The Gaganyaan Programme envisages undertaking the demonstration of human spaceflight to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in the short-term and will lay the foundation for a sustained Indian human space exploration programme in the long run.
The objective of Gaganyaan programme is to demonstrate indigenous capability to undertake human space flight mission to LEO.
As part of this programme, two unmanned missions and one manned mission are approved by Government of India (GoI).
The Human spaceflight programme has both tangible and intangible benefits for the nation, which includes:
The total cost of Gaganyaan Programme ~ ₹ 9023.00 crores
The uncrewed missions are for technology demonstration, safety and reliability verification and will be heavily instrumented to study the performance of systems before crewed flight.
The major new technologies required for Gaganyaan programme are as follows:
The Gaganyaan Programme is going to be a major National effort. The overall programme co-ordination, systems engineering and implementation will be carried out by ISRO. Further, the human rated launch vehicle, crew escape system, Orbital module and essential infrastructure will be realised by ISRO utilizing the in-house expertise and with participation of Industry, Academia and National agencies. The private players in the country have developed significant expertise in niche areas, and this will be effectively utilized in the programme.
For the first crewed mission of Gaganyaan programme, astronaut trainees are selected from pool of test pilots, based on selection criterion jointly defined by ISRO and Indian air force which comprises of flying experience, fitness, psychological and aeromedical evaluation (including anthropometric parameters).
Major collaborating partners for Gaganyaan include
After the successful completion of Gaganyaan programme, the next step will focus towards achieving capability for a sustained human presence in space.
Activities associated with Space station will be an extension of Gaganyaan Programme. The detailed proposals and modalities for space station will be worked out in future.
The Indian space station will be a platform for conducting scientific and industrial research in myriad areas of fundamental, applied and engineering sciences.
The US military has a Space Command and a sixth fleet exclusively for space. China has a Strategic Support Force, and its sole responsibility is to engage in space warfare. India has a Defence Space Agency (DSA) to counter these threats.
The DSA will coordinate between various Indian space agencies like the ISRO, the National Technical Research Office (NTRO), and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA). It will also control India’s assets in space. India has various multi-tasking satellites.
India’s defense sector used space mainly for its monitoring purposes. However, quick encrypted transmissions and imagery to provide battle awareness have become essential for modern warfare. Satellites are also necessary to guide our fighter jets, ammunition, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Militaries worldwide consider space as crucial to their fights and to winning wars, and so does India.
Modern militaries blind enemy satellites, jam their signals and even destroy them. In late 2019, as part of Mission Shakti, India launched an Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile test into space. PM Narendra Modi announced that Indian scientists have shot down a live satellite in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at 300 km in Space in just over half a minute. Only Russia, China, and the United States have this technology.
The Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) Mark-II is part of India’s Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) program. They can shoot down enemy satellites that are in orbit. Prithvi missiles will disrupt the enemy’s crucial communication links and limit their surveillance abilities.
India also has Imaging Infrared Sensor technologies that can kill enemy satellites using ground or space-based lasers. Space will soon become a new battlefield and India must and will develop its own deterrence.
India began using the technology at hand to exploit space. We utilized it for remote sensing, navigation, telecommunications, and other space applications. India developed the Cartosat series of satellites in 2005, and it gave India its very own satellites that could multi-task. Cartosat satellites are used for earth observation and resource management. Some are available only for defense purposes and monitoring. The last one launched in late-2019 was the Cartosat-3 series, and this Indian satellite delivers the highest quality image resolution in the world. These satellites are also maneuverable and can be steered at various angles.
India also has other militarily significant multi-taskers and remote sensing satellites like the ResourceSat 2 (2011) series and weather satellites like SARAL (2013). For our ocean applications, we have the OceanSat 2 (2009) and the reconnaissance series of satellites RISAT 2 (2009) and RISAT 1 (2012). These satellites enable the free flow of data from the ISRO stations to those managed by our defense and intelligence agencies.
INSAT series multipurpose geostationary satellites launched and maintained by the ISRO handle communications. India’s first satellite launched solely for military purposes came as late as 2013. GSAT 7 belongs to the INSAT series and fulfills the needs of our Navy. We added a GSAT 7A satellite in late 2018, and it provides the information that our Air Force demands. We have the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) for India’s navigational purposes. This satellite delivers GPS facilities and provides encrypted data for our armed forces.
Space has been dominated by the United States both commercially and militarily. There is a new bully on the block, and that country is China. Helped by Russia, the secretive communist regime is on the verge of aggressively claiming this new frontier. Chinese military expansion into Space is happening at a frantic pace, and they have the full support of Beijing.
Various private players are also now in the fray to conquer Space. Under such circumstances, democracies like India have their limitations. There is an urgent need for all republics to unite and establish their national interests. India is the biggest democracy and should take the lead from here on.
India has a rich Space history and has contributed enormously to astronomy. The US knows that its days of a monopoly in space are over. America is now a strategic partner of India in space explorations. In 2021, the US administration announced that it would share both information and services with India. A long-term relationship in outer space is on the cards. This newly found cooperation is nothing new. Both India and America have shared information on ocean metrics and the new policy on space is expected to be on similar lines.
Data sharing is based on Space situational awareness (SSA). SSA monitors both artificial satellites launched by man, debris in space, natural meteors, and the weather from space. Space is now an integral part of our daily lives and any interruptions in tracking will have serious consequences.
Nations are bound by agreements like the Moon Treaty and Outer Space treaty. Any peaceful activity has to be coordinated with the United Nations. This is where cooperation with friendly countries comes into play. Newly formed QUAD members India, Australia, United States and Japan, have set up a Space Working Group. This group shares data from their satellites for peaceful activities in space. They also share opportunities in space to ensure the proper use of outer space. India also has space security sharing agreements with countries like France.
Removing barriers, respecting the rights of other countries, peaceful resolution of disputes, cooperation during natural disasters, controlling debris in space, and developing global norms is essential in this fast-evolving Space environment. India can use such cooperation to counter rogue nations like China.
The coming 50 years will look very different from the past 60 years in Space. We will see an increase in defense traffic, attack vehicles, and surveillance satellites. A new generation of private entrepreneurs, better defense budgets, falling costs, new technologies and competition from India and China will drive this rush to Space. It will become the new battleground that worldwide militaries will try to dominate and seize.
In late August 2019, the United States announced a new US Space Command (USSPACECOM) with its Space Force. All space operations for military purposes were combined and they now train, organize and equip the other arms of their armed forces. China has its Strategic Support Force responsible for its space warfare. Combined with a highly secretive cyber force, this is a threat that other countries cannot disregard. India has adopted a cautious approach and has developed a Defence Space Agency (DSA).
There are bans on assembling military installations in Space and treaties that prohibit placing nuclear weapons in Outer Space. However, this ban does not apply to conventional weapons or military activities. Countries are also looking to exploit the mineral wealth and carry wealthy tourists on expeditions. Space will become an extension of the earth, and it is not just the military that is expected. Criminal activities cannot be ruled out.
Geopolitics is pushing humanity beyond Low-Earth orbit. China, India and the United States plan to land men on the moon soon and want to colonize the same. Private players like Elon Musk also have similar aspirations. Many countries are launching new types of cost-effective satellites. Moon is just the stepping stone, and many have set their sights on Mars.
Over the past few centuries, humans have changed the face of the earth. Our living conditions have deteriorated, environmental degradation has reached intolerable levels, and politicians are busy fighting each other for the limited resources. Space has unlimited potential and this is drawing the attention of various countries. Our optimism to conquer Space is neither a solution for our problems nor is Space a place of refuge.
Questions now arise as to who will claim territory and where. Should settlers be allowed to destroy the environment of the moon or mars as they did on earth? Who gets to use the precious ice resources on the moon’s poles? Thousands of satellites orbit the earth. Over 5 lakh individual artificial space debris hurtles uncontrollably. Some travel at speeds of 27,000 km/hour. We are still testing anti-satellite missiles and adding to this debris. Militaries worldwide still have no standard operating systems or protocols for Space. What happens when artificial satellites collide with each other? Will our space trips end up creating more wars between different state players? New rules are necessary to govern the skies during war and peace.
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