The Indian Space Station : Importance and Challenges
- The Indian Space Station is an artificial satellite planned by Indian space Research Organization (ISRO) for its manned operations.
- It will be used to conduct Microgravity experiments.
- It will be a small space station of approximately 20 ton weight.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which is the government body for space research and related activities in India, has seen many successful missions in recent times. Inspired by its accomplishments ISRO is planning to launch its own Space Station to the space by the end of this decade. The Gaganyaan mission which is set to take Indian astronauts to the space in the year 2022 is an important step towards the Indian Space Station. ISRO believes that it has ability to develop all the technologies needed for the mission without foreign help, if it is provided with the necessary funding.
What is a Space Station?
Space station, also known as orbital station is a spacecraft capable of supporting a human crew in the orbit for extended periods of time. It doesn’t have landing or propulsion systems. It does have a docking station to dock other spacecraft for exchange of crew and supplies. The reasons for maintaining a orbital station are many and depend on the aim of program. Usually they are used for scientific purpose, but they had also been used for military purposes. As in a orbital space station there is no gravity it is used to conduct microgravity experiments. The effect of long-term spaceflights can be understood by such space stations.
Currently the only active space station in earth’s orbit is the International Space Station (ISS), which is a joint program between five different space agencies namely NASA (United States), ROSCOSMOS (Russia), CSA (Canada), JAXA (Japan) and ESA (Europe). It was launched in the year 1998. It is situated in the low earth orbit at a height of 400 Km from earth. By this time only two countries, United States and Russia have individually assembled there space station in the space. China is ready to launch its own orbit station in 2020,and thus set to become third country in the world to touch this feet.
The Indian Space Station
The Indian Space Station would be similar to the ISS, but will be smaller in size. It is proposed to be of 20 ton weight, for comparison the ISS weigh’s 400 ton. It will be stationed in low earth orbit at a height of 400 Km from earth’s surface and will be certainly used to conduct microgravity experiments. It will designed to accommodate three astronauts for 15–20 days in the space. Very limited details about it are in public domain and more details are expected to be released after the success of Gaganyaan mission. The success of Gaganyaan mission is very crucial for the Indian Space Station as ISRO needs to develop human spaceflight technology to carry the astronauts and supplies back & forth to the station.
Since making a space station is a very complex task and it needs to develop various state of the art technologies, it is expected to take at least 5–7 years in development and more years in testing. According to ISRO, they will not collaborate with any other space agency for this mission. Also knowing the budget constraints and funding delays it will be very optimistic to think the mission to be completed in the given time frame. So at least a span of 10 years could be expected to make this dream a reality.
Does India need it?
Although we can expect many direct and indirect benefits from this mission, many people are also criticizing the project for various reasons. Let us see what are the criticism and supporting points about this mission.
Criticism- Many people argue that such expensive projects cannot be sustained by a developing country like India where a quarter of population is below poverty line. They see the proposal of this mission as tool for political gain by the ruling party of India. Such claims do have some ground on the basic of the cost which we will discuss further in the article.
Supporting points-People in the support of the mission believes that this will bring technological advancements to the country and will impart a sense of interest in the field of science in the young people of India and drive them towards education. This will have a major indirect effect on the economy which will be much more than the direct cost of the mission.
It is uncertain that would government give such massive capital to ISRO. NASA alone spends Rs 20,000 crore yearly on the ISS and had spend more than Rs 6,50,000 crore on assembling it. Although the Indian Space Station will be very smaller than the ISS, still the cost of the mission will be significant. Finances of such magnitude are difficult for the Indian Space Station. Another challenge which will be faced by ISRO will be to upgrade its launch vehicles for such tasks beside many other technological challenges.
Working such a complex mission will not only provide us the benefit which other space stations have but will also give us many essential technologies as byproducts. This will also help us to improve our satellite launching capability which will be commercially very important. Success of this mission will also drive the country towards science and education which will have very positive effect on not only nation’s economy but also in the social culture of the country.
To conclude, India was not allowed to be part of the ISS at time of its assembly due to nation’s nuclear policy. Though India has a option to join the ISS program now, it will not be any significance to us as the ISS could soon be retired. This mission will be a matter of proud for every Indian and it will hopefully be a successful investment and help the nation in multiple ways. It will also provide our Scientific Community a wide range of topics for research. Only time can tell how this dream can turn into a reality.