Former ISRO President K. Sivan says that India has three reliable launch vehicle bars, PSLV, GSLV and GSLV Mk III.
In an extensive conversation with The Sunday Guardian, former ISRO Chairman K. Sivan spoke about the success story of India’s space program and other topics. Extracts:
Q: What are the reasons behind India’s leap into the space sector?
A: The Indian space program started in the 1960s with the unique and noble vision of providing space-based services to the common man of the country. It was an innovative idea that for a country like India, with its immense size and diversity, space technology is the only platform for accelerated development. This is because almost 75-80% of the population is rural mass and resides in remote, underserved and underserved areas. To make India a developed country is only possible if the benefits of advanced technologies reach at the gates of this top mass and space technology is used as a tool to accomplish the task. At the same time, in order to guarantee uninterrupted services to the common man at a very low cost, it is essential that the required technologies are developed locally.
With this vision, India had developed all launch vehicle technologies including high-tech cryogenic engines, advanced microwave detection satellites, high-performance communication satellites, innovative space science missions, a constellation of unique navigation satellites and required ground systems, all designed locally, done at very low cost.
Now, India has three highly reliable launch vehicle bars viz. PSLV, GSLV and GSLV Mk III which carry our advanced satellites into space for domestic development and applications. These low cost advanced satellites provide low cost services in all areas of safety and quality of life for every common man. Our applications are unique in that they combine all types and services of satellites, provide real-time services for disaster warning and management, fishermen’s livelihood and safety through customized applications, disaster management, national natural resources, support to all government schemes in various capacities for better governance, broadband connectivity to remote, underserved and underserved areas. Our science missions have very cost-effective innovative payloads and have made many scientific discoveries compared to the very expensive missions of other space-flying nations.
Also, due to the lower cost of Indian launch vehicles and their services, foreign customers preferred Indian launchers to launch their satellites, which generated significant money for the Government of India. In short, we are fully self-sufficient in low-cost space technologies and provide launch services to other countries for a fee.
Considering our capabilities and our success story, as part of space diplomacy, many nations had space collaborations to build and launch their satellites from India. As a space-seeking nation, India also offers free training programs for professionals from aspiring countries.
Q: How do you see private participation in the Indian space industry and its future?
A: The involvement of private industries in the Indian space sector is an excellent initiative of the Hon’ble Prime Minister and it is the need of the hour. Satellite based application is increasing exponentially which requires a large number of satellites to be placed around the earth. ISRO cannot meet this increased demand on its own with today’s capabilities, resources and manpower. Globally, there is a prediction that hundreds of thousands of satellites will be launched in the near future to fulfill various high-end applications. In today’s global space, the economy is about $450 billion. 2% for the launch vehicle, 5% for spacecraft, 45% for applications, and 48% for ground infrastructure. This will multiply with the large number of satellites and applications. At present, India’s contribution to the global space economy is only 2%, but if we are unlocking India’s potential in the space sector, it is feasible to capture a significant amount of the global space economy. With these visions in mind, considering the fact that ISRO alone cannot meet the above requirements, private industries can perform all space activities, namely launching vehicles, building and launching spacecraft, realizing ground systems, and providing Applications. To implement the space sector reform that ensures private industries carry out feasible space activities, a one-stop-shop authorization mechanism (IN-SPACe) has been formed. The space policy and space law bill is also in the pipeline to create suitable ecosystems to carry out private space activities in India. In addition, to help private industries to do business of space activities with ease, for this high investment, outstanding risks, steps are taken to utilize all of ISRO’s easy-to-build infrastructure, as well as technology transfer to industries by a minimal cost.
Considering the greatest potential in the space sector and the GOI support mechanism, more than 140 emerging industries have already started space activities. This is significant with respect to these types of high-tech, high-risk areas.
The aforementioned private industries volunteered to carry out the areas of space activities, namely launch vehicle construction, spacecraft construction, spacecraft launch, and ground equipment production to provide services based on in the space. The results have begun to arrive.
With this growth trajectory, I anticipate that in the near future, Indian private industries will occupy a major part of space activities in India and capture a significant market share of the global space economy.
Q: How will future missions like Aditya L1, Chandrayaan-3, XPOSAT and Gaganyaan benefit India?
A:Aditya-L1 Mission I is planned to study the behavior of the sun, especially its corona. This will provide information on the study of global climate change, which will be useful for the larger impact of climate change and proper management. The Chandrayaan-3 mission will demonstrate the technologies needed to land on another space body/planet. After landing, the lander and rover will carry out on-site science experiments on the moon’s water, minerals, etc. This will provide two advantages: (a) landing technologies for future human presence in space, (b) making use of available resources on the moon for the benefit of humanity, as well as creating future human habitats on the moon.
XPOSAT Mission is an X-ray polarimetry satellite, which will be useful in studying distant planets in various scientific discoveries.
The Gaganyaan Mission is required to demonstrate technologies to safely send humans into space and bring them back to Earth safely. This will eventually lead to the creation of a space station and technologies for long-term human presence in space. By doing so, various materials, medical applications, and precision equipment can be manufactured in space that cannot be manufactured in a gravity environment on Earth. These items will have future applications in healthcare, electronics and safety, security, and quality of life on Earth.
Q: According to you, what is the future of ISRO and the Indian space sector?
A: ISRO will focus on research and development of advanced technologies in the space sector in the areas of launch vehicles, satellites and applications. Once these technologies are developed, they will be transferred to industries for scaling up. Private industries will work on mass production and provide mass services to the society.
In the future, the Indian space sector will be the combination of ISRO’s R&D and the scale and production of space activities by industries. This combined ecosystem will assume a global space leadership role.
Q: What are the current and future challenges facing the Indian space agency and how will it overcome them?
A: At present, although we have nationalized almost all technologies, mainly in two areas, we are still dependent on foreign sources for (a) carbon fiber; (b) electronic.
To make it fully indigenous, it is essential to be self-sufficient in these areas as well. As for electronics, the government has embarked on a semiconductor mission. With this initiative, the electronics needed for the launch vehicles and satellites will be supplied by Indian
Regarding carbon fiber, ISRO and DRDO have done R&D together with the industries. Encouraging results were observed. Efforts must be put into the industrial mass production of this material to supply launch vehicles and satellite programs. ISRO is also undertaking another major strategic materials development with the help of industries, which needs to be accelerated so that we can be 100% self-sufficient in all areas of space.
activities in India.