India’s Own Space Station
- A space station is a spacecraft capable of supporting crew members, designed to remain in space for an extended period of time and for other spacecrafts to dock.
- Currently, there is only one fully functional space station in the earth’s lower orbit, the International Space Station and the astronauts conduct different experiments in it. It is a partnership between NASA (USA), JAXA (Japan), CSA (Canada), and Roscosmos (Russia). It is world’s largest international cooperative program in science and technology. China is also building a space station of its own.
- India also plans to do the same and with this in mind ISRO plans to have its own space station 5 to 7 years after the successful launch of Gaganyaan.
- The proposed space station is envisaged to weigh 20 tonnes, which will be placed in LEO at a height of 400 km and will serve as a facility where astronauts can stay for 15-20 days.
- The plan is to launch the space station within 5-7 years after Gaganyaan launch.
- India will become only the fourth country to launch a space station after US, Russia and China which plans to launch it in 2020.
- Natural Progression for any space faring country after Human Space flight.
- The Human Space flight leads to development of human rated rocket, the ability to train crew and the capacity to sustain life and safety of the crew on orbit and return them.
- Step towards future manned expedition to other celestial bodies.
- Ability to do micro-gravity experiments.
What advancements will India need to achieve to have its space Stations?
- All the Gaganyaan requirements (Space suits, Training facilities for astronauts, Crew Escape Module, making GSLV Human rated, developing a habitable module etc)
- Larger bigger rocket by upgrading the capabilities of GSLV-MK-III (it is right now capable of carrying on 10 tonnes to LEO)
- Developing ability to perform space docking. ISRO has revealed its plan to carry out a space docking experiment, Spadex.
- Two experimental modules will be sent into space, on board a PSLV rocket, and two will be docked with each other.
- Complex docking technology is an essential building block process for setting up the country’s own space station and sending humans to that station.
- The docking process involves latching of one satellite with another with the help of on-board cameras, and constant monitoring by the earth’s station. The complexity of the process comes as it involves controlling the speed of the two satellites and bringing them together so that they can dock and become a larger structure.
- It can serve two goals: To send humans from a space shuttle to a space station and to assemble a larger satellite in space.
Though the Space Station program is still some distance away, by initiating the steps such as sending humans to space, conducting the SPADEX experiment etc ISRO has started making significant moves towards this very gargantuan and challenging task.
- What is India’s plan to have its own space station and how will it benefit our space program? [10 marks, 150 words] [Mains 2019]
- Discuss the key advances that India will need to achieve before developing the ability to have its own space station. [12.5 marks, 200 words]