In a new year message, ISRO chief Sivan gave details about the agency’s plans for the launch of the first of the two planned uncrewed flights under the Gaganyaan mission before Independence Day this year and the third lunar mission Chandrayaan-3 by the middle of the next year.
After a rather muted 2021 in terms of satellite launches, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is gearing up for a number of missions in 2022.
All big-ticket scientific missions, including India’s first solar mission Aditya-L1, which were to take place in 2021 were pushed when the launch schedule was revised after the second wave of the pandemic.
The launch of the three earth observation satellites – EOS-02, EOS-04, and EOS-06 have been delayed for several months due to various regions.
To spearhead the space research activities, Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was set up in 1962 under the Department of Atomic Energy.
Subsequently, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was established in August 1969, in place of INCOSPAR.
The Government of India constituted the Space Commission and established the Department of Space (DOS) in June 1972 and brought ISRO under DOS in September 1972.
ISROs In-Hand Missions
These include the launch of the Earth Observation Satellites, EOS-4 and EOS-6 on board the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), and the EOS-02 on board the maiden flight of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV).
ISRO has many test flights for the Crew Escape System of Gaganyaan and the launch of the first unmanned mission of Gaganyaan.
In addition, ISRO has Chandrayaan-03, Aditya Ll, XpoSat, IRNSS and technology demonstration missions with indigenously developed advanced technologies. Design changes on Chandrayaan-3 and testing have seen huge progress.
The hardware in loop test of Aditya L1 spacecraft and accommodation studies for XpoSat in the SSLV have been completed and ISRO has delivered the S-band SAR payload to NASA for NISAR [NASA-ISRO SAR] mission.
The NISAR mission, scheduled for launch in 2023, is optimised for studying hazards and global environmental change and can help manage natural resources better and provide information to scientists to better understand the effects and pace of climate change.
Three new space science missions are also in the pipeline, these include a Venus mission, DISHA –a twin aeronomy satellite mission and TRISHNA, an ISRO-CNES [Centre national d’études spatiales] mission in 2024.
What is the Indian Space Association (ISpA)?
Indian Space Association (ISpA), established in December 2020, is the premier industry association of space and satellite companies. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ISpA on October 11, 2021.
The industry association will act as an independent and “single-window” agency for enabling the opening up of the space sector to start-ups and the private sector, according to the government agenda.
The industry association is represented by leading indigenous and global corporations with advanced capabilities in space and satellite technologies that are charting the future of last-mile connectivity in India.
Key Points about Mission Chandrayaan-3
Chandrayaan-3 is a lander-and rover-specific mission, which will demonstrate India’s capability of soft landing on a celestial body, with the rover then communicating with Earth via the existing orbiter from Chandrayaan-2 and taking images 100 km from Moon’s orbit. The orbiter has an estimated lifespan of seven years.
The unique exploration of Chandrayaan-3 aims at studying not just one area of the Moon but all the areas combining the exosphere, the surface as well as the sub-surface in a single mission.
With Chandrayaan-1, ISRO achieved immense success as the ‘Moon Impact Probe’ by Chandrayaan-1 lunar remote sensing orbiter detected water in vapour form in trace amounts. The discovery was done along with JPL-Brown University payload Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) that confirmed that the formation of Hydroxyl ions and water molecules on the lunar surface is an ongoing process.
With Chandrayaan-3, India aims to further the study of the lunar surface, focussing on the dark side of the Moon that has not seen sunlight in billions of years, which is believed to have ice and vast mineral reserves.
Exploring the Moon is imperative because the Moon is the closest cosmic body at which space discovery can be attempted and documented. Further, Moon is a promising testbed to showcase technologies required for deep-space missions.
Exploring the Moon will enhance our understanding of the celestial body clearly, stimulating the advancement of technology, promoting global alliances and inspiring future generations of explorers and scientists.
The Lunar South Pole of the Moon is targeted for exploration because the Moon provides the best linkage to Earth’s early history and civilization. The exploration will offer an undisturbed historical record of the inner Solar system environment.
The Lunar South pole is especially interesting because the lunar surface area that remains in shadow is much larger than that at the North Pole. Further, there could be a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it. In addition, the South Pole region has craters that are cold traps and contain a fossil record of the early Solar System.
Key Points About the Gaganyaan programme
The Gaganyaan Programme envisages undertaking the demonstration of human spaceflight to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in the short term and will lay the foundation for a sustained Indian human space exploration programme in the long run.
The objective of the Gaganyaan programme is to demonstrate the indigenous capability to undertake human space flight missions to LEO.
As part of this programme, two unmanned missions and one manned mission are approved by the Government of India (GoI).
The uncrewed/unmanned missions are for technology demonstration, safety and reliability verification and will be heavily instrumented to study the performance of systems before the crewed flight.
For the first crewed mission of the Gaganyaan programme, astronaut trainees are selected from a pool of test pilots, based on selection criterion jointly defined by ISRO and the Indian air force which comprises flying experience, fitness, psychological and aeromedical evaluation (including anthropometric parameters).
The major new technologies required for the Gaganyaan programme are as follows: The human-rated launch vehicle, Crew escape systems, Habitable orbital module, Life support system, Crew selection and training and associated crew management activities.
Key Points About NISAR Mission
NISAR is a joint Earth-observing mission between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
The NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR) Mission will measure Earth’s changing ecosystems, dynamic surfaces, and ice masses providing information about biomass, natural hazards, sea-level rise, and groundwater, and will support a host of other applications.
NISAR will observe Earth’s land and ice-covered surfaces globally with 12-day regularity on ascending and descending passes, sampling Earth on average every 6 days for a baseline 3-year mission.
Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) refers to a technique for producing fine-resolution images from a resolution-limited radar system. It requires that the radar be moving in a straight line, either on an airplane or, as in the case of NISAR, orbiting in space.