Private participation in the country’s Space sector will be woven into a Space Policy to be announced soon said Mr. S.Somanath, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) here today, while speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the 108th Indian Science Congress.
In his inaugural address at this Congress on Tuesday, Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, too had referred to how private companies and even start-ups can avail of opportunities in the Space sector.
Mr. Somanath pointed out that India’s space programme has already taken big strides through collaborations and tie-ups with various countries. Through the Ministry of External Affairs, the Mexican Space Agency chief has sought India’s support in building and launching a remote sensing satellite for his country. “ISRO will work on this proposal. A new ecosystem is building up. The space applications will be more driven in private sector and less in Government sector,” he said.
The Space Policy will have a long-term vision and an eye on future. “We have prepared a draft and handed it over to the Government. It may be announced any time soon,” said Mr S Somanath who is also Secretary in the Department of Space.
Replying to a question, Mr. Somanath said that the policy would incorporate several aspects that the Government would provide details of while announcing it. It will focus on developing private sector ecosystem in space sector. Also, thought has been given to liability convention applicability and other dimensions.
About various missions of ISRO, Dr S Somanath told media persons that though the ‘Gaganyaan’ mission was getting delayed owing to certain problems. “It is not like sending a satellite to orbit. We cannot take chances when it comes to human beings. So, we are being cautious and careful. Worldwide, such missions take 10 years. We had set the target of four years. But, we realised that some technologies were not easily available. Environmental control and life support systems are costly and not easily available. Hence, we are developing it. Further, we are conducting four additional test abort missions, of which some are manned and some are unmanned. The unmanned mission may be conducted by year-end,” informed the ISRO chief.
He said that Chandrayaan-3 was ‘fully ready’. The orbiter, lander, and rover are ready. We are waiting for the right slot, which may be June-July. He said expectations from Chandrayaan-2 and Chandrayaan-3 were the same. “The prime focus for us is to ensure safe-landing and rover coming out, because without them other objectives cannot be achieved,” he added. Drawing lessons from the previous mission, new sensors have been incorporated in the Chandrayaan-3 mission and certain corrective measures have been taken. To a question, Mr Somanath said that the Mars-2 mission was on the ‘announcement table’.
The Venus mission is still at the level of definition. According to him, once the definition stage was over, the scientific questions will be reviewed by a committee. Another committee will then work out the mission cost and other related factors. ISRO will then seek funding from the Government.
Regarding the ISRO’s roadmap for ‘Amritkaal’ (2022-2047), the ISRO Chairman informed the mediapersons that there were several aspects including building a future reusable rocket, developing a flexible satellite that will address the complex communication issues and spectrum etc, to continue with explorations including human missions with an eye on key emerging areas. As for the budget issues, he said “We invest only in projects having utility and with defined goals, and not in show-off kind of things. We work on low-cost models. ISRO has been working successfully ingood science with minimum money.”
He agreed that the situation was grave with regard to Space debris, but said work to find solutions was in progress. He informed that eighty per cent of satellites in the orbit are not functioning. They will take hundreds of years to disappear. “So, we must study whether they will create hurdles for new exploration missions. Space debris are like bullets. In such a situation, human space travel may be dangerous. Thankfully, various ideas are being discussed on how to bring back satellites, how to ‘deorbit’ them, or how to take them to ‘graveyard orbit’. Private companies are into it,” he explained.
Among ISRO’s future plans is a second launching station in Tamil Nadu. The construction would begin once the land acquisition process is completed, he said.