India is in the process of strengthening its space assets through a slew of initiatives and collaborations. The desired outcome is that the surveillance, navigation and communication operations of the civilian space programmes become more robust to combat threats and attacks.
Come July, India will launch its first-ever simulated space warfare, as reported in the media. Stakeholders from the military forces and scientific fraternity will join hands to execute the space warfare programme named IndSpaceEx. It’s a table-top war game designed to give clarity on the challenges of space travel and survival.
Meanwhile, a tri-service Defence Space Agency has been planned. It is expected to manage all three services and that includes space operations, cyber security and special forces. Bangalore is likely to be home to the Defence Space Agency, given that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) which is the primary space agency of the Indian government is headquartered in Bangalore. The tri-services agencies comprise Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) and Defence Cyber Agency, Defence Space Agency and Armed Forces Special Forces Division.
While all this is on, India is gearing up for her prestigious space journey Gaganyaan. All hopes are sky-high with Gaganyaan, which is an ambitious Rs 9,023-crore project.
As per newspaper announcements last week, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has signed an agreement with ISRO. IAF and ISRO have collaborated for selecting a crew. This crew will be trained to steward a unique space odyssey. They will execute Gaganyaan, the country’s maiden manned mission scheduled to take off by 2021-2022.
ISRO’s Human Space Flight Centre which was inaugurated in January 2019 will be the venue to train and prepare space enthusiasts. This is the place where engineering systems will be conceptualised for the crew’s sustenance in space. Under the Gaganyaan mission, it is intended to send a three-member crew on a week-long voyage to orbit around the planet to conduct experiments.
Various aerospace and space technology solutions are also being developed to address the challenges of a Moon landing, such as deep-space communication. Given the Moon’s distance from Earth and the limited on-board power, communication through radio signals is weakened by background noise, which needs to be picked up by large antennas.
There are other hurdles to overcome. Uneven mass distribution under the Moon surface makes the lunar gravity lumpy. This in turn, affects the orbit round the Moon. Achieving a soft landing on the Moon is the toughest part of the experience. Variation in the local gravity has to be factored into the lunar descent trajectory. Care should be taken so that the landing site landscape features don’t result in a communication shadow area.
At another level, a Bangalore-based aerospace company has caught the attention of US space agency Nasa. A consortium of companies will take forward Nasa’s next lunar mission, slated for a 2020 launch. Bangalore’s TeamIndus is part of the international team.
As per media reports, TeamIndus is among the commercial Moon-landing service providers selected for the Nasa expedition. They will deliver science and technology payloads under commercial lunar payload services (CLPS). TeamIndus incidentally, has lander-making credentials. The consortium is being led by OrbitBeyond, a US-based space transportation company.
The companies will design and build a lander. Besides that, investigations in advanced technologies on the lunar surface will be carried out. They will also carry Nasa-provided payloads. All this is a prerequisite for the astronauts of Nasa to land on the lunar surface.
In 2017, TeamIndus made news for being the only Indian participant in the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize (GLXP) competition, as we mentioned at the time.