INDIA: THE FAST EMERGING SPACE POWER
“Kalam! If one does not do anything, one does not experience any problem. But if you do any mission, any task, problems will arise. That problem should not become your master. You should become the master of the problem, defeat that problem and succeed.”
The foregoing was the piece of advice given by Prof. Satish Dhawan to Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in 1972 when Prof. Dhawan and Prof. Brahm Prakash asked Dr. Kalam to be the Project Director for the first Satellite Launch Vehicle at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala). Prof. Dhawan bucked up Dr. kalam: “I will give you the required budget. We must do it in seven years. All manpower will be available to you from the organization and from all the centres. We will all work together. Even the Chairman will work for the programme. It is a very important programme.”
The first experimental fight on August 10, 1979 failed on account of a leak of oxidizer-red, fuming nitric acid. The experiment failed/ but Dr. Kalam did not fail. He sought to locate the cause of failure and the task was made easy by the Chairman of the Failure Analysis Board. The Chairman of the Board and then member-secretary of Board, Dr. Madhayan Nair interviewed 125 scientists and staff about the failure. He analyzed over 200 data records. A report was submitted by experts who pinpointed the failure of the air-conditioning plant, which led to dust entering the valve system of the control power plant, resulting in its malfunctioning. Dr. Kalam saw to it that all systems went through rigorous checks. He made constant visits to work centers to see to it that the zeal of the scientists did not flag on any score.
July 18, 1980 was a proud moment for India when India’s space scientists launched the Satellite Launch Vehicle 3 (SLV-3) rocketing India into the Space Club. The rocket put the 38.5 kg Rohini satellite into orbit in just 12 minutes. The hero of the saga was none other than Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Twenty-five eventful years have gone by and both Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Dr. Kalam have scripted one success story after another. The one-time space scientists, Dr. Kalam are now the President of India and ISRO has become a space organization with manifold programmes and achievements that have won kudos from both developing and developed countries. The US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the space agencies in Europe and Russia are keen to foster joint venture programmes in India. The scientist never stops growing or learning. It was the ever inquisitive scientist in him that brought Dr. Kalam to VSSC in Kerala on July28, 2005 to rub shoulders with his old colleagues. He worked here for 20 years and laid before ISRO a vision plan for the next fifteen years.
India was the sixth nation to join the elite space club in1980, and the world took note of it. On this firm foundation laid in 1980, Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) can today launch a payload of 5,000 kg. ISRO is able to meet the various demands of the nation in remote sensing communications, meteorology, television, telecommunication, tale-education and several other scientific experiments. Except for a solitary failure in 1993, every Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) flight was a success over the past twelve years. AS far as communication satellites are concerned, what is required is a launch capability of 3.5 tonnes and ISRO has come out with a configuration of GSLV (Mark HI) that would have the capacity to carry four tones. The launch is scheduled to take placed in late 2007.
The new vistas on distance education were opened up recently when the President of India inaugurated the first interactive network on EDUSAT-an education Satellite that could widen its reach by promoting the self-learning method by laying emphasis on the question and answer methodology. It would also utilize digital library facilities that were now being put in place so that it could be made accessible to students in remote areas. Eventually, EDUSAT would be connected with the village knowledge centres being set up in different parts of the country. This apart about 1,000 primary schools would benefit from EDUSAT. Twenty major institutions, including the Indira Gandhi National Open University, the University Grants Commission and the All India Council of Technical Education would start telecasting educational programmes using EDUSAT in 2005 it. Over 1,000 teacher-training institutes will also use EDUSAT transponders for telecasting lessons.
The advent of communications technology, especially Satcom, has enabled taking the benefit of medical science to a large section of the people in remote and inaccessible villages. Since 2001, when the space-based telemedicine network was established ISRO has been providing telemedicine technology and connectivity between rural/remote hospitals and super specialty hospitals and connectivity for mobile telemedicine units in rural areas, especially in the areas of ophthalmology and community health. Starring as a point-to-point system connecting the doctor and the patient alone, it has evolved into multipoint connectivity through servers, linking remote hospitals, rural units and super speciality hospitals in different parts of the country.
An impact study conducted by the ISRO on 1,000 patients showed that thanks to telemedicine, the patients had saved 81 percent of the cost because of savings in travel, stay and treatment at city hospitals. ISRO had also combined with the IT industry to do extensive work in developing software and hardware for medical applications. The development of technology-based healthcare delivery systems through the satellite medium could substantially augment existing healthcare, especially in rural and remote areas.
ISRO has also promoted tie-ups with industries and academic institutions. The Public Sector Units (PSUs) and the private industry are able to meet almost all the requirement of the Space Department. There is a strong linkage with about 300 industries associated with the production of hardware. The VSSC does only research and development work and prototyping. The production is done by the industries in collaboration with the Centre for exclusive use in the country’s programmes. As far as academic institutions, VSSC works with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the University of Hyderabad. It has interaction with more than 50 academic institutions.
Though VSSC has been able to realize the vision of Vikram Sarabhai in respect of remote sensing and communications, the organization faces problems in regard to launch vehicle technology since they do not get inputs from anywhere. It faced two failures in launching the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV). They served as great lessons in technology and the organization has stood to gain from these failures.
BRO can be really proud of its indigenization: from 80 percent to 82 percent of the systems and subsystems are indigenously fabricated. The only area the organization is dependent is on imports of avionics designs. But even here ISRO hopes that it can overcome the problem in just two years.
The President of India himself has set forth a vision plan for our space programme for the next 15 years. One is the already well-known Chandrayaan-1 programme/ a programme already under way, for putting a spacecraft in orbit around the moon. ISRO is also working on reusable launchers; these reusable rockets will come back after putting the satellites in orbit. One such reusable system is called hyper plane with 100 takeoffs and 100 landings. India’s pioneering work in the field of hyper plane is the result of innovative thoughts of Air Commodore (retired) R. Gopalaswami. ISRO is yet to decide whether to have single-stage or two-stage rocket systems as reusable launchers.
Why reusable launch vehicles? The idea is to reduce the launch cost At present, the cost is about $15,000 to $20,000 per kg of payload. To reduce it, ISRO has to change from expendable vehicles to reusable vehicles. The reusable vehicle will be an aircraft-like module-a version of the hyper plane visualized by the President-that can re-enter the atmosphere withstanding the high temperature that would be generated on re-entry. ISRO proposes to launch a reusable vehicle by the end of 2005 or early next year. The spacecraft would remain in orbit for three to 30 days. In orbit, it will carry out micro-gravity experiments. Then it will deorbit to return to earth. It would land at sea using three parachutes that would bring down the velocity to 15 metres a second. The objective is to demonstrate reusable launch vehicles. A larger reusable vehicle is under development at ISRO and it would be ready in three to four years.
While inaugurating a symposium on launch vehicles, organized in connection with die Silver Jubilee celebrations of the first successful launch of the satellite vehicle SL V-3, at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram on July 28, 2005, Honorable President Dr. Kalam exhorted India to join the race to set up mining and manufacturing industries on the moon and Mars. He said that the next industrial revolution would take place in space and that India should prepare itself for manned space missions to the moon and Mars. He said the country should develop the capability to refuel, repair and maintain satellites in orbit.
Hectic days are ahead for India, the fast emerging space power. ISRO is collaborating with the Ahmedabad-based Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) to draw research students towards the lunar mission. Number of universities is toward the lunar mission. Number of universities is also planning to start programmes connected with the lunar mission. In a nutshell, Chandrayaan-1 will provide challenging opportunities for planetary research for the younger generation. Many of the global players who have themselves gone ahead in space exploration are keen to tie up with India in different facets of space probes. For instance, India may launch Russian satellites for a global navigational system in
2006. The launch will take place under an Indo-Russian accord on the joint use of the Russian satellite communication, GLONASS, signed in December2004 during the Russian President, Mr. Vladimir Putin’s visit to India.