How space collaboration with US could help India breach next frontier — human spaceflight & beyond

“Having set a course to reach new frontiers across all sectors of space cooperation, the leaders welcomed efforts towards establishment of a working group for commercial space collaboration under the existing India-US Civil Space Joint Working Group,” the statement added.

Rohan Ganapathy, founder of the Bengaluru-based space startup Bellatrix Aerospace, which builds space technologies, said we are witnessing a delta improvement in support towards collaboration, not just between space agencies of both the countries, but also at the level of their industries”.

With the success of the lunar mission Chandrayaan-3 and the launch of the solar observation mission, Aditya-L1, India is seemingly increasingly becoming an attractive emerging market for companies in the US.

“India’s capabilities to develop and manufacture high-quality technology at unbelievable price points is a way to go for both countries to work towards making space more accessible to all,” added Ganapathy. 

Dibyendu Nandi, solar physicist at IISER Kolkata and one of the scientists involved in the Aditya-L1 mission, said it “is not surprising that the strategic partnership between India and the US is being extended to the space domain where the two nations have collaborated in the past”. 

“The next frontier for humanity is clearly space, where one expects both cooperation and conflict to play out,” he added. 

“This is the time to invest in friendships that will define how well you can leverage broader opportunities in space and safeguard your assets,” Nandi said, pointing out that the “new element in this declaration is a joint working group on commercial space applications”. 

“This is a welcome move and will hopefully lead to more efficient and sustainable collaboration and ease of access to markets that is not held back by the inertia of government agencies,” he added.

Also Read: As Chandrayaan-3 touches down on Moon’s surface, meet the key scientists behind mission

Indians to ISS

The India-US joint statement talked about discussions to send Indian astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), currently orbiting the Earth.

Only two people of Indian origin — Sunita Williams and Raja Chari — have been to the ISS and both were American citizens at the time of their flight.  

As part of a joint exercise for human spaceflight, ISRO and NASA have started discussions on capacity building and training to fly Indian astronauts to the ISS in 2024. 

The framework for this is expected to be finalised by the end of this year, the joint statement said. 

This will likely work in tandem with the Indian human spaceflight programme (IHSP), which is expected to launch ‘Gaganyaan’, the first human spaceflight from India, within the next two years. 

Indo-US space collaboration

India has, over the years, slowly moved away from collaborations in engineering and manufacturing with other nations such as Russia, to focusing on indigenously built equipment. 

In 1962, when India set up ISRO predecessor Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR), it was one of the few countries to have a space agency. Collaborations with the US started immediately. 

In the 1960s, ISRO (then INCOSPAR) and NASA conducted joint tests from the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station.  

In 1975-76, the two agencies collaborated on a Satellite Instrumental Television Experiment, or SITE. Under this programme, NASA’s ATS-6 satellite was engaged to transmit educational programmes via early televisions to over 2,000 remote Indian villages, where children and adults gathered to watch them. 

In the 1980s, the US launched Indian satellites on rockets and space shuttles.

However, after the Pokhran-II nuclear tests conducted by India at the Indian Army’s Pokhran Test Range in May 1998, the US imposed a series of economic, trade, and military sanctions that affected ISRO’s cooperation with the US. 

Cut to the present, India is party to the Artemis Accords, the US-led non-binding agreement outlining a common set of rules for civil space exploration. India became a signatory to the accords in June.

“India becoming a signatory to Artemis Accords opens multiple avenues to bring out synergies between industries of both geographies,” said Ganapathy. 

Private space missions

The India-US joint statement also addresses collaborations on commercial space missions, under the ambit of the Indo-US Joint Working Group on Civil Space Cooperation, which was set up in 2005. The NASA payloads in Chandrayaan-1 were the first direct outcome of the group. 

Another working group is expected to be formed under this one, specifically to deal with commercial space collaboration between the two countries. 

While the US has a robust private ecosystem in the space industry, India is a new player in the sector. 

The establishment of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) — an independent body that has facilitated the inclusion of private startups in India’s space business, by offering access to resources and knowledge transfer in the form of MoUs — has been a major step forward. 

Awais Ahmed, founder of Bengaluru-based space-tech company Pixxel, said growing India-US cooperation bodes well for domestic startups. 

“Being able to access a large US market by building tech in India will help startups show commercial growth that’s pretty hard to do in India right now,” he added. “Mainly because the Indian buyer ecosystem is still growing.” 

Hopefully, he said, “sometime in the future, it’ll lead to Indian startups being eligible for CLPS-like programmes”.

Commercial Lunar Payload Services or CLPS is an initiative under which NASA is working with several US companies to deliver science and technology to the lunar surface.

“And maybe, Indian startups can participate in US-India joint projects like NISAR (NASA-ISRO Earth-observing project) but on a grander scale like a space station, or joint planetary missions,” he added.

NEO protection

ISRO and NASA — rather the Indian and the US governments — have also agreed to increase cooperation and coordination on planetary defence: not from aliens, but from rocks. 

NEOs are near-Earth objects, an entire category of hundreds of asteroids that orbit the Sun close to Earth and potentially pose a risk of collision with Earth. This is especially crucial when tracking rocks that come blind, from the direction of the Sun, thus preventing astronomers from observing them until too late. 

A test of such a defence was performed as part of NASA’s DART mission, where an impactor hit a harmless asteroid’s moon, far away from Earth, and modified its orbit.

The mission was the first-ever test of impacting an object from Earth with the objective of changing its orbit. It is expected that when any NEO comes too close to Earth, they will be detected early enough to send a craft to collide with it, so that it can deviate slightly from its path and miss the planet altogether. 

The joint statement said India and the US “intend to increase coordination on planetary defence to protect planet Earth and space assets from the impact of asteroids and near-Earth objects, including US support for India’s participation in asteroid detection and tracking via the Minor Planet Center”. 

Operated at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the Minor Planet Center is responsible for observing asteroids, comets, and other small bodies in the solar system, and tracking them.

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: Curious about what Chandrayaan-3 aims to do? All about its payloads & how they’ll help scientists



Read original article here

Denial of responsibility! Yours Headline is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave a Comment