfere with or damage onboard electronics, and cause power blackouts and other disturbances on Earth.
  • Knowledge of solar events is key to understanding space weather.
  • To learn about and track Earth-directed storms, and to predict their impact, continuous solar observations are needed.
  • Every storm that emerges from the Sun and heads towards Earth passes through L1, and a satellite placed in the halo orbit around L1 of the Sun-Earth system has the major advantage of continuously viewing the Sun without any occultation/eclipses.

Why are solar missions challenging?

  • What makes a solar mission challenging is the distance of the Sun from Earth (about 149 million km on average, compared to the only 3.84 lakh km to the Moon).
  • More importantly the super hot temperatures and radiations in the solar atmosphere make it difficult to study.
  • NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has already gone far closer — but it will be looking away from the Sun.
  • The earlier Helios 2 solar probe, a joint venture between NASA and space agency of erstwhile West Germany, went within 43 million km of the Sun’s surface in 1976.

Problem of Heat

  • The Parker Solar Probe’s January 29 flyby was the closest the spacecraft has gone to the Sun in its planned seven-year journey so far.
  • Computer modelling estimates show that the temperature on the Sun-facing side of the probe’s heat shield, the Thermal Protection System, reached 612 degrees Celsius, even as the spacecraft and instruments behind the shield remained at about 30°C, NASA said.
  • During the spacecraft’s three closest perihelia in 2024-25, the TPS will see temperatures around 1370°C.

Hurdles for Aditya L1

  • It will stay much farther away, and the heat is not expected to be a major concern for the instruments on board. But there are other challenges.
  • Many of the instruments and their components for this mission are being manufactured for the first time in the country, presenting as much of a challenge as an opportunity for India’s scientific, engineering, and space communities.
  • One such component is the highly polished mirrors which would be mounted on the space-based telescope.
  • Due to the risks involved, payloads in earlier ISRO missions have largely remained stationary in space; however, Aditya L1 will have some moving components, scientists said.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

NavIC navigation system

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NAVIC, IRNSS

Mains level : Utility of NAVIC

 

Qualcomm Technologies has released chipsets, supporting India’s own GPS system ‘Navigation with Indian Constellation’ (NavIC).

New androids to be equipped with NavIC

  • The Qualcomm chipsets now supports up to 7 satellite constellations at the same time, including the use of all of NavIC’s operating satellites.
  • These enhancements will enable select mobile, automotive and IoT platforms to better serve key industries and technology ecosystems in the region.
  • It will help improve user experience for location-based applications especially in dense urban environments where geolocation accuracy tends to degrade, said the company earlier.

About NavIC

  • The name NavIC was given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after successful launch of the seventh navigation satellite, in April, 2016.
  • To date, ISRO has built a total of nine satellites in the IRNSS series, of which eight are currently in orbit.
  • The constellation is designed to provide accurate position information service to users in India as well as the region extending up to 1,500 km from its boundary, which is its primary service area.
  • It is designed to provide two types of services – Standard Positioning Service (SPS), which is provided to all users and Restricted Service (RS), which is an encrypted service provided only to the authorised users.
  • The system is expected to provide a position accuracy of better than 20 m in the primary service area.

For more readings about NAVIC, navigate to the page:

NAVIC (Navigation in Indian Constellation)

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed of the day] Lady Gaganaut

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Skybot F-850: Robot sent by Russia to dock with the International Space Station.

Mains level : Paper 3-Vyommitra, India's human spaceflight in 2022.

Context

The first gaganaut-Vyomamitra- to head for space in an Indian craft will not be human, but humanoid.

What Vyomamitra would do on spaceflight?

  • Test the technological environment: Vyomamitra unveiled by ISRO will fly two missions to test the technological environment which human gaganauts will inhabit on India’s first demonstration of human spaceflight in 2022.
    • She will test the systems and instruments that they would use.
    • Vyomamitra cannot test the cabin ecosystem,  as she would not be able to breathe the air.
    • Other functions: Vyomamitra is perfectly capable of issuing commands, activating switches and, obviously, communicating with earth.
  • Give company to human travellers: Her prototype has already chatted with people at the Isro event where she was introduced to the public, and future iterations will be able to give company to human travellers at the loneliest frontier.

A shift from sending animals to humanoids

  • Performing roles previously performed by animals: Vyomamitra will be executing the pioneering role which has traditionally been given to animals – testing systems for survivability.
    • Fruit flies and monkeys were the first beings to lift off, riding V2 rockets with devices monitoring their vital signs.
  • Why using humanoid is more useful: Using a humanoid robot is more useful because it can be used to replicate the behavioural and operational responses of a human.
    • Indeed, robots need not remain pioneers testing survivability, or assistants to the human crew, but are expected to crew missions that are too prolonged or too dangerous for a human pilot.

Opportunities and the future of AI-powered humanoid

  • Russian robot in space: As India prepared for human flight, in August 2019, the Russian space agency Roscosmos sent up the anthropomorphic robot Skybot F-850 to dock with the International Space Station.
    • The mission has been halted because of technical issues.
    • Goals beyond survivability testing: If the nation which pioneered human spaceflight with Yuri Gagarin’s mission in 1961 is sending humanoid robots into space, survivability testing is not the only legitimate goal of missions powered by artificial intelligence and robotics.
  • Opportunity to develop new technologies: Humanoid in space also provide opportunities to test and develop these technologies under circumstances that do not prevail on earth.
    • The inputs, goals and skills learned are different and while AI on earth specifically focuses on creating systems which do not think like humans,
  • Human-like AI system need of industry: The space industry would value systems that are human-like, to stand in for crew.

Conclusion

Vyomamitra represents the very first iteration of AI in space, and later generations could prove to be as essential for spaceflight as cryogenic engines.

 

 

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Vyom Mitra: ISRO’s half-humanoid

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vyoma Mitra

Mains level : Various functions of Vyoma Mitra in ISRO's unmanned missions

 

ISRO unveiled its first ‘woman’ astronaut during the event ‘Human Spaceflight and Exploration’.

Vyom Mitra

  • The AI-based robotic system is being developed at a robotics lab at the VSSC in Thiruvananthapuram.
  • Vyom Mitra will be used for an unmanned flight of ISRO’s GSLV III rocket in December 2020, which, along with a second unmanned flight in July 2021.
  • This will serve as the test of ISRO’s preparedness for its maiden manned space mission, Gaganyaan, being targeted for 2022 to mark 75 years of India’s independence.

Functions of the humanoid

  • Vyommitra, equipped with a head, two arms and a torso, is built to mimic crew activity inside the crew module of Gaganyaan.
  • Attaining launch and orbital postures, responding to the environment, generating warnings, replacing carbon dioxide canisters, operating switches, monitoring of the crew module, receiving voice commands, responding via speech (bilingual) are among its functions listed.
  • It will have a human-like face, with lips synchronised for movement to mimic speech.
  • Once it is fully developed, Vyommitra will be able to use equipment on board the spacecraft’s crew module, like safety mechanisms and switches, as well as receive and act on commands sent from ground stations.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

GSAT-30 successfully launched

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GSAT-30 and its applications

Mains level : Not Much

India’s first satellite of 2020, the GSAT-30 was successfully launched. The launch vehicle Ariane 5 VA-251 lifted off from Kourou Launch Base, French Guiana.

GSAT-30 

  • GSAT-30 derives  its  heritage  from ISRO’s  earlier INSAT/GSAT  satellite  series  and  will  replace  INSAT-4A  in 
  • In the  days  ahead,  orbit-raising  manoeuvres  will  be  performed  to  place  the satellite  in  Geostationary  Orbit  (36,000  km  above  the  equator)  by  using  its  onboard  propulsion
  • During the  final  stages  of  its  orbit  raising  operations,  the  two  solar  arrays  and  the antenna  reflectors  of  GSAT-30  will  be
  • Following this,  the satellite will be  put in  its final orbital .     The satellite will  be  operational  after  the successful  completion  of  all in-orbit  tests.

Utility of the satellite

  • GSAT-30 will provide  DTH  Television  Services, connectivity to  VSATs for  ATM,  Stock-exchange,  Television unlinking and Teleport  Services,  Digital  Satellite  News  Gathering  (DSNG)  and e-governance applications.
  • The satellite  will  also  be  used  for  bulk  data  transfer  for  a  host  of an emerging  telecommunication

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Indian Data Relay Satellite System (IDRSS)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Data Relay Satellite System (IDRSS)

Mains level : Significance of IDRSS

India plans to ring in its own era of space-to-space tracking and communication of its space assets this year by putting up a new satellite series called the Indian Data Relay Satellite System.

Indian Data Relay Satellite System (IDRSS)

  • The IDRSS is planned to track and be constantly in touch with Indian satellites, in particular those in low-earth orbits which have limited coverage of earth.
  • In the coming years, it will be vital to ISRO whose roadmap is dotted with advanced LEO missions such as space docking, space station, as well as distant expeditions to moon, Mars and Venus.
  • It will also be useful in monitoring launches.
  • The first beneficiary would be the prospective crew members of the Gaganyaan mission of 2022 who can be fully and continuously in touch with mission control throughout their travel.
  • IDRSS satellites of the 2,000 kg class would be launched on the GSLV launcher to geostationary orbits around 36,000 km away.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Sun’s Corona

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sun's Corona

Mains level : Space Weather

Solar physicists from Centre for Excellence in Space Sciences (CESSI), IISER Kolkata, have succeeded in predicting the shape of Sun’s corona at the time of the recent annular eclipse.

What is Corona?

  • The corona is the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere. It is the aura of plasma that surrounds the Sun and other stars.
  • The Sun’s corona extends millions of kilometres into outer space and is most easily seen during a total solar eclipse, but it is also observable with a coronagraph.
  • Spectroscopy measurements indicate strong ionization in the corona and a plasma temperature in excess of 1000000 Kelvin much hotter than the surface of the Sun.

Predicting in advance

  • The Predictive Solar Surface Flux Transport model developed by the CESSI team can predict the shape of the corona well in advance.
  • The researchers can predict the large-scale structure of the Sun’s corona up to two months in advance.
  • This model gives advance knowledge and a large window of preparedness for space weather driven by coronal magnetic fields.

Why Space weather matters?

  • The dynamic events on the Sun can affect Earth’s outer atmosphere and our technologies, leading to disruption in communication and navigation networks (GPS).
  • These are more frequent during solar maxima and pose a threat to space reliant technology and astronauts.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

RISAT-2BR1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RISAT-2BR1

Mains level : Uses and applications of RISAT-2BR1


ISRO’s rocket PSLV-C48 blasted off from the spaceport carrying India’s radar imaging earth observation satellite RISAT-2BR1 and nine foreign satellites.

This launch has marked a significant milestone for ISRO as it is the 50th flight of the PSLV and also the 75th vehicle mission from Sriharikota.

RISAT-2BR1

  • RISAT-2BR1 is an Indian radar reconnaissance satellite that is part of India’s RISAT programme and the fourth satellite in the series.
  • The satellite has resolution of 0.35 meters by which two objects separated by distance of 0.35 metres can be distinctly identified.
  • The mission duration is planned to be 5 years.
  • It is meant for applications in various fields like agriculture, forestry and disaster management support.
  • The other 9 satellites are being launched under a commercial arrangement with the NewSpace India Ltd.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO’s Second Spaceport at Kulasekarapattinam (TN)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PSLV, SSLV

Mains level : Launchpads and their technical pre-requisites


The ISRO has commenced land acquisition for its second launchpad in Kulasekarapattinam, a town in the Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) district of Tamil Nadu.

ISRO’s spaceport

  • ISRO’s first and only spaceport, the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), is located in Sriharikota, about 100 km north of Chennai, in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
  • The organisation launches its PSLV and GSLV rockets from here.
  • The SDSC, setup in 1971, currently has two active launchpads.
  • Its first launchpad was decommissioned once the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle programme ended in 1994.
  • The first of the two active pads mostly services the PSLV and the second, the GSLV, and which ISRO is currently modifying to accommodate crewed vehicle missions as part of its upcoming human spaceflight project, Gaganyaan.
  • The second spaceport at Kulasekarapattinam is expected to provide an important advantage to ISRO’s upcoming Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), a smaller counterpart of the PSLV.

Why need another launchpad?

  • The PSLV is designed to launch satellites into pole-to-pole, or polar, orbits around Earth.
  • However, it can’t enter into such an orbit straightaway after launch because its trajectory needs to avoid flying over Sri Lanka, protecting its popular centres from any debris from the rocket.
  • So once the rocket lifts off from Sriharikota, it flies further east to avoid Sri Lanka and then steers itself back towards the South Pole.
  • This manoeuvre requires more fuel, and for a smaller rocket like the SSLV, the addition could eat into its already limited payload capacity and reduce the rocket’s value for Antrix, ISRO’s commercial operator.
  • By setting up a spaceport in Kulasekarapattinam the SSLV will lift off over the Lakshadweep Sea and won’t have to swerve around Sri Lanka as it climbs to higher altitudes.

Why Thoothukudi?

  • Proximity to the seashore makes Thoothukudi ideal for “straight southward” launches. From Sriharikota, such southward bound launches are not possible as the rockets have to fly around Sri Lanka.
  • Nearness to the equator: Like the Sriharikota spaceport in the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Thoothukudi was selected as a spaceport due to its nearness to the equator. A rocket launch site should be on the east coast and near the equator.
  • Logistical ease: ISRO has its Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) at Mahendragiri in Tirunelveli district, where it assembles the second and fourth stage engines for the PSLV. Instead of transporting the second and fourth stages to Sriharikota from Mahendragiri, it would be easier to shift them to the launch pad if it is built in Kulasekarapattinam, which is around 100 km away.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Cartosat-3

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cartosat Series

Mains level : Cartosat and its applications


Advanced earth observation satellite Cartosat-3 has been launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR at Sriharikota.

Cartosat-3

  • At 1,625 kg, Cartosat-3 is unusually heavy and more than double the mass of the previous eight in its class.
  • Many new technologies have been built in, such as a highly agile or flexible camera; high-speed data transmission, advanced computer system and new power electronics.
  • It is aimed to have the `sharpest eye’ of civil remote sensing satellites in the world.
  • It will be carried by PSLV-C47.
  • Thirteen small satellites of two U.S. customers will be the secondary payloads.

What’s so special about Cartosat-3?

  • A key feature of the Cartosats is that they help to detect changes in natural geographical or man-made features.
  • Their cameras can `look back and forth’ in an angle to generate continuous spot images.
  • One of Cartosat-3’s cameras offers a ground resolution of 25 cm – this means it can pick up an object of a minimum of that size from a height of around 500 km.
  • Currently, WorldView-3, a satellite owned by US company Maxar, has the best ground resolution of 31 cm.
  • Cartosat-3 ushers in the third generation of high-resolution `optical imaging’ satellites that enable precise cartographic or mapping activities, apart from their unstated military use.

Cartosat series

  • The Cartosat satellites are a series of Indian earth observation satellites built and operated by the ISRO.
  • The Cartosat series is a part of the Indian Remote Sensing Program. They are used for Earth’s resource management defence services and monitoring.
  • So far, the ISRO has orbited eight Cartosats since May 2005.
  • Data from most of them, especially the last four Carto-2 series ones, launched in relatively quick succession in the last three years, are exclusively used by the armed forces.
  • The second one, Cartosat-2 of January 2007, breached the 1-metre threshold, which was an ambitious benchmark at that time.
  • The previous best view from a Cartosat was 65 cm, as put in the last three or four satellites in the Cartosat-2 series – 2C, 2D, 2E and 2F.
  • However, an existing policy allows only government and government authorised agencies to access ISRO’s high-resolution imageries below a resolution of 1 metre.

Uses

  • The imageries from Cartosat series satellites are useful for cartographic applications, urban and rural applications, infrastructure planning, coastal land use and regulation.
  • It also finds applications in utility management such as monitoring road networks, water grids or distribution, creation of land use maps, among others.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

NAVIC (Navigation in Indian Constellation)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NAVIC

Mains level : Utility of NAVIC


  • The ISRO and its older commercial arm Antrix Corporation Ltd. are poised to commercialise India’s regional navigation satellite system, NavIC.
  • Antrix recently floated two separate tenders to identify industries that can develop dedicated NavIC-based hardware and systems.

NavIC (Navigation in Indian Constellation)

  • It is the Indian system of seven satellites that is aimed at telling the business and individual users where they are, or how their products and services are moving.
  • The indigenous positioning or location-based service (LBS) works just like the established and popular U.S. Global Positioning System or GPS but within a 1,500-km radius over the sub-continent.
  • It covers India and a region extending 1,500 km around it, with plans for further extension.
  • NAVIC will provide two levels of service, the standard positioning service“, which will be open for civilian use, and a “restricted service (an encrypted one) for authorised users (including the military).
  • NAVIC is planned to become available for civilian use in the first half of 2020

Early users

  • The early set of commercial NavIC users would be potentially transporters of resources such as mined ore, coal and sand in various States.
  • Several transporters currently use GPS-based systems.

Positive developments

  • Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a leading producer of semiconductor chips, had developed and tested NavIC-friendly chipsets across its user bases and that it would add NavIC to them.
  • Apart from GPS, its chips can work with the global navigation satellite systems of Europe (Galileo), Russia (GLONASS) and China (Beidou.)
  • ISRO said this support would be available for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) from November 2019.
  • It expects the indigenous system to ‘enhance’ the use of NavIC on mobile, automotive and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

3GPP project

  • The important positive for NavIC was the certification of the Indian system by the 3GPP (The 3rd Generation Partnership Project), a global body for coordinating mobile telephony standards.
  • The specifications will be available in March 2020 and the Telecommunications Standards Development Society, India (TSDSI) has said it would adopt them as a national standard.
  • The implication is that 4G and 5G devices with NavIC capability can use assisted-NavIC solution in place of, or in addition to, other constellations.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

GEMINI system to aid fishermen

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GEMINI System

Mains level : Tropical Cyclones in India and thier aftermath


  • To avoid communication blackouts that led to 20 fishermen going missing in the aftermath of Cyclone Okchi in 2017, a slew of government departments, research agencies and private companies have developed GEMINI.

GEMINI

  • GEMINI is a portable receiver linked to ISRO-satellites, that is “fail-proof” and warn fishermen of danger.
  • The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), a Hyderabad institute collaborated with Accord, a private company, to develop a box-shaped receiver.
  • It has an antenna and in-built battery that can last three to four days, according to a brochure describing the device.
  • GEMINI works on GAGAN developed by ISRO and the Airports Authority of India and is an India-made global positioning system and relies on the positioning system by ISRO’s GSAT satellites.

Why need GEMINI?

  • The satellite-based communication is the only suitable solution for the dissemination of such emergency information.
  • And affordable satellite based communication system should be made part of the dissemination chain to deal with cyclones, high waves and tsunamis.

App interface

  • When GEMINI is connected to an app, it also lets fishermen know the probability of fish-catch in the surrounding seas.
  • Even now it provides services such as storm alerts and advisories of potential fish-catch however it’s dependent on the mobile services provided.

Utility of the device

  • With this device, fishermen outside the signal range of their phone companies can also access warnings and alerts.
  • Mobile phone frequencies cannot be accessed 10-12 km beyond the coast and with GEMINI this range can increase to 300 nautical miles.

Limitations

  • The device allows only one-way communication — it can’t be used by fishermen to make calls, for instance.
  • At ₹9,000 a device, it’s also relatively expensive for the average fisherman, say officials, but attempts are on to subsidise it by as much as 90%.
  • The device could be more easily accessible to India’s 900,000 fishermen if the chips powering mobile phones were able to receive signals from the GAGAN system.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Geotail

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Geotail, Chandrayaan 2

Mains level : Accomplishments of Chandrayaan2 mission


  • Recently on board with Chandrayaan-2 mission, an instrument called CLASS, designed to detect signatures of elements in the Moon’s soil, had detected charged particles during the mission.
  • This happened in September, during the orbiter’s passage through the “geotail”.

Geotail

  • The geotail is a region in space that allows the best observations.
  • The region exists as a result of the interactions between the Sun and Earth.
  • The Sun emits the solar wind, which is a continuous stream of charged particles. These particles are embedded in the extended magnetic field of the Sun.
  • Since the Earth has a magnetic field, it obstructs the solar wind plasma.
  • This interaction results in the formation of a magnetic envelope around Earth.
  • On the Earth side facing the Sun, the envelope is compressed into a region that is approximately three to four times the Earth radius.
  • On the opposite side, the envelope is stretched into a long tail, which extends beyond the orbit of the Moon. It is this tail that is called the geotail.

About CLASS

  • CLASS stands for Chandrayaan 2 Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer.
  • For the CLASS instrument seeking to detect element signatures, the lunar soil can be best observed when a solar flare provides a rich source of X-rays to illuminate the surface.
  • Secondary X-ray emission resulting from this can be detected by CLASS to directly detect the presence of key elements like Na, Ca, Al, Si, Ti and Fe.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Project NETRA

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Project NETRA

Mains level : Need for ensuring Space situational awareness (SSA)

  • ISRO has initiated ‘Project NETRA’ – an early warning system in space to detect debris and other hazards to Indian satellites.

Project NETRA (Network for space object Tracking and Analysis)

  • The project will give India its own capability in space situational awareness (SSA) like the other space powers — which is used to ‘predict’ threats from debris to Indian satellites.
  • NETRA’s eventual goal is to capture the GEO, or geostationary orbit, scene at 36,000 km where communication satellites operate.
  • The space agency says our SSA will first be for low-earth orbits or LEO which have remote-sensing spacecraft.
  • Under NETRA the ISRO plans to put up many observational facilities: connected radars, telescopes; data processing units and a control centre.
  • They can, among others, spot, track and catalogue objects as small as 10 cm, up to a range of 3,400 km and equal to a space orbit of around 2,000 km.
  • The NETRA effort would make India a part of international efforts towards tracking, warning about and mitigating space debris.

What NETRA consists of?

  • In the plans are a high-precision, long range telescope in Leh and a radar in the North East.
  • Along with them, we will also use the Multi-Object Tracking Radar (MOTR) that we have put up at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, and the telescopes at Ponmudi and Mount Abu to get a broad SSA picture.
  • NORAD, or the North American Aerospace Defense Command, is an initiative of the U.S. and Canada that shares selective debris data with many countries.
  • The new SSA centre would consolidate debris tracking activities that are now spread across ISRO centres.
  • Currently there are 15 functional Indian communication satellites in the geostationary orbit of 36,000 km; 13 remote sensing satellites in LEO of up to 2,000 km; and eight navigation satellites in medium earth orbits.

Why Space debris matters?

  • Space debris could be floating particles from dead satellites or rocket parts that stay in orbit for many years.
  • Satellite agencies worry over even a speck of paint or fragment floating towards their spacecraft: it disables on board electronics and cripples the satellite worth several hundred crore rupees.
  • Agencies constantly look for debris at the time of a launch and through the life of a satellite.

Enhancing Space situational awareness (SSA)

  • India, as a responsible space power, should have SSA as a part of a national capability, as in the U.S. This is a vital requirement for protecting our space assets and a force multiplier.
  • The SSA has a military quotient to it and adds a new ring to the country’s overall security.
  • It uses satellites, ground and air radars to secure its two countries against attacks from air, space or sea.
  • With long-range tracking radars, the SSA also provides us the capability of an early warning system against ballistic missiles coming in at a height.
  • Apart from radars and telescopes, he said India should also think of deploying satellites that track other satellites — as the U.S. and other space powers had done.
  • Combined with other elements of military intelligence SSA would help us to understand motives behind any suspicious orbit changes of other satellites and to know if they were spying on or harming our spacecraft.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Methane-powered Rocket Engine

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Methane-powered Rocket Engine

Mains level : Benefits of methane as a cryogenic fuel

  • ISRO is planning to develop methane-powered rocket engines.

LOX methane engines

  • The space agency is developing two ‘LOx methane’ engines (liquid oxygen oxidiser and methane fuel) engines.
  • One of the two projects is trying to convert the existing cryogenic engine, which uses liquid hydrogen for fuel, into a LOx methane engine.
  • The other is a smaller engine of 3 tonnes thrust, which will feature an electric motor.
  • These are being developed at ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Trivandrum.

Presently used fuel

  • ISRO currently prefers to use a fuel called Unsymmetrical Di-Methyl Hydrazine, along with Nitrogen tetroxide for oxidizer, in its liquid fuel (Vikas) engines, which are used in the lower stages of its rockets, PSLV and GSLV.

Why methane?

  • Di-Methyl Hydrazine like all hydrazine-based fuels, is said to be highly toxic and cancer-causing.
  • Globally, governments are keen on banning hydrazine.
  • Besides, methane beats hydrazine on every other count.
  • Apart from being non-toxic, it has a higher specific impulse which means one kg of the gas can life one kg of mass for a longer time.
  • Methane, which can be synthesized with water and carbon dioxide in space, is often described as the space fuel of the future.
  • It is easy to store, does not leave a residue upon burning, less bulky, and, importantly, can be synthesized up in space.

Methane vs. DMH

  • Methane-fired engines need an igniter to start the fire.
  • Hydrazine fuels are hypergolic, which means they start burning on their own upon coming in contact with oxygen.

Development in India

  • Mumbai-based start-up Manastu Space is developing a propulsion system that will use Hydrogen peroxide as fuel.
  • Currently, Manastu’s engines are meant for steering satellites in orbit but they can be scaled up to power launch vehicles.
  • According to the company, the space industry started with Hydrogen peroxide, but moved to a ‘better’ hydrazine.
  • But Manastu has developed a chemical additive, which it is trying to patent — the additive will enable Hydrogen peroxide to elbow hydrazine out of the competition.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] ISRO’s Moon mission presents India a chance to reassess its space priorities

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Space industry and the future goals

CONTEXT

Vikram lander appears to have made a hard-landing because of which ISRO is not able to establish any contact so far. 

Past experience

There have been occasions in the past when declared “dead” satellites/space probes have suddenly come alive. NASA’s IMAGE satellite launched in early 2000 stopped transmitting in late 2005 and was declared dead. NASA declared this satellite alive again in 2018.

ISRO – What lies ahead

  • With various successes in the domain of space, ISRO has raised the stature of the country internationally.
  • India should make an assessment of the technical resources and expertise available with ISRO to carry forward a major space programme. 
  • It is important to factor in the nature of the private space industry to support a space programme of this size. 
  • International collaborations have become an important element in the present times. 
  • Going to the Moon and Mars is important for multiple reasons, including the quest for minerals and energy security (Helium 3). 
  • India should avoid getting swayed by the “Space Race”.
  • Space should emerge as an important constituent of foreign policy. Missions to the Moon and Mars offer India opportunities for bilateral or multilateral collaboration. Such collaborations could allow technology sharing and they could also prove to be more cost-effective and time-saving.
  • India needs to make more investments in its strategic programme: Efforts made to conduct an ASAT (anti-satellite test) should be capitalised upon. Today, the armed forces require many more satellites for various purposes. There is a need to evolve a separate agency for this purpose.

CONCLUSION

Investments in this domain should be done only for social reasons, for science and for security. If India has to emerge as a space power, then it should be via a combination of soft and hard power. Missions like the ones to the Moon offer such opportunities.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Chandrayaan-2 Mission

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chandrayan 2

Mains level : Significance of the Mission

  • The Vikram lander of the Chandrayaan-2 failed to make a smooth soft-landing, unable to bring down its speed to the required level.
  • The Vikram lander and Pragyan rover were supposed to land on the moon and carry out observations and experiments for 14 days.

Why it was difficult?

  • The polar regions of the moon are a very different, and difficult, terrain.
  • Many parts lie in a completely dark region where sunlight never reaches, and temperatures can go below 230 degree Celsius.
  • Lack of sunlight and extreme low temperatures create difficulty in operation of instruments.
  • In addition, there are large craters all over the place, ranging from a few cm in size to those extending to several thousands of kilometres.

About the Chandrayaan Mission

Chandrayaan-2 Mission

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Mitra Crater

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mitra crater

Mains level : Not Much


  • Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter or mother spacecraft has zeroed in on a crater on the moon named after 20th century’s.

Mitra Crater

  • Mitra is a lunar impact crater that is attached to the western outer rim of the larger crater Mach, on the far side of the Moon.
  • It is named after Sisir Kumar Mitra (1890-1963). He also lends his name to the S. K. Mitra Centre for Research in Space Environment of the University of Calcutta.
  • This is a heavily eroded formation with an outer rim that has been damaged by subsequent impacts.
  • The pictures were taken by the Terrain Mapping Camera-2 at the north pole of moon.
  • At 25 degrees Kelvin (minus 248 degrees Celsius), the northern polar region is believed to be one of the coldest spots in the solar system.

Lunar nomenclature

  • The first attempts at naming lunar craters date back to the 17th century, K B Shingareva and G A Burba write in their book The Lunar Nomenclature: The Reverse Side of the Moon, 1961-1973.
  • Some used the names of prominent personalities — scientists, philosophers and even members of royalty — while others named the lunar features after comparable features on Earth.
  • In a resolution by the International Astronomical Union in 1973, crater and crater-like formations are given the names of astronomers or eminent scientists , posthumously.
  • Among other lunar features, mountains are given names corresponding to the geographical names of mountains of the Earth, while extensive dark surfaces are given names that correspond to the mental states of humans.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

New ISRO system to shield its assets from space debris

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NORAD

Mains level : ASAT mission and associated issues

Space Situational Awareness and Management

  • To get accurate data about the movement of space debris to avoid collision with its satellites, ISRO has decided to set up telescopes and radars in four corners of the country.
  • The network will be set up under the Directorate of Space Situational Awareness and Management.
  • The directorate would monitor inactive satellites, pieces of orbiting objects, near-earth asteroids and adverse space weather conditions.
  • Currently ISRO has 50 functional satellites, including communication, navigation and surveillance satellites, in space.

Why such development?

  • Till now, ISRO was dependent on NORAD (North America Aerospace Defense Command) data, which is available in public domain, for keeping track of space debris and monitoring our active and passive (dead) satellites.
  • However, this global data is not accurate.
  • NORAD also keeps accurate data, which is exclusively available to those that are members of its network. Therefore, ISRO can’t access this data.

What have been planned for this?

  • ISRO’s sophisticated multi-object tracking radar installed in Nellore (90km from Sriharikota) will be part of this project.
  • It will also set up a telescope in Ponmudi (Thiruvananthapuram) and second one in Mount Abu (Rajasthan) and third one in deep north.
  • ISRO will also install radar in the northeast.
  • Once this network is operational, India will be able to get accurate data on space debris and will also become part of the global network where India can access very accurate data on debris from hundreds of radars set up across the world.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] ISRO Technical Liaison Unit

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ITLU

Mains level : International collaboration for ISRO missions

  • The Union Cabinet chaired by PM Modi has approved the setting up of ISRO Technical Liaison Unit (ITLU) at Moscow, Russia.

Background

  • Department of Space has instituted technical Liaison Units, namely ISRO Technical Liaison Units (ITLU) at Washington, USA and Paris, France.
  • The prime objective of ITLU is to liaise with various Government and space agencies in USA and Europe, respectively.
  • Space cooperation has been one of the major links between India and Russia almost from the beginning of the space era and currently both sides are actively pursuing interactions in diversified areas of space programme.
  • Apart from intensifying cooperation with Russia, India has expanded its space cooperation with countries near to Russia.

 ITLU at Moscow

  • The ITLU at Moscow will enable effective technical coordination for timely interventions on diversified matters with Russia and neighbouring countries for realization of the programmatic targets of ISRO.
  • The Liaison Officer, deputed at ITLU from ISRO provides technical information about the developments in research and technology to government agencies and industries in the respective countries.
  • They also support the ongoing bilateral programmes of cooperation in space technology and act on behalf of ISRO on the matters referred.
  • The ITLU Moscow office would be managed by an ISRO Scientist/Engineer designated as “Counsellor (Space)” on deputation, deputed from ISRO and supported by a staff locally sourced.
  • The process is planned to be completed within six months from the date of approval.

Benefits

  • ISRO will be able to collaborate with Space agencies/industries in Russia and neighbouring countries for mutually synergetic outcomes.
  • ISRO’s Gaganyaan programme requires development of some of the key technologies and establishment of specialized facilities, which are essential to support life in space.
  • For ambitious missions like Gaganyaan it is prudent to avail technical cooperation from International space agencies, who have already demonstrated their technical capabilities in specific areas.
  • Russia, being one of the space faring nations, it is envisaged to collaborate with Russia extensively in various fields of relevance.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Successful Launch of Chandrayaan-2

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chandrayan 2

Mains level : India's moon mission


  • The 640-tonne GSLV Mk-III rocket successfully injected the 3,850-kg Chandrayaan-2 composite module into the Earth’s orbit.
  • With the successful launch all eyes are now on September 7 when the lander and rover modules of the spacecraft will make a soft landing on the surface of the moon.

Chandrayaan-2: India’s first lander mission

  • Chandrayaan-2 consists of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover, all equipped with scientific instruments to study the moon.
  • The Orbiter would once again watch the moon from a 100-km orbit, while the Lander and Rover modules will separate and make a soft-landing on moon’s surface.
  • ISRO has named the Lander module as Vikram, after Vikram Sarabhai, the pioneer of India’s space programme, and the Rover module as Pragyaan, meaning wisdom.
  • Once on the moon, the rover, a six-wheeled solar-powered vehicle, will detach itself from the lander, and would slowly crawl on the surface, making observations and collecting data.

Tasks to be accomplished

  • The mission will be equipped with two instruments, and its primary objective would be to study the composition of the moon’s surface near the landing site, and determine its abundance of different elements.
  • One of the instruments will also look out for seismic activity on lunar surface.
  • While the lander and rover are designed to work for only 14 days (1 lunar day), the Orbiter, a 2379-kg spacecraft with seven instruments on board, would remain in orbit for a year.
  • It is equipped with different kinds of cameras to take high-resolution 3D maps of the surface.
  • It also has instruments to study the mineral composition on the moon and the lunar atmosphere, and also to assess the abundance of water.

Chandrayaan-2 to enter uncharted territory

  • With Chandrayaan-2, India will become only the fourth country in the world to land a spacecraft on the moon.
  • So far, all landings, human as well as non-human, on the moon have been in areas close to its equator.
  • That was mainly because this area receives more sunlight that is required by the solar-powered instruments to function.
  • Earlier this year, in January, China landed a lander and rover on the far side of the moon, the side that is not facing the earth. This was the first time that any landing had taken place on that side.

What differentiates Chandrayaan 2 with others?

  • Chandrayaan-2 will make a landing at a site where no earlier mission has gone, near the South pole of the moon.
  • It is a completely unexplored territory and therefore offers great scientific opportunity for the mission to see and discover something new.
  • Incidentally, the crash-landing of the MIP from the Chandrayaan-1 mission had also happened in the same region.
  • The south pole of the moon holds the possibility of the presence of water, and this is one aspect that would be probed meticulously by Chandrayaan-2.
  • In addition, this area is also supposed to have ancient rocks and craters that can offer indications of history of moon, and also contain clues to the fossil records of early solar system.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] Soaring to the moon

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chandrayaan

Mains level : Chandrayaan 2 mission

CONTEXT

A decade after the first successful mission to the moon with Chandrayaan-1, the Indian Space Research Organisation successfully launched its sequel, Chandrayaan-2, to further explore the earth’s natural satellite.

Moon exploration

  • Earlier this year, China landed a robotic spacecraft on the far side of the moon, in a first-ever attempt.
  • Now India is attempting a similar feat — to land its rover Pragyan in the moon’s South Polar region, attempted so far by none.
  • The equatorial region has been the only one where rovers have landed and explored.

Significance of launch

  • The launch by itself is a huge achievement considering that it is the first operational flight of the indigenously developed Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III (GSLV Mark-III) to send up satellites weighing up to four tonnes
  • The orbiter, the lander (Vikram) and the rover (Pragyan) together weigh 3.87 tonnes.
  • Having reached the earth parking orbit, the orbit of the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft will be raised in five steps or manoeuvres in the coming 23 days before it reaches the final orbit of 150 x 1,41,000 km.
  • It is in this orbit that Chandrayaan-2 will attain the velocity to escape from the earth’s gravitational pull and start the long journey towards the moon.
  • A week later, on August 20, the spacecraft will come under the influence of the moon’s gravitational pull, and in a series of steps the altitude of the orbit will be reduced in 13 days to reach the final circular orbit at a height of 100 km.
  • The next crucial step will be the decoupling of the lander (Vikram) and the rover (Pragyan) from the orbiter, followed by the soft-landing of the lander-rover in the early hours of September 7.
  • Despite the postponement of the launch from July 16 owing to a technical snag, the tweaked flight plan has ensured that the Pragyan robotic vehicle will have 14 earth days, or one moon day, to explore.

Innovation

  • Unlike the crash-landing of the Moon Impact Probe on the Chandrayaan-1 mission in November 2008, this will be the first time that ISRO is attempting to soft-land a lander on the earth’s natural satellite.
  • A series of braking mechanisms will be needed to drastically reduce the velocity of the Vikram lander from nearly 6,000 km an hour, to ensure that the touchdown is soft.

Aims of mission

  • The presence of water on the moon was first indicated by the Moon Impact Probe and NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper on Chandrayaan-1 a decade ago. The imaging infrared spectrometer instrument on board the orbiter will enable ISRO to look for signatures indicating the presence of water.
  • Though the Terrain Mapping Camera on board Chandrayaan-1 had mapped the moon three-dimensionally at 5-km resolution, Chandrayaan-2 too has such a camera to produce a 3-D map.
  • But it will be for the first time that the vertical temperature gradient and thermal conductivity of the lunar surface, and lunar seismicity, will be studied.

Conclusion

While ISRO gained much with the success of Chandrayaan-1 and Mangalyaan, the success of Chandrayaan-2 will go a long way in testing the technologies for deep-space missions.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NAVIC, GPS

Mains level : Utility of NAVIC


  • The navigation system that Indians use on their mobile phones and cars could be set for a reboot.
  • It has been reported that ISRO is in talks with processing chip manufacturers such as Qualcomm to substitute the existing Global Positioning System (GPS) with the Indian version of satellite navigation.

What is NavIC?

  • NavIC is an independent Indian satellite-based positioning system for critical national applications.
  • India got its system with the launch of the IRNSS 1-G satellite, is the seventh member of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), in November 2017.
  • It consists of a constellation of seven satellites, three of which are in a geostationary orbit and four in a geosynchronous orbit.
  • The IRNSS can provide Standard Positioning Service (SPS) to all users, and an encrypted Restricted Service (RS) to authorised users.
  • It has position accuracy better than 20 metres in the primary service area.
  • Its purpose is to provide reliable position, navigation and timing services over India and neighbourhood.

What is the service coverage?

  • The regional navigation satellite system can provide accurate position information service to users in India and the region, extending up to 1,500 km from its boundary, which is its Primary Service Area.
  • Beyond that lies an Extended Service Area, that can extend up to the edges of the area enclosed by the rectangle imagined by latitudes 30 degrees South and 50 degrees North, and longitudes 30 degrees East and 130 degrees East.

Is India the only country to have its positioning system?

  • The GPS is a satellite-based radio navigation system that is owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Air Force.
  • Apart from GPS, there is GLONASS of Russia, Galileo of the European Union and BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (or BDS) of China.

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.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] What it would take for India to become a proper space power

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Defence Space Agency (DSA)

Mains level : India's quest for security amidst clouds of space war

Cold war is under way for hegemony in Space

  • The Govt. has recently decided to set up Defence Space Agency (DSA) with command over the space assets of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
  • This is the most significant development in India’s defence establishment since the operationalization of the nuclear arsenal around 15 years ago.
  • It is not Star Wars yet, but space has undoubtedly become a military theatre.
  • The US, Russia, China and, since March, India, have shown that they have the capability to physically destroy satellites in orbit.
  • Like it or not, the post-Cold War space arms race is underway.

India’s is the  bottom-up approach

  • It is important to recall that India has taken an exceptional route took to get here.
  • The US, Russia, China and Europe developed space capabilities for military purposes first, and then put those technologies to civilian use.
  • Barring Europe’s Ariane rockets, their extant satellite launch vehicles are derived from their respective intercontinental ballistic missile designs.
  • India’s space quest, on the other hand, was focused on civilian use—weather forecasting, broadcast, telecommunications and remote sensing.
  • It was only in the mid-1980s that technology from the ISRO’s Satellite Launch Vehicle-3 was employed in the Agni ballistic missile.

We are the last in race

  • When it comes to satellites, India has a handful of military satellites in operation, compared to over 40 civilian ones.
  • Our first dedicated military satellite was launched only in 2013.
  • Just like India was late to militarize space, it has been late to weaponize it.
  • That’s not a bad thing, but in the changed circumstances of the 21st century, it is time to rethink our approach.

Then what should be India’s objectives in this new game?

  • India’s unstated space doctrine is to use space to promote development and the well-being and prosperity of its people.
  • However the need of hour is to include the word “security” in that sentence.
  • In doing so, the policy goal will change from having a space presence to being a space power.

What does it mean to be a space power?

  • Colin Gray, one of the world’s most respected scholars of strategy, says that it is “the ability to use space while denying reliable use to any foe”.
  • India already has significant ability to use space. But our ability to deny its use to an adversary is, understandably, negligible.
  • March’s anti-satellite (A-SAT) test is the first visible sign that India is on the road to acquire counter-space capability.
  • The newly instituted DSA will be supported by a defence space research organization (DSRO) that should create weapons to “deny, degrade, disrupt, destroy or deceive an adversary’s space capability”.

Challenges ahead for India

At this stage of the space game, the DSA will need to consider taking up four challenges as under:

I. Strengthening anti-space weapon capability

  • First, India must protect and secure two kinds of space assets—those that belong to us and those that are crucial to our economy and national security.
  • While satellites are usually hardened to weather the harsh extremes of the space environment, in older designs, protection against space weapons might not have been considered.
  • Future designs must certainly factor in the risk of attack by hostile forces.

II. Tracking space enemies

  • Second, in order to effectively defend our space assets, India must have the most reliable and accurate capabilities to track space objects, from debris and spacecraft to celestial bodies.
  • Since accurate tracking forms the basis of almost every conceivable action that we might undertake—including the all-important ability to target at will—this crucial capability must be developed indigenously.

III. Ensuring a credible offensive capacity

  • Third, for space defence to be effective, India must acquire a minimum, credible offensive capacity across the various types of space weapons, physical, electronic and cyber.
  • The “minimum” is to ensure that we do not get overly drawn into an arms race, while ensuring that we have what it takes to deter attacks on our space assets.
  • As India has demonstrated in the nuclear sphere, such a posture is wise, possible and works.
  • Credibility demands that both partners and adversaries are persuaded that we have the capacity, so occasional demonstrations become necessary.

IV. Technological perfection

  • Finally, our broader space policy must acquire a new seriousness in improving launch capabilities and spacecraft design.
  • The ability to place large satellites in geostationary orbits should become highly reliable.
  • ISRO’s budgets must be enlarged, of course, but just as importantly, private entrants encouraged in everything from launches to specialized payloads.
  • Like the US, China has recognized that the creative energies of private entrepreneurs can bolster its space power.

Conclusion

  • Five centuries ago, a few small European countries acquired global power and domination by investing in well-armed blue-water navies.
  • On the subcontinent, the mighty Mughal empire—larger and perhaps militarily more powerful than most of them—settled for a coastal force performing constabulary duties.
  • The failure to appreciate how much the game had changed, and how best to equip for it, proved very expensive in the long run. Let us not forget that lesson.

Back2Basics

Defence Space Research Agency (DSRA)

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] New Space India Limited (NSIL)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : New Space India Limited (NSIL)

Mains level : Expanding commercial functions of ISRO

  • New Space India Limited (NSIL) has been incorporated as a wholly owned GoI Undertaking/Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE).
  • Antrix Ltd is another PSU under the Department of Space that acts as an commercial arm of the ISRO

New Space India Limited (NSIL)

  • It functions under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS).
  • It aims to commercially exploit the research and development work of ISRO Centres and constituent units of DOS.
  • The NSIL would enable Indian Industries to scale up high-technology manufacturing and production base for meeting the growing needs of Indian space programme/
  • It would further spur the growth of Indian Industries in the space sector.

Functions of NSIL

  • Small Satellite technology transfer to industry, wherein NSIL will obtain license from DOS/ISRO and sub-license it to industries;
  • Manufacture of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) in collaboration with Private Sector;
  • Production of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) through Indian Industry;
  • Production and marketing of Space based products and services, including launch and application;
  • Transfer of technology developed by ISRO Centres and constituent units of DOS;
  • Marketing spin-off technologies and products/services, both in India and abroad

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Space Activities Bill

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Space Activities Bill

Mains level : Promoting private space activities in India

  • India has begun prelegislative consultations on a “Space Activities Bill” that is designed to encourage domestic private rocket and satellite companies to offer services for Indian and global customers.

About the Space Activities Bill, 2017

  • The Bill will address the liability issues arising from their space activities, in a suitable/ rational manner, in line with international practices.
  • The government first introduced the Bill in 2017.

Key propositions of the Bill

  • The provisions of this Act shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India
  • A non-transferable licence shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity
  • The Central Government will formulate the appropriate mechanism for licensing, eligibility criteria, and fees for licence.
  • The government will maintain a register of all space objects (any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop more space activity plans for the country
  • It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity
  • It will ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of a space activity.
  • It will share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
  • If any person undertakes any commercial space activity without authorisation they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than ₹1 crore or both.

Why reconsider the Bill?

  • The current space policy does not cover liabilities for damage to third party space assets although the country is a signatory to the UN Treaties on Outer Space activity.
  • The Bill will help formulate necessary rules under the Space Activities Act to deal with damages under the liability provisions and the mode of securing financial guarantee to compensate for damages.
  • This bill would address a long-pending concern on covering liabilities in the event of a mishap or damage to spacecraft.

For tapping global opportunities

  • India’s PSLV has emerged as the preferred rocket to hurl small satellites globally.
  • India is also working on a small satellite launch vehicle that is designed to tap the global opportunity to carry satellites of less than 50 kg into space.
  • The US, France and the EU have legislations that underwrite costs of damage if it exceeds insurance when a private satellite launch goes awry or a rocket hits another object in space.

With inputs from: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/the-hindu-explains-what-is-the-space-activities-bill-2017/article20680984.ece

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO plans to launch a space station

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : International Space Station

Mains level : Utility of space stations

  • Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is planning to launch its own space station.

The Indian Space Station

  • A space station is an artificial satellite placed in orbit and is used as a long-term base for manned operations in space.
  • The Indian space station would be stationed at an altitude of 400 kilometres from Earth.
  • The proposed Indian space station would be similar to the International Space Station (ISS) but smaller in size weighing about 20 tonnes and would take another 5 to 7 seven years to construct.
  • India would be the fourth country to launch a space station as the US and Russia has already launched their space stations and China is planning to launch its in 2020.

About the ISS

  • The International Space Station, which launched its first piece in 1998, is a large spacecraft which orbits around the Earth and is home to the astronauts.
  • The ISS is currently the only active space station in the earth’s orbit.
  • The first crew on the space station arrived on November 2, 2000.
  • The space station is home to minimum of six astronauts, with two bathrooms, a gymnasium, and a big bay window.
  • It is a joint project between five participating space agencies -NASA (USA), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Chandrayaan-2 Mission

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chandrayan 1, 2

Mains level : Prospects of the ISRO mission


  • The ISRO will finally launch the much-awaited Chandrayaan-2 mission to the moon.
  • The mission will be launched on July 15, and its lander and rover will touch down on the moon’s surface either on September 5 or 6.

Background

  • The Chandrayaan-2 mission has taken a long way coming, considering that its predecessor, Chandrayaan-1, an Orbiter mission, had been sent way back in 2008.
  • According to the original schedule, Chandrayaan-2 was to be launched in 2012 itself in a collaborative mission with the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, which was to provide the lander module.
  • The Russians, however, withdrew from the missions after their similarly-designed lander for another mission developed problems in 2011.
  • That left ISRO to design, develop and build the lander on its own, something it has not done earlier, which has led to considerable delay from the original schedule.

A sequel to Chandrayaan-1

  • The Chandrayaan-1 mission which was launched in October 2008 was ISRO’s first exploratory mission to the moon, in fact to any heavenly body in the space.
  • That mission was designed to just orbit around the moon and make observations with the help of the instruments on board.
  • The closest that Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft came to the moon was in an orbit 100 km from its surface.
  • Chandrayaan-2 is a logical progression on Chandrayaan-1. It is a more sophisticated mission designed to pack in a whole lot of science.

The Moon Impact Probe

  • For largely symbolic reasons, though, the Chandrayaan-1 mission did make one of its instruments, called Moon Impact Probe, or MIP.
  • It was a 35-kg cube-shaped module with the Indian tricolour on all its sides, to crash-land on the moon’s surface.
  • ISRO claims that while on its way, MIP had sent data that showed evidence for the presence of water on the moon.
  • Unfortunately, those findings could not be published because of anomalies in calibration of the data.
  • The confirmation for water had come through another onboard instrument, the M3 or Moon Mineralogy Mapper that had been put by NASA.

Chandrayaan-2: India’s first lander mission

  • Chandrayaan-2 consists of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover, all equipped with scientific instruments to study the moon.
  • The Orbiter would once again watch the moon from a 100-km orbit, while the Lander and Rover modules will separate and make a soft-landing on moon’s surface.
  • ISRO has named the Lander module as Vikram, after Vikram Sarabhai, the pioneer of India’s space programme, and the Rover module as Pragyaan, meaning wisdom.
  • Once on the moon, the rover, a six-wheeled solar-powered vehicle, will detach itself from the lander, and would slowly crawl on the surface, making observations and collecting data.

Tasks to be accomplished

  • The mission will be equipped with two instruments, and its primary objective would be to study the composition of the moon’s surface near the landing site, and determine its abundance of different elements.
  • The 1471-kg lander, which will remain stationary after touching down, will carry three instruments that will mainly study the moon’s atmosphere.
  • One of the instruments will also look out for seismic activity on lunar surface.
  • While the lander and rover are designed to work for only 14 days (1 lunar day), the Orbiter, a 2379-kg spacecraft with seven instruments on board, would remain in orbit for a year.
  • It is equipped with different kinds of cameras to take high-resolution 3D maps of the surface.
  • It also has instruments to study the mineral composition on the moon and the lunar atmosphere, and also to assess the abundance of water.

Chandrayaan-2 to enter uncharted territory

  • With Chandrayaan-2, India will become only the fourth country in the world to land a spacecraft on the moon.
  • So far, all landings, human as well as non-human, on the moon have been in areas close to its equator.
  • That was mainly because this area receives more sunlight that is required by the solar-powered instruments to function.
  • Earlier this year, in January, China landed a lander and rover on the far side of the moon, the side that is not facing the earth. This was the first time that any landing had taken place on that side.
  • The Chinese mission, Chang’e 4, was designed to function for three lunar days has outlived its mission life and entered its fifth lunar night.

What differentiates Chandrayaan 2 with others?

  • Chandrayaan-2 will make a landing at a site where no earlier mission has gone, near the South pole of the moon.
  • It is a completely unexplored territory and therefore offers great scientific opportunity for the mission to see and discover something new.
  • Incidentally, the crash-landing of the MIP from the Chandrayaan-1 mission had also happened in the same region.
  • The south pole of the moon holds the possibility of the presence of water, and this is one aspect that would be probed meticulously by Chandrayaan-2.
  • In addition, this area is also supposed to have ancient rocks and craters that can offer indications of history of moon, and also contain clues to the fossil records of early solar system.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO’s new commercial arm NewSpace India officially inaugurated

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NewSpace India Limited (NSIL)

Mains level : Commercial activities by ISRO

  • NewSpace India Limited, the commercial arm of ISRO was officially inaugurated in Bengaluru.

NewSpace India Limited (NSIL)

  • NSIL’s main objective is to scale up industry participation in Indian space programmes.
  • NSIL was incorporated on March 6 2019, for commercially utilising research and development activities carried out by ISRO in the area of space with an authorised share capital of Rs 100 crore and initial paid up capital of Rs 10 crore.
  • NSIL will act as an aggregator for all space related activities in industry and develop private entrepreneurship in space related technologies.

Services to be provided

  • Specifically, it will be responsible for manufacturing and production of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) and Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) through technology transfer mechanisms.
  • It will also cater to emerging global commercial SSLV market demand, providing satellite building and satellite-based services.
  • Its services will include supply of sub-systems for various domestic and international application needs and will enable space technology spin-offs through Indian industry interface.
  • It will enable space technology spin-offs via Indian industry interface.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] Eye in the sky: on RISAT-2B

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RISAT-2B

Mains level : Benefits of RISAT- 2B

CONTEXT

With the successful pre-dawn launch of RISAT-2B satellite on May 22, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has added another feather to its cap.

Benefits of RISAT-2B

1. Agriculture, Disaster Management and Forestry

The satellite will enhance India’s capability in crop monitoring during the monsoon season, forestry mapping for forest fires and deforestation, and flood mapping as part of the national disaster management programme.

2. All weather monitoring – 

  • Given that overcast skies are a constant during the monsoon season and during times of flood, the ability to penetrate the cloud cover is essential.
  • While optical remote sensing that relies on visible light for imaging gets obstructed by clouds, RISAT-2B will not. Much like the RISAT-1 satellite that was launched by ISRO in April 2012, RISAT-2B will also use microwave radiation.
  • Unlike visible light, microwaves have longer wavelength and so will not be susceptible to atmospheric scattering.
  • Microwave radiation can thus easily pass through the cloud cover, haze and dust, and image the ground.
  • Hence, RISAT-2B satellite will be able to image under almost all weather and environmental conditions.

3. No dependence on visible light –

  • Since it does not rely on visible light for imaging, it will be able to image the ground during both day and night.
  • The satellite does not have passive microwave sensors that detect the radiation naturally emitted by the atmosphere or reflected by objects on the ground.
  • Instead, RISAT-2B will be transmitting hundreds of microwave pulses each second towards the ground and receiving the signals reflected by the objects using radar.
  • The moisture and texture of the object will determine the strength of the microwave signal that gets reflected.
  • While the strength of the reflected signal will help determine different targets, the time between the transmitted and reflected signals will help determine the distance to the object.

4. Study of small objects and surveillance –

  • The RISAT-2B satellite uses X-band synthetic aperture radar for the first time; the synthetic aperture radar was developed indigenously.
  • Unlike the C-band that was used by RISAT-1, the shorter wavelength of the X-band allows for higher resolution imagery for target identification and discrimination.
  • Since it has high resolution, the satellite will be able to detect objects with dimensions of as little as a metre.
  • This capacity to study small objects and also movement could be useful for surveillance.

Conclusion

As K. Sivan, ISRO Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space, had said last month, the satellite could be used for civil and strategic purposes. RISAT-2B will have an inclined orbit of 37 degrees, which will allow more frequent observations over the Indian subcontinent. With ISRO planning to launch four more such radar imaging satellites in a year, its ability to monitor crops and floods as well as engage in military surveillance will be greatly enhanced.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

RISAT-2B: An all-seeing radar imaging satellite

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RISAT Constellation

Mains level : Utility of the all weather imaging satellite


  • The PSLV-C46 is set to launch RISAT-2B from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

RISAT Constellation

  • RISAT-2B, short for “Radar Imaging Satellite-2B”, is the second in a series of satellites used to observe weather conditions on Earth using radar imagery.
  • RISAT-2 was the first satellite in the series, launched for the purpose of surveillance. RISAT-1 was launched later, to become India’s first all-weather radar imaging satellite.
  • RISAT-2B is to be followed by RISAT-2BR1, 2BR2, RISAT-1A, 1B, 2A and so on.
  • ISRO orbited its first two radar satellites in 2009 & 2012 and it plans to deploy four or five of them in 2019 alone.
  • A constellation of such space-based radars means a comprehensive vigil over the country.
  • Once operational, the satellite will be capable of monitoring weather day and night, in all weather conditions.

About PSLV-C46

  • The PSLV-C46 mission is ISRO’s 48 PSLV launch, and the 14th PSLV Core-Alone (CA) mission.
  • The PSLV was the first of ISRO’s rockets to be equipped with liquid rocket stages.
  • In the PSLV-CA version, the rocket doesn’t have the six strap-on boosters that larger rockets do, and only uses the four core stages of the PSLV to launch its payload.

Utility of this constellation

  • When it is cloudy or dark, ‘regular’ remote-sensing or optical imaging satellites — which work like a light-dependent camera — cannot perceive hidden or surreptitious objects on the ground.
  • Satellites that are equipped with an active sensor, the synthetic aperture radar (SAR), can sense or ‘observe’ Earth in a special way from space day and night, rain or cloud.
  • This all-weather seeing feature is what makes them special for security forces and disaster relief agencies.
  • In India we also use radar imaging for crop estimation because our main crop growing season of kharif is in May-September when it rains and gets cloudy.
  • We have used this data extensively for forestry, soil, land use, geology and during floods and cyclone.
  • Radar imaging satellites pick up structures, new bunkers very well, and sometimes help to count them, too.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] Surveillance wars in space

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RPO, mission shakti

Mains level : Space defence activities and it's relevance

CONTEXT

Mission Shakti is a giant leap for India, but only a small step in the world of counter space.Years after Russia, the U.S., and China (referred to here as the Big Three) made a mark in this area, India too has shown that it can hit back at enemies attacking from space.

The relevance of mission Shakti

  • Military experts say that possessing the highly difficult capability to conduct such a test is important and essential for ensuring national security in space.
  • Mission Shakti, as it is called, has earned India a place in an exclusive club of ‘space defenders’.
  • However, a peek into counterspace, the world where such dangerous space activities are practised covertly by the Big Three, shows that while Mission Shakti is a giant leap for India, it is only a small step in that world.

Playground for confidential activities

  1. Secret Activities in space – According to academic reports, policymakers and those tracking the military space, for several years now, the space between 600 km and 36,000 km above the earth has been the playground for such secret activities.

2. Report’s finding – Around the time Mission Shakti took place, the Center for Strategic and International Studies based in Washington, D.C. and the Secure World Foundation came out with reports detailing counterspace capabilities that different countries have today and their sense of threat to space assets.

3. Instances of activities –

  • The reports document that satellites have been launched to sidle up to other satellites in the same orbit.
  • Satellites with robotic arms or handles have touched or nudged their siblings in orbit.
  • Mother (or nesting) spacecraft have gone up to ‘deliver’ baby spy satellites in orbit.
  • Satellites have sneaked up to high perches to see, overhear and sense all that happens in space and on the ground.

The intent of such activities –

  • The intent of being in counterspace is thus surveillance and espionage.
  • In times of war, the intent could even be to capture or disable a rival’s space assets in orbit.
Concerns with such activities

 

  • Loud concerns have been raised over rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) in space.
  • The actor countries neither acknowledge nor discuss such activities and give them other names.
  • In an RPO event, one country sends a satellite that clandestinely sits next to one of its own (or another country’s) orbiting satellites.
  • The motive could be to inspect and assess the target’s nature, eavesdrop on it, or even subvert its functions.
  • The fear is that in extreme cases, the target may even be ‘abducted’ or taken control of.

Loitering in orbit

  • Satellites of each of the Big Three has been caught loitering in orbit at different times, and the victims have cried foul.
  • In September 2018, French Defence Minister Florence Parly was reported to have charged that Russian satellite Luch-Olymp was lurking too close to — and spying on — a Franco-Italian military communications satellite, Athena-Fidus, in 2017, that is, the previous year.
  • The U.S. has reportedly had its share of RPOs and other acts.
  • Countries are also honing non-kinetic, electronics and cyber-based methods to prevent satellites of other countries from spying on their regions.
  • Cyber attacks can destroy, steal or distort other satellites or ground stations. The attacker gains control of the space asset.

Conclusion

“No one will declare that they are pursuing these kind of technologies but all are doing it, all have to do it, specially major players. In times of war no one is spared, and a country must be ready with its counter-security tactics.

 

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO plans to launch radar imaging satellite in May

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RISAT

Mains level : Significance of the RISAT Mission

  • India is planning to launch its radar imaging satellite RISAT 2BR1 sometime towards the end of this May on one of the variants of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket.

RISAT 2BR1

  • The RISAT was first deployed in orbit on April 20, 2009 as the RISAT-2.
  • It uses synthetic aperture radars (SAR) to provide Indian forces with all-weather surveillance and observation, which are crucial to notice any potential threat or malicious activity around the nation’s borders.
  • Following the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, the launch of RISAT-2 was prioritized over RISAT- 1, as its C-band SAR radar was not yet ready and RISAT -2 hence carried Israeli-built X-band radar.
  • The to-be-deployed RISAT-2BR1 satellite uses the same SAR band and will further improve India’s imaging reconnaissance abilities.
  • The rocket that would carry RISAT 2BR1 is designated as PSLV-C46 as per ISRO’s numbering system and will blast off from the first launch pad at the country’s rocket port in Sriharikota.
  • Following the launch of RISAT 2BR1, ISRO will send up a cartography satellite Catosat-3.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] Outer space lessons

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gaganyaan

Mains level : Lessons for Gaganyaan from USA's lunar mission

CONTEXT

In furthering its outer space ambitions, India must study the experiences of other space powers.

Comparison with lunar Mission

  • As scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) work toward ‘Mission Gaganyaan’, to send three Indian astronauts into space, one can’t but make comparisons with the U.S.’s lunar mission in the 1960s.
  • At the time, U.S. President John F. Kennedy made a public statement about his administration’s determination to place an American on the moon by the end of that decade.
  • The U.S.’s objective, therefore, was to have a definite public-relations edge over the U.S.S.R. in the space race, which was marked then by intense rivalry between two Cold War powers
  • A breakthrough in space was thus a matter of prestige.
  • In the context of ISRO’s plan, the prestige value of ‘Mission Gaganyaan’ is sky-high, possibly in the same league as the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Apollo Mission to the moon.

Lessons  From Lunar Mission

1.High Costs –

  • A key lesson for India from NASA’s lunar mission is that a programme of that scale and magnitude often comes at a steep cost, monetary and non-monetary.
  • More than the monetary loss, it is the non-monetary loss that matters more, as it can lend currency to the idea that such a failure indicates a waste of time and resources.

2.Hurting the image of the country –

  • A failed mission deeply hurts the image of the country in the eyes of the outside world.
  • It raises doubts about the capability of the nation-state in question.

 

3. Political Cost  –

  • Politically, a failed mission of such magnitude could give voices in the opposition an opportunity to level criticism, perhaps weakening the incumbent domestically.
  • The diplomatic costs arise from the fact that losses in space missions can seriously impact the future of cooperation between space powers.
  • For instance, during the Cold War, both the U.S. and the then U.S.S.R. exaggerated each other’s failures in space missions considerably in order to influence the overall mood among and inclinations of other nations in their favour.
  • This was most easily achieved by making the rival look as weak as possible. Historically, the media played an active role in participating in such an agenda-driven propaganda.

Conclusion –

  • Outer space is often referred to as the ‘final frontier’ by major world powers, with the prize for conquering it being even more greatness on the world stage.
  • While India’s credentials were bolstered after the successful anti-satellite mission recently, significant success in ‘Mission Gaganyaan’ might provide India with that stamp of authority in outer space that it so keenly desires.
  • For that to happen, the lessons from the experiences of other space powers must be heeded.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Phase 4 of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GSLV

Mains level : Isro missions and discoveries

  • The Union Cabinet has approved ongoing GSLV continuation programme Phase-4 consisting of five GSLV flights during the period 2021-2024.
  • The will enable the launch of 2 tonne class of satellites for Geo-imaging, Navigation, Data Relay Communication and Space Sciences.
  • It will meet the demand for the launch of satellites at a frequency up to two launches per year, with maximal participation by the Indian industry.

About GSLV

  • GSLV Continuation Programme was initially sanctioned in 2003, and two phases have been completed and the third phase is in progress and expected to be completed by Q4 of 2020-21.
  • GSLV has enabled independent access to space for 2 tonne class of satellites to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).
  • One of the significant outcomes of the GSLV Continuation Programme is the mastering of the highly complex cryogenic propulsion technology, which is an essential technological capability to launch communication satellites to GTO.
  • This has also paved the way for the development of a high thrust Cryogenic engine & stage for the next generation launch vehicle i.e. GSLV Mk-lll.
  • With the recent successful launch of GSLV-F11 on 19th December 2018, GSLV has successfully orbited 10 national satellites.
  • GSLV with the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage has established itself as a reliable launch vehicle for communication, navigation and meteorological satellites and also to undertake future interplanetary missions.

Major impact

  • The operationalization of GSLV has made the country self-reliant in the launching capability of 2 tonne class of satellites for communication & meteorological satellites.
  • It will sustain & strengthen the capability and self-reliance in the launching of similar satellites for national requirements including next generation navigation satellites, data relay communication satellites and interplanetary missions.
  • It will meet the launch requirement of satellites for providing critical Satellite Navigation Services, Data Relay Communication for supporting the Indian Human spaceflight programme and the next interplanetary mission to Mars.
  • This will also ensure the continuity of production in Indian industry.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] Outer clarity

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PSLV. ASAT

Mains level : There is a need to regulate outer space and prohibit its militarisaton.

CONTEXT

India’s Recent Achievements in Space

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation’s successful April 1 launch of the PSLV-C45 rocket that placed 29 satellites in three different orbits is remarkable both for the complex set of multi-tasking the mission accomplished and for the timing.
  • Coming three days after ISRO and the Defence Research and Development Organisation knocked out a satellite in a Low Earth Orbit with a direct hit.
  • It would appear that the Indian space programme stands galvanised and poised for a giant leap.

Past Achievements

  • The dexterity with which so many satellites, most of them American, were placed in three different orbits certainly showcases both the reliability and the expertise that ISRO offers.
  • This is not a new development.
  • Cost Effective-In February 2017, the PSLV-C37 placed 104 satellites, 96 of them from the U.S., in one go, a testimony to ISRO’s ability to launch satellites at a fraction of the cost that other countries incur.
  • Equally important, just as the February 2017 launch also placed the fifth of the Cartosat 2 series in orbit, an earth observation satellite with cameras that have a resolution of less than a metre, the PSLV-C45 placed EMISAT, which can, among other things, aid in electronic intelligence.

Need For formulating Space Programme

  • India is assiduously putting in place a space military architecture.
  • That is precisely why the government should articulate much more clearly the doctrinal aspects of the space programme, as well as the deterrence sought to be achieved by it.
  • India must communicate its peaceful intentions just as it showcases its capabilities, so as to contribute to a better understanding among countries it hopes to deter and thereby reduce the chances of wrong inferences being drawn in crisis situations.
  • After all, missiles are but one aspect of space warfare.
  • There are other, less visible but equally effective methods to incapacitate satellites that are being developed and are of equally serious concern.

Present global space architecture

  • There is no global regulatory regime to address the growing militarisation in space.
  • Last year, at the UN Disarmament Commission, India expressed concern about the “weaponisation” of outer space, and sought collective action to secure space-based assets.
  • In this regulatory vacuum, India has legitimate reasons to develop deterrence for the security of its space-based assets.

Way Forward

  • Equally, New Delhi must take a bigger lead in forging a global and legally binding instrument to prevent militarisation of space.
  • It is encouraging that after the ASAT test, India said it “expects to play a role in the future in the drafting of international law on prevention of an arms race in space”.
  • This is morally and pragmatically in keeping with India’s power projection.
  • Given the prohibitively expensive nature of space projects, India and other countries must utilise the increased presence in space to legitimately advance the well-being of their people.

 

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] Power in space: on Mission Shakti

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mission Shakti, ASAT

Mains level: Strategic significance of the Mission Shakti and it impacts on domestic politics and neighbourhood


CONTEXT

India has entered an elite space club with the Defence Research and Development Organisation blowing up a satellite in a Low Earth Orbit into smithereens.

Background

  • Such Indian capability to take out moving objects has never really been in doubt.
  • the DRDO announced it as early as in 2011.
  • Indeed, India has been in the business of testing long-range missiles for years, although public attention on the space programme has been mostly on its civilian and scientific aspects.
  • The military dimension, though always latent, had not seen a verifiable demonstration as in the case of Mission Shakti, the Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile test.

The relevance of the test

  • Ministry of External Affairs describes it as a ‘credible deterrence’ against attacks on India’s growing number of space assets.
  • Although only three other countries, the U.S., Russia, and China, have previously demonstrated this capability, it is possible to surmise that countries with long-range missiles could do the same with equal effectiveness.
  • But India, surely, is staking a forward claim as a space weapons power.

It might propel Arms Race in the neighbourhood

  • This might lead to its none-too-friendly neighbour Pakistan into a competitive frenzy.
  • Also, in the absence of a credible threat to India’s space assets from China or any other country with Anti-Satellite missile capabilities, whether the ‘deterrence’ sought to be achieved by this test would lead to a more stable strategic security environment is not certain.

Intentions of India with regards to ASAT

  • While announcing the success of the test, was clear that India wanted to maintain peace rather than indulge in warmongering.
  • And, by targeting a low-orbit satellite, the missile test did the utmost possible to minimise space debris, which is an issue of international concern.

Concerns with the timing of test and elections

  • But, within India, the timing of the test, when the country is already in election mode, does raise concerns whether this was aimed at the domestic constituency.
  • The Election Commission is now seized of the question whether the Prime Minister might have violated the Model Code of Conduct.
  • If it does find the timing amiss, the government could be in for some serious embarrassment.

Conclusion

  • Ideally, the test should not have been a matter for a partisan political debate, but given the hypernationalist political plank of the ruling Party, Mission Shakti might have more reverberations on the ground than it has had in space.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Mission Shakti (Anti-Satellite Missile Test)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mission Shakti, ASAT

Mains level: Strategic significance of the Mission Shakti 


News

  • In an incremental advance, India has successfully conducted an Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile test, named Mission Shakti.
  • India becomes the fourth country in the world to demonstrate the capability to shoot down satellites in orbit.
  • So far, only the United States, Russia and China have this prowess.

Mission Shakti

  • While Mission Shakti may have targeted an object in outer space, India has long developed the ability to intercept incoming missiles.
  • In 2011, a modified Prithvi missile mimicked the trajectory of a ballistic missile with a 600-km range.
  • The DRDO-developed Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) Interceptor Missile successfully engaged an Indian orbiting target satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in a ‘Hit to Kill’ mode.
  • The interceptor missile was a three-stage missile with two solid rocket boosters.

What are low earth orbit satellites?

  • The Indian satellite that was shot down was a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite.
  • These are satellites roughly at an altitude of 2,000 kilometres from the earth and that’s the region where the majority of satellites are concentrated.

ASAT through history

  • ASAT is the technological capability to hit and destroy satellites in space through missiles launched from the ground.
  • ASAT weapon systems have a long history and were a product of the Cold War hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • They came back into popular currency after China conducted an anti-satellite missile test on Jan 2007.
  • The target was a Chinese weather satellite — the FY-1C – that sailed at an altitude of 865 km. (537 mi).
  • A year later, the US launched ‘Operation Burnt Frost,’ the code name to intercept and destroy a non-functioning satellite named USA-193.

Why target satellites?

  • Satellites are extremely critical infrastructure of any country these days. A large number of crucial applications are now satellite-based.
  • These include navigation systems, communication networks, broadcasting, banking systems, stock markets, weather forecasting, disaster management, and military applications etc.
  • Destroying a satellite would render these applications useless.
  • It can cripple enemy infrastructure, and bring it down on knees, without causing any threat to human lives.

Problem of space debris

  • Anything launched into the space remains in space, almost forever, unless it is specifically brought down or slowly disintegrates over decades or centuries.
  • Satellites that are past their life and are no longer required also remain in space, orbiting aimlessly in some orbit.
  • According to the NASA, there were 19,137 man-made objects in space that were large enough to be tracked.
  • These included active and inactive satellites, rockets and their parts, and other small fragments.
  • A satellite that is destroyed by a missile disintegrates into small pieces, and adds to the space debris.
  • The threat from the space debris is that it could collide with the operational satellites and render them dysfunctional.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

India reassures global community after ASAT tests

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: India’s stance for peaceful use of space applications 


News

  • India assured the world that it did not violate any international treaty or understanding with the anti-satellite (A-SAT) missile testing.

A message to the world

  • While the government has conceded that India has long had ASAT capabilities, this is the country’s first demonstration to the world.
  • It has shown that it is capable of bringing down a satellite, and disrupting communication.
  • Because the test was carried out on a satellite placed in the low-earth orbit, one might question whether India can hit any satellite.
  • Targeting satellites in the higher orbits, however, is only a matter of scale of powering the rockets enough to go deeper in the space.

Defying the taboo

  • Destroying space infrastructure like satellites is also taboo in the international community just like the use of a nuclear weapon.
  • Almost every country agrees that space must not be used for wars and has spoken against weaponisation of space.
  • There are international treaties governing the use of space that mandate that outer space and celestial bodies like the Moon, must only be exploited for peaceful purposes.

Outer Space Treaty of 1967

  • The Outer Space Treaty, to which India is a signatory, prohibits countries from placing into orbit around the Earth “any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction”.
  • Among its principles, it bars states party to the treaty from placing weapons of mass destruction in Earth orbit, installing them on the Moon or any other celestial body, or otherwise stationing them in outer space.
  • The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all state parties to the treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes, says the treaty.

Indian stance

  • There are at least four more multilateral treaties that deal with specific concepts agreed to in the Outer Space Treaty. None of these, however, prohibits the kind of test that India carried.
  • India believes in peaceful use of the common outer space that belongs to humanity.
  • India is not in violation of any international law or treaty to which it is a party or any national obligation.
  • The MEA said the A-SAT test was not directed against any country and that India plans to play a role in future in drafting global laws on prevention of arms race in outer space.
  • As is mandatory for any missile test, India did issue a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) to airline authorities across the world informing them about an impending missile test.
  • MEA reiterated India’s support of Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) in the Conference on Disarmament “where it has been on the agenda since 1982.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Young Scientist Programme (YUVIKA)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Young Scientists Programme

Mains level: Read the attached story 


News

Young Scientist Programme

  • ISRO has launched a special programme for School Children called “Young Scientist Programme” “YUva VIgyani KAryakram from this year.
  • The Program is primarily aimed at imparting basic knowledge on Space Technology, Space Science and Space Applications to the younger ones with the intent of arousing their interest in the emerging areas of Space activities.
  • The residential training programme will be of around two weeks duration during summer holidays and it is proposed to select 3 students each from each State/ UTs to participate in this programme covering state, CBSE, and ICSE syllabus.
  • Those who have just finished 9th standard (in the academic year 2018-19) and waiting to join 10th standard (or those who have started 10th Std just now) will be eligible for the programme.
  • The selection will be based on the 8th Std marks.
  • Students belonging to the rural area have been given special weightage in the selection criteria.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

PSLV-C45/ Emisat Mission

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the payload

Mains level: Unique features of the launch 


News

  • For the sheer number of ‘firsts’ to its credit, the scheduled PSLV-C45/Emisat mission scheduled will be a memorable one for the ISRO.

PSLV-C45/Emisat

  • C-45, which is set for lift-off from the second launchpad at Sriharikota, will mark the 47th flight of the PSLV.
  • It is meant for electromagnetic spectrum measurements, according to the ISRO.
  • It will be released into an orbit at 749 km.
  • EMISAT is primarily based on on the famous Israeli spy satellite called SARAL or (Satellite with ARgos and ALtika), and inherits its SSB-2 bus protocol for conducting sharp electronic surveillance across the length and breadth of India.
  • The satellite would serve as the country’s roving device for detecting and gathering electronic intelligence from enemy radars across the borders as it circles the globe roughly pole to pole every 90 minutes or so.
  • For the third successive PSLV mission, the ISRO plans to reuse the rocket’s spent fourth stage or PS4 to host short experiments.

Unique Features of PSLV-C45/Emisat

  • For one, it will be ISRO’s first attempt at placing payloads in three different orbits.
  • The chief payload the 436 kg Emisat will be injected into a 749 km orbit.
  • After that, the fourth stage of the rocket will be maneuvered to a 504 km orbit for releasing 28 international satellites.
  • Once that job is over, the fourth stage will be restarted and guided to an altitude of 485 km.
  • For the next six months, this stage will serve as an orbital platform for space-based experiments. This is another first for the ISRO. Normally, the spent stage simply becomes space junk.
  • The orbital platform will also sport solar panels, which too is a first.
  • The launch vehicle itself is a new variant, designated PSLV-QL. For the first time, ISRO will be employing four XL strap-on motors on the first stage.
  • The other two experimental payloads aboard the orbital platform are the Automatic Identification System (AIS), an ISRO payload for maritime satellite applications, and the Automatic Packet Repeating System (APRS), meant to assist amateur radio operators.

Foreign satellites on-board

  • As many as 28 small foreign co-passenger satellites will also travel to space with it, but to a lower orbit at 504 km.
  • They include 24 small satellites from the U.S., among them 20 which are part of previous customer Planet Labs’ earth observation constellation.
  • The other four customers are from Lithuania, Spain and Switzerland.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO, French agency to set up maritime surveillance system

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Oceansat-3-Argos mission

Mains level: All missions of the ISRO are important from examination point of view


News

  • ISRO and its French counterpart CNES has sealed an agreement to set up a joint maritime surveillance system in the country.
  • The two nations will explore putting up a constellation of low-Earth orbiting satellites.

Oceansat-3-Argos Mission

  • The system will be augmented with the launch of Oceansat-3-Argos mission in 2020 along with a joint infrared Earth-observation satellite.
  • These will identify and track movement of ships globally – and in particular those moving in the Indian Ocean region where France has its Reunion Islands.
  • Before that, they will initially share data from their present space systems and develop new algorithms to analyse them, according to the Paris based National Centre for Space Studies.
  • They work together for the design and development of joint products and techniques, including those involving Automatic Identification System (AIS), to monitor and protect the assets in land and sea.

Other collaborations

  • The two agencies have put up two climate and ocean weather monitoring satellites Megha-Tropiques (of 2011) and SARAL-AltiKa (2013) that is considered a model.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Use of Space Technology in Agriculture Sector

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | E-technology in the aid of farmers

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various initiatives mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: Various technological measures for enhancing farm productivity


News

  • The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, has been pro-active in using the space technology in agricultural sector. Take a look of various initiative in the aid of farmers:

Various institutional measures

  1. The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare established a Centre, called Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre, in 2012.
  2. It works for operationalization of the space technology developed in the Indian Space Research Organization, for crop production forecasting.
  3. The Soil and Land Use Survey of India uses satellite data for soil resources mapping.

Use of Space Technology

The Department is using space technology for its various programmes/ areas, such as:

  • Forecasting Agricultural Output using Space, Agro-meteorology and Land-based Observations (FASAL) project
  • Coordinated programme on Horticulture Assessment and Management using geoiNformatics (CHAMAN)  project
  • National Agricultural Drought Assessment and Monitoring System (NADAMS),
  • Rice-Fallow Area Mapping and intensification, geo tagging of infrastructure and assets created under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana,

Crop Insurance        

  1. The space technology helps getting fast and unbiased information about the crop situation in the country.
  2. It provides digital data, which is amenable to various analysis. Because of its synoptic view, it provides images of the whole country in a very short duration.
  3. Hence, this data can be used for various programmes, which need information on crop type, crop area estimates, crop condition, crop damages, crop growth etc.

KISAN Project

  1. The Department has launched KISAN [C(K)rop Insurance using Space technology And geoiNformatcs] project during October 2015.
  2. The project envisaged use of high-resolution remote sensing data for optimum crop cutting experiment planning and improving yield estimation.
  3. Under this  project, pilot studies were conducted in 4 districts of 4 States viz. Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
  4. The study provided many useful inputs [for smart sampling, yield estimation, optimum number of Crop Cutting Experiments (CCEs) etc.
  5. These were used to define Standard Operating Procedures  for use of satellite data in the revised guidelines of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY).

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] India’s communication satellite GSAT-31 launched successfully

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the GSAT-31

Mains level: Importance of the mission 


News

  • India’s latest communication satellite, GSAT-31 was successfully launched from the Spaceport in French Guiana.
  • The launch vehicle Ariane 5 VA-247 lifted off from Kourou Launch Base, French Guiana carrying India’s GSAT-31 and Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1/Hellas Sat 4 satellites.

GSAT-31

  1. It was launched in an elliptical Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 250 km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 35,850 km, inclined at an angle of 3.0 degree to the equator.
  2. With a lift-off mass of 2536 kg, GSAT-31 will augment the Ku-band transponder capacity in Geostationary Orbit.
  3. The satellite will provide continuity to operational services on some of the in-orbit satellites.
  4. GSAT-31 will provide DTH Television Services, connectivity to VSATs for ATM, Stock-exchange, Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) and e-governance applications.
  5. The satellite will also be used for bulk data transfer for a host of emerging telecommunication applications.
  6. It is the India’s 40th communication satellite which is configured on ISRO’s enhanced ‘I-2K Bus’, utilising the maximum “bus capabilities” of this type.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO launches Human Space Flight Centre in Bengaluru

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gaganyaan Mission, HSFC

Mains level: India’s aspiration for a manned mission in Space.


News

Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC)

  1. The HSFC, the hub of ISRO’s future manned missions, was inaugurated at ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru.
  2. Announced on August 15 2018, the country’s first crewed mission is set to happen by 2022, the 75th year of Independence.
  3. HSFC shall be responsible for the implementation of Gaganyaan project — which involves mission planning, development of engineering systems for crew survival in space, crew selection and training and also pursue activities for sustained human space flight missions.
  4. HSFC will take the support of ISRO centres to implement the first developmental [crewed] flight.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO’s first mission of 2019 to put military satellite Microsat-R in space

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the payload

Mains level: Importance of the mission 


News

  • ISRO’s first mission of 2019 will put into space a 130-kg military imaging satellite, Microsat-R.
  • C-44 will be launched from the older First Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.

 Details of Launch

  1. The satellite would be placed within 15 minutes after take-off in a polar orbit 274 km away from Earth.
  2. This is much lower than any of its civil Earth observation spacecraft, which fly pole to pole over the globe at between 400 km and 700 km.

Payload Details

Microsat-R

  1. Microsat-R and its payload come assembled from a handful of laboratories of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  2. It is meant for military use.
  3. The satellite was assembled outside and ISRO only interfaced it” with its own systems and the launch vehicle, just as it treats any customer satellite.
  4. Other details are yet to be released by ISRO.

Kalamsat

  1. Kalamsat is a communication satellite with a life span of two months.
  2. The nanosatellite is a 10cm cube weighing 1.2 kg.
  3. The satellite cost was about Rs 12 lakh Kalamsat will be the first to use the rocket’s fourth stage as an orbital platform.
  4. The fourth stage will be moved to higher circular orbit so as to establish an orbital platform for carrying out experiments.
  5. It is named after former Indian president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and was built by an Indian high school student team, led by Rifath Sharook, an 18-year-old from the Tamil Nadu town of Pallapatti.
  6. It is the world’s lightest and first ever 3D-printed satellite.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO to launch satellite to help MHA in securing borders

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Role of external state & non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Satellite technology and its prospects in securing Borders


News

  • A satellite will be launched by the ISRO exclusively for the Home Ministry to help it strengthen its frontiers with Pakistan and Bangladesh among others.

Securing Borders

  1. The move is part of recommendations made by a task force on the use of space technology in improving border management which have been accepted by Home Minister.
  2. To execute the project in a time bound manner, a short, medium and long-term plan has been proposed for implementation in five years in close coordination with the ISRO and the Defence Ministry.
  3. Major recommendations of the report are to build capacity in border guarding forces to use space resources for security, operational planning and border infrastructure development.
  4. In short term, immediate needs of border guarding forces will be met by procurement of high resolution imagery and the hiring of bandwidth for communications.
  5. In mid-term, one satellite is being launched by the ISRO for exclusive use of the MHA.

Ground Network using space technology

  1. The MHA will develop ground segment and network infrastructure to share satellite resources by user agencies, develop a central archival facility for storing various imagery resources and dissemination of the same to user agencies.
  2. Deployment of the CAPF in remote areas will be also coordinated by satellite communications.
  3. IRNSS-based GPS will provide navigation facilities for operational parties in high altitude, remote and difficult borders and LWE areas.
  4. The Border Security Force has been designated as lead agency for implementation of ground segment and network infrastructure, including the establishment of the archival facility.
  5. Island development, border security, communication and navigation, Geographic Information System (GIS) and operations planning system, and border infrastructure development are the areas identified for use of space technology.

A Special Task Force

  1. The MHA has created a task force to identify areas for use of space technology in improving border management.
  2. The task force headed by Joint Secretary (Border Management), having members from the BSF, the Department of Space and BM division of the Home Ministry.

Way Forward

  1. India shares land borders with Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar.
  2. This project will strengthen island and border security and facilitate development of infrastructure in border/island areas.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] UNNATI- Unispace Nanosatellite Assembly & Training Programme of ISRO

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNNATI Programme

Mains level: All missions of the ISRO are important from examination point of view


News

UNNATI Programme

  1. It is a capacity building programme on Nanosatellite development.
  2. It is an initiative by ISRO to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first United Nations conference on the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space (UNISPACE-50).
  3. The programme provides opportunities to the participating developing countries to strengthen in assembling, integrating and testing of Nanosatellite.
  4. UNNATI programme is planned to be conducted for 3 years by U.R. Rao Satellite Centre of ISRO in 3 batches and will target to benefit officials of 45 countries.

About UNISPACE+50

  1. It is an event marking the 50th year of the first UN Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
  2. It is an initiative of United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).
  3. Three such conferences held earlier recognized the potential of space and laid the guidelines for human activities and international cooperation related to outer space. They were:
  • UNISPACE I, Vienna, 1968
  • UNISPACE II, Vienna, 1982 and
  • UNISPACE III, Vienna, 1999

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] ISRO launches Samwad with Students initiative

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SwS Initiative

Mains level: Outreach of various ISRO’s initiatives


News

  • As part of the enhanced outreach programme of ISRO, a new platform named “Samwad with Students” (SwS) was launched in Bengaluru.

Samwad with Students (SwS) Initiative

  1. Through the initiative, ISRO aims to constantly engage youngsters across India to capture their scientific temperament.
  2. The new conversation mission will inspire students cutting across schools and colleges.
  3. During the Samwad, the students are briefed about Indian space programme and their benefits to the common man.
  4. The Q&A session was followed on a series of topics ranging from rockets, satellites, Chandrayaan, Gaganyaan and various space applications.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Centre to introduce Commercial Space Activities Bill

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Governance| Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Space Activities Bill 2017

Mains level: Regulating private space activities in India


News

  • The Centre is likely to introduce a Bill to commercialise space activities in the budget session this year.

Space Activities Bill 2017

  1. It is a proposed Bill to promote and regulate the space activities of India.
  2. The Bill aims to facilitate the overall growth of space activities in India with higher order participation of public, non-governmental and private sector stakeholders.
  3. The Bill encourages the participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India under the guidance and authorisation of the government through the Department of Space.
  4. As few start-ups in India have shown interest in space activities there is an urgent need for a legal environment for orderly performance and growth of space sector.
  5. It will help the Centre establish a regulatory mechanism through an appropriate body to authorize and license space activities.

Key Propositions of the Bill

  1. The provisions of this Act shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India
  2. A non-transferable licence shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity
  3. The Central Government will formulate the appropriate mechanism for licencing, eligibility criteria, and fees for licence.
  4. The government will maintain a register of all space objects (any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop more space activity plans for the country
  5. It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity
  6. It will ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of a space activity.
  7. It will share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
  8. If any person undertakes any commercial space activity without authorisation they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than ₹1 crore or both.

Issues with the Bill

  1. The Bill does not address space-based activities separately.
  2. Instead, it tries to cover large swaths of the space value chain in one go.
  3. In fact, the very definition of “space activity” could throw up complications.
  4. The definition puts every space object under its ambit, meaning even hardware that carries GPS receivers could require a license.
  5. The Bill could also affect navigation services provided by companies such as Google Maps, Ola and Uber.

Navigate to this page for additional readings:

[Burning Issue] Draft Space Activity Bill 2017

Let’s cover the entire gamut of projects concluded by ISRO in these 2 years.

IRNSS will be covered in a separate article.

GSAT Series

#1. GSAT-6

  • GSAT-6 is the twenty fifth geostationary communication satellite of India built by ISRO and twelfth in the GSAT series
  • Five of GSAT-6’s predecessors were launched by GSLV during 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2014 respectively
  • After its commissioning, GSAT-6 has joined the group of India’s other operational geostationary satellites
  • GSAT-6 Satellite provides communication through five spot beams in S-band and a national beam in C-band for strategic users
  • It was launched using GSLV-D6 (Explained below in GSLV Missions)

#2. GSAT-15

  • It is a high power satellite being inducted into the INSAT/ GSAT system
  • It carries a total of 24 communication transponders in Ku-band as well as a GPS
  • Aided GEO Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) payload operating in L1 and L5 bands
  • It is the third satellite to carry GAGAN payload after GAST-8 and GSAT-10, which are already providing navigation services from orbit
  • It carries a Ku-band beacon as well to help in accurately pointing ground antennas towards the satellite
  • It was launched by Ariane-5 VA-227 launch vehicle from Kourou, French Guiana on early morning of November 11, 2015

#3. GSAT-16

  • GSAT-16, an advanced communication satellite, weighing 3181.6 kg at lift-off, is being inducted into the INSAT-GSAT system
  • GSAT-16 is configured to carry a total of 48 communication transponders, the largest number of transponders carried by a communication satellite developed by ISRO so far, in normal C-band, upper extended C-band and Ku-band
  • GSAT-16 carries a Ku-band beacon as well to help accurately point ground antennas towards the satellite
  • The designed on-orbit operational life of GSAT-16 is 12 years
  • The communication transponders on-board GSAT-16 together ensure continuity of various services currently provided by INSAT-GSAT system and serve as on-orbit spares to meet contingency requirements or for the augmentation of such services
  • GSAT-16 was launched into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) by Ariane-5 VA-221 launch vehicle from Kourou, French Guiana
  • GSAT-16 was positioned at 55 deg East longitude in the Geostationary orbit and co-located with GSAT-8, IRNSS-1A and IRNSS-1B satellites

PAYLOADS OF GSAT-16

  1. 12 Ku-band transponders each with 36 MHz usable bandwidth with footprint covering Indian mainland and Andaman & Nicobar islands
  2. 24 C-band transponders each with 36 MHz usable bandwidth with footprint covering Indian mainland and island territories
  3. 12 Upper Extended C-band transponders each with 36 MHz usable bandwidth with footprint covering Indian mainland and island territories

PSLV Missions

#1. PSLV C28/ DMC3 Mission: Heaviest commercial mission ever undertaken by ISRO

  • PSLV in its 30th flight (PSLV-C28) launched three identical DMC3 optical earth observation satellites built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), UK
  • PSLV-C28 was the ninth flight of PSLV in ‘XL’ configuration
  • With the overall lift-off mass of the five satellites amounting to about 1440 kg, this mission becomes the heaviest commercial mission ever undertaken by Antrix/ISRO
  • The three DMC3 satellites, each weighing 447 kg, were launched into a 647 km Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO) using the high-end version of PSLV (PSLV-XL) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota (SDSC-SHAR), the spaceport of India

DMC3

  1. The DMC3 constellation comprises of three advanced mini-satellites DMC3-1, DMC3-2 and DMC3-3
  2. It is designed to address the need for simultaneous high spatial resolution and high temporal resolution optical Earth Observation
  3. Launched into a single Low-Earth Orbit plane and phased with a separation of 120° between them, these satellites can image any target on the Earth’s surface every day
  4. Major application areas include surveying the resources on earth and its environment, managing urban infrastructure and monitoring of disasters

It also carried two auxiliary satellites from UK:

  1. CBNT-1, an optical technology demonstrator earth observation micro satellite built by SSTL
  2. De-OrbitSail, a technology demonstrator nano satellite built by Surrey Space Centre

#2. PSLV C30/ Astrosat

  • PSLV, in its 31st flight (PSLV-C30), launched Astrosat into a 650 km orbit of 6 deg inclination to the equator
  • Along with Astrosat, six satellites from international customers viz. LAPAN-A2 of Indonesia, NLS-14 (Ev9) of Canada and four identical LEMUR satellites of USA were launched
  • PSLV-C30 is the tenth flight of PSLV in its ‘XL’ Configuration

#3. PSLV C29/ TeLEOS-1 Mission/ 6 Singapore satellites

  • PSLV, in its 32nd flight (PSLV-C29), launched six satellites of Singapore into a 550 km circular orbit inclined at 15 degrees to the equator
  • This is the eleventh flight of PSLV in ‘core-alone’ configuration (without the use of solid strap-on motors)
  • Of these six satellites, TeLEOS-1 is the primary satellite weighing 400 kg
  • The other five are co-passenger satellites which include two micro-satellites and three nano-satellites:
  1. VELOX-CI, micro-satellite
  2. VELOX-II, 6U-Cubesat technology demonstrator
  3. Athenoxat-1, a technology demonstrator nano-satellite
  4. Kent Ridge-1, a micro-satellite
  5. Galassia, 2U-Cubesat

IRNSS Constellation


The recent launches in this series are:

#1. PSLV C-27/ IRNSS-1D

#2. PSLV C-31/ IRNSS-1E

#3. PSLV C32/ IRNSS-1F

#4. PSLV C33/ IRNSS-1G

IRNSS-1G was the 7th and last satellite in the IRNSS constellation.

With this, India has achieved the milestone of being one the very few countries to have its own Positioning System.

[IRNSS will be dealt with in detail in a separate story]


GSLV Missions

#1. GSLV-D6/ GSAT-6

  • GSLV-D6 is the ninth flight of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)
  • It is also the fifth developmental flight of GSLV
  • This is the third time the indigenously developed Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS) is being carried on-board during a GSLV flight
  • GSLV-D6 flight is significant since it intends to continue the testing of CUS
  • GSLV is designed to inject 2 ton class of communication satellites into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO)
  • GSAT-6 is explained above

#2. GSLV-Mk III: Launching humans into space

  • ISRO killed two birds with one stone when the GSLV Mk3 test with an inert cryogenic stage took off with the CARE (Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment)
  • The module reached an altitude of 80 km and made a successful splash down in the sea using the largest parachutes ever made in the country
  • Once operational, the crew module will host up to three Indian astronauts for orbital missions lasting up to a week in space
  • It will make India only the fourth nation in the world after Russia, US and China to have the ability to send humans into space; maybe even to the moon one day
  • According to ISRO the schedule for sending the first Indian on an Indian rocket is planned for 2021
  • For this, the GSLV Mk3 will have to be man-rated – it has to demonstrate a set number of continuous successful launches

Reusable Launch Vehicle- Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD)

The cost of access to space is the major deterrent in space exploration and space utilization. A reusable launch vehicle is the unanimous solution to achieve low cost, reliable and on-demand space access


Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstration Program or RLV-TD is a series of technology demonstration missions that have been considered as a first step towards realizing a Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) fully re-usable vehicle.

A Winged Reusable Launch Vehicle technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) has been configured to act as a flying test bed to evaluate various technologies, namely, hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion.


2015 Space Pioneer Award

  • Space Pioneer award for the year 2015 was presented to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in the Science and Engineering category during the 34th Annual International Space Development Conference held at Toronto in Canada during May 20 -24, 2015
  • National Space Society (NSS) of USA presented this award in recognition of ISRO’s efforts in accomplishing Mars Mission in its very first attempt
  • In 2009, NSS has presented similar award to ISRO in recognition of the great accomplishment they have made in the success of the Lunar Probe, Chandrayaan-1
  • National Space Society (NSS) is an independent nonprofit educational membership organisation dedicated to the creation of a space faring civilisation
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