Category Archives: Space Technology

ISRO unveils Indian Space Capsule

manned space mission

After its Mars mission, India now aims to puts humans into space. In the first step towards flying Indian astronauts into space, the Indian astronaut capsule has been unveiled for the very first time. The outer skeleton of Indian human space capsule has been fabricated by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bangalore and was handed over to ISRO which developed it.

If all goes as per plan in the first experimental flight of India’s latest rocket, the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV MK-III) is likely to be tested in May or June. It could see this astronaut module being flown into space for the very first time. In its first test flight no crew or any animals are likely to be flown. Only re-entry technologies and flight dynamics will be tested and the capsule will be recovered back in the Bay of Bengal.

ISRO has been dreaming of putting an Indian into space using an Indian rocket launched from India soil. ISRO has sought funding worth Rs. 12,500 crores from the government for the program. Once the approval comes, an Indian astronaut can be flown in a low Earth orbit of 300-400 kilometers above earth in about seven years from the time the approval comes from the government.

While the government has hesitated to clear a hefty bill of Rs. 12,500 crores as desired by ISRO for its human space flight program, but so that there are no delays in the development work the Indian government has already sanctioned Rs. 145 crores for the development of critical technologies.

Till date only Russia, USA and China have successfully flown astronauts into space with the latest entrant being China in 2003.

[Credit – NDTV]

GAGAN gets RNP Clearance


The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has certified the ambitious GAGAN (GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation) system to RNP 0.1 (Required Navigation Performance, 0.1 Nautical Mile) service level.  An RNP 0.1 means the aircraft navigation system must be able to calculate its position to within a circle with a radius of 0.1 nautical mile.

With this, GAGAN becomes the fourth Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) certified for operational use in the world, after SBAS of US, Europe and Japan.

Developed jointly by ISRO, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and American firm Raytheon, GAGAN would be able to guide aircraft from the high seas from Singapore to West Africa in the South to the entire Himalayan range in the North.

Aircraft equipped with SBAS receivers can utilise GAGAN signals in Indian airspace for en route navigation and non-precision approaches without vertical guidance. This capability will allow aircraft to follow more efficient flight paths through congested airspace, noise sensitive areas or difficult terrain.

The benefits of GAGAN include improved efficiency, direct routes, increased fuel savings, significant cost savings due to withdrawal of ground aids and reduced workload of flight crew and Air Traffic Controllers.  GAGAN would also help pilots navigate in all-weather conditions by an accuracy of up to three metres, a capability that would enable landing aircraft in tough weather and terrain.

GAGAN includes 15 reference stations strategically placed in India to optimise signal availability, uplink stations, master control stations, communication network and associated software, all integrated to two Geostationary Earth Orbit satellites.

ISRO to Launch 4 foreign Satellites


Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch four foreign satellites in 2014-15 in the Earth’s lower orbit, using its workhorse PSLV rocket. ISRO has already launched 35 small foreign satellites by PSLV into space and has seven more lined up through 2016-17 along with its own primary spacecraft.

On Wednesday, ISRO’s commercial wing Antrix Corporation signed the latest launch service contract with Singapore’s ST Electronics for the launch of TeLEOS-1 earth observation spacecraft. On January 29, Antrix signed agreements with DMC International Imaging of UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, to launch three DMC-3 disaster monitoring satellites.

The space agency is working towards launching SPOT-7, a French satellite onboard the PSLV with four micro-satellites in March/April. PSLV has already placed SPOT-6 in the lower orbit on Sep 8, 2012.

ISRO had earlier bagged a contract to launch an 800-kg German satellite EnMAP (Environmental Mapping and Analysis Programme) and a set of Canadian satellites this calendar year. Antrix, the commercial wing of ISRO, which posted a revenue of Rs.1,300 crore in last fiscal (2012-13), is projected to grow 15 percent in this fiscal (2013-14)

ISRO Propulsion Complex


The liquid propulsion systems centre (LPSC) at Mahendragiri in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu will henceforth be called as the ‘Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Propulsion Complex’, according to ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan, who made the official announcement at a function held in Mahendragiri on Friday.

The Mahendragiri centre has been instrumental in assembling and testing as many as 125 engines made by ISRO so far, including very successful liquid engine ‘Vikas’ for PSLV and Cryogenic engine for GSLV.

The Mahendragiri centre, which was functioning under LPSC in Valiyamala near Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, now would get autonomous power and would function as a separate department of ISRO.

Now Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Liquid Propulsion System Centres, ISRO Propulsion Complex and Sriharikota would be working together as a single unit in launching the vehicles.

[Credit – TOI]

Making Water on Moon & Oxygen on Mars


Nasa is planning to launch robotic missions to make water on the Moon in 2018 and oxygen on Mars in 2020. The Moon mission will be the US space agency’s first attempt to demonstrate in-situ resource utilisation (ISRU) beyond Earth.

The purpose of ISRU is to harness and utilize space resources to create products and services which enable and significantly reduce the mass, cost, and risk of near-term and long-term space exploration.

According to experts this will allow the spacecraft to carry ‘intelligent mass’ like an experiment, a computer or a payload instead of dumb mass like water, air and propellant to the space.

The first in-space ISRU test is targeted for 2018. Nasa plans to launch a mission called Resource Prospector that includes a rover with instruments to scout for telltale hydrogen, drill out samples, heat them and scan for water vapour and other volatiles on the moon. Vapour also could be re-condensed to form a drop of water.

A second ISRU experiment is due to be aboard NASA’s next Mars rover, which is slated for launch in 2020. The device, which is yet to be selected, would pull carbon dioxide from the planet’s atmosphere, filter out dust and other particles and prepare the gas for chemical processing into oxygen.

[Credit : TOI]

Hawking: There is no Black Hole


Stephen Hawking surprised physics world by suggesting that there are no black holes. According to him, black holes are not always the final graveyard for the light and matter sucked into them.

He has challenged the idea that light and other forms of energy can never escape after falling into a black hole. Instead he suggested that the black hole holds energy for a while and at least some of it is radiated back into space.

Typically black holes form by collapsing of stars and it contain vast amounts of matter, which has been compressed into a tiny space. This generates gravity so extreme that it overwhelms any other force, including light. The distance from the black hole at which escape from its gravity becomes impossible is called the ‘event horizon’.

Hawking’s revolutionary suggestion, in a paper entitled ‘Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting for Black Holes’, that event horizons do not really exist. In his paper, Hawking writes: “The absence of event horizons means that there are no black holes — in the sense of regimes from which light can’t escape to infinity.”

He told Nature journal: “There is no escape from a black hole in classical theory, but quantum theory, however, “enables energy and information to escape from a black hole.”

[Photo Credit: Science Photo Library]

Opportunity Rover: Water on Mars


NASA’s decade old Mars rover Opportunity, has found evidence that life-friendly fresh water was once present on the red planet’s surface, reinforcing similar discoveries made by newcomer Curiosity on the other side of the planet.

The latest finding by Opportunity is a small rock that appeared out of nowhere, scientists comparing it with “Jelly Doughnut”. It was most probably kicked up by the rover’s wheel into view field. Early testing of this rock revealed characteristics unlike any other rock discovered so far on Mars, it is high in sulfur, magnesium and manganese.

The researchers also found a clay that commonly forms on earth when water flows through fractures in the rock. In one place, these clays are of an iron-rich variety called smectite. In another location it is aluminium rich variety called montmorillonite.

By studying rocks-minerals and water probability at early Mars, scientists not only get a better idea of how long the planet was able to sustain life, but where conditions might be favorable to perverse key evidence, such as organic carbon.

Opportunity rover has recently completed 10 years of Mars exploration on 24 January, 2014. The twin rover, Spirit, which landed three weeks prior to Opportunity, was declared dead by Nasa in May 2011.

In August 2012, Curiosity, equipped with an onboard chemistry lab, arrived for follow-up investigations to determine if Mars had other ingredients essential for supporting life. Both rovers (Opportunity and Curiosity) are guided by Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance orbiters.

 [The research appears this week in the journal Science.]

Traffic Control in Space

space debris

Scientists are planning to use mini-satellites that function as ‘space cops’ to help avoid collisions of satellites and debris in space. Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, US, used a series of six images over a 60-hour period taken from a ground-based satellite to prove that it is possible to refine the orbit of another satellite in low Earth orbit.

These satellites will be orbiting and making the same sort of observations to help prevent satellite-on-satellite and satellite-on-debris collisions in space. Collisions in space of satellites and space debris have become increasingly problematic.

To help satellite operators prevent collisions in space, the Space-Based Telescopes for Actionable Refinement of Ephemeris (STARE) mission, which will consist of a constellation of nano-satellites in low earth orbit, intends to refine orbits of satellites and space debris to less than 100 meters. STARE is an ongoing LLNL project led by Wim de Vries, with Vincent Riot as lead engineer.

Using the ground-based satellite, the Livermore team refined the orbit of the satellite NORAD 27006, based on the first four observations made within the initial 24 hours, and predicted NORAD’s trajectory to within less than 50 meters over the following 36 hours.

By refining the trajectory of NORAD 27006 with their ground-based payload, the team believes they will be able to do the same thing for other satellites and debris once their payload is orbiting earth.

[The findings are published in the Journal of Small Satellites.]

Three IRNSS Sat in 2014


The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch three satellites belonging to the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) constellation this year. The satellites to be launched are IRNSS-1B, IRNSS-1C and IRNSS-1D.

IRNSS is an independent regional navigation satellite system designed to provide position information in the Indian region and 1,500 km around the Indian mainland. IRNSS would provide two types of services, namely, Standard Positioning Services (SPS) – provided to all users – and Restricted Services (RS) that is provided only to authorised users.

It is a constellation of seven satellites and ISRO has already launched IRNSS-1A, first of the seven satellites constituting the space segment of the IRNSS last year. IRNSS-1B will be launched in March 2014 on-board PSLV C24. The entire IRNSS constellation of seven satellites is planned to be completed by 2015-16.

Apart from the three satellites belonging to the IRNSS series, ISRO has a target to launch five more satellites, which includes a commercial launch- SPOT-7 (French Remote Sensing Satellite By PSLV-C23) and an GSLV Mk III experimental flight.

[Courtesy – DNA]

Chang’e-3 Resumes Functioning


China’s Moon rover Yutu has successfully used its mechanical arm to complete its first scientific exploration of the lunar soil. The rover used its mechanical arm to survey the lunar soil on January 1 2014, following instructions from the control center, the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) said.

China became the first country to perform a soft landing on the Moon in almost 40 years with its Chang’e-3 lander and Yutu rover. For the first time in 40 years, after the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod-2 rover in 1973, humanity once again has a rover exploring the surface of the Moon.

China’s Chang’e-3 mission lifted off December 1 2013, maneuvered into lunar orbit on December 6, and soft landed on the surface of the Moon on December 14.

Yutu will survey the Moon’s geological structure and surface substances and look for natural resources for three months, while the lander will conduct in-situ exploration at the landing site for a year.

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