Secret behind ISRO’s next Interplanetary Mission
From all indicators, the next stop in space will be Venus. Although still under discussion, there is a fair chance ISRO will launch a Venus Mission in about 2-3 years. This would be a continuation of its interplanetary space programme that started with the Chandrayaan-1 Mission to the Moon and was followed by the Mars Orbiter Mission.
Around the time the Venus Mission is being planned for launch, ISRO is also aiming to launch its second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2. And it doesn’t end here. This July, ISRO is planning to test a miniature version of an aircraft shaped re-usable launch vehicle. It will be mounted on a strap-on Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle Rocket (PSLV) and launched into space and released at an altitude of 70 km.
Once the 1.5 tonne module separates from the launch rocket, it would be guided back to earth at a descending speed of 2 km per second. The front of the test module will be covered with special heat resistant tiles, to withstand the intense friction heat that touches 1200 Degrees Celsius, once the vehicle starts its decent towards the earth. The descent speed will be controlled through special fins designed to control the rate of descent and provide stability.
Last December, ISRO carried out another launch to test and validate various aspects of re-entry, aero-braking and the parachute launch system. A 3.7 tonne cupcake shaped ‘Crew’ module was launched into space at an altitude of 126 kms by a 630 tonne rocket. Once ‘Crew’ separated from the mother rocket, it made its descent back to earth. The speed of descent was controlled by three parachutes before she splashed down into the Bay of Bengal. Point to note is that during the forthcoming experiment in July this year, the test module will use special ‘fins’ to control the descent speed instead of parachutes.
ISRO has been riding on the wave of international recognition of its capability, when it successfully managed to place the Mars Orbiter into the Mars orbit, in the very first attempt. In doing so, not only did India become the first nation to succeed for the first time but also managed to achieve the same at the lowest cost.
Other Future Launches Planned
ISRO has a busy schedule planned out for the next couple of years.
The institution has been developing the indigenous cryogenic engine and after several tests, the organisation is hopeful that by December 2016, the launch rocket – GSLV Mark III, will be launched. This will enable India to launch heavier vehicles into space and also work towards launching manned-missions to space.
In the immediate future, a communications satellite GSAT 6 will be launched in July-August this year. This will enable communication through satellite using a hand-held device. So far, we have had to use international satellites for the same.
India at present has 96 transponders (other than C Band) in space, all of foreign make. ISRO is developing its own indigenous transponders and over time, all 96 will be replaced with indigenous ones.
India has launched a series of navigation satellites under the IRNSS project. These carry ‘Atomic Clocks’ that are used to measure the distance between the satellite and the ground receiving station. Atomic clocks are high precision devices that give accurate frequency and time measuring capability. So far, these have been imported but now ISRO is developing our own atomic clocks and the next range of IRNSS satellites to be launched by March 2016, will carry ‘Made-in-India’ atomic clocks.
The study of distant celestial objects in space continues and towards this, ISRO will be launching AEROSTAT later this year, India’s first dedicated Astronomy mission.
From Aryabhata (1975) to Mars Orbiter (2014): a long and successful journey
Dr Vikram Sarabhai (late), the father of the Indian space research programme, would have been extremely pleased to see the fruits of the seeds he had sown during the organisation’s inception years. ISRO can rightfully be proud of the rich heritage of scientists it has encouraged, trained and developed over the years.
From the early days of Aryabhata (1975) to Rohini (1980) – India’s first satellite to be placed in orbit by an Indian launch rocket SLV -3 – to the PSLV series and the GSLV series of rockets, have all been remarkable scientific and engineering achievements of Indian scientists that have now extended to reaching the Moon, and beyond to Mars.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for ‘Make in India’ is a recent one, ISRO has had it as its goal since inception and today India stands proudly amongst the select few nations which are at the forefront of space research and technology.
The old debate continues to rage: research vs welfare
There are a section of people that do not believe in India’s need to reach out to space, especially since the country still lags behind in providing basic amenities like clean drinking water, affordable medical facilities and housing, to its people. The naysayers argue that India can ill afford to waste investment in space research, especially when tangible gains are not visible in the immediate future.
But that is exactly what the scientific community professes and that is that science and technology can and has been used to provide solutions to people’s problems, however, the need to continue to invest in space research and technology need not come at the cost of people welfare and the benefits will be seen in the long-term.
Here, it is fair to add that India’s total budget for R&D in space research is amongst the lowest of all nations that are active in this field and yet the gains have been significant and beyond being just symbols of technological demonstrations. The nation needs BOTH investment in R&D, along with investment priority for funding people welfare and development.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) continues to represent India’s best example of scientific success and achievement, and stands out as a role model for government focus and spending in research and development. India must continue to extend full support to ISRO in its endeavours in space research and technology.
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