India reveals space probe plans
India’s national space agency is looking to launch at least two more missions in 2023 as a part of the country’s ambitious effort to set up its own space station by 2035 and send its first manned mission to the Moon by 2040. The targets were set by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In the next two months, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will launch the X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) space observatory and the PSLV Orbital Experimental Module (POEM), a platform that will help perform experiments in orbit using the discarded stage of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) as an orbital platform, the agency’s chairman, S Somanath, told the Times of India.
XPoSat is India’s first polarimetry mission; it seeks to study the dynamics of bright astronomical X-ray sources in extreme conditions and is designed to have a mission life of at least five years.
The ISRO will also launch an INSAT-3DS satellite built for meteorological studies from another indigenously-developed launch system, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark II. It is crucial, according to the outlet, as India is preparing to launch the $1.5 billion NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR), a Low Earth Orbit observatory that is being developed by NASA and the ISRO.
Encouraged by the success of its missions to the Moon (Chandrayaan-3) and Sun (Aditya-L1), the ISRO is planning several crucial missions in the coming years. These include an in-orbit servicer mission, a lunar sample return mission, docking in space, a Mars lander, and Gaganyaan – a manned space mission set for 2025.
In October, the ISRO launched the first of a series of test flights in preparation for the Gaganyaan mission. The basic crew module in the mission turned upside down while being recovered by naval divers in the sea.
In 2024, the space agency will conduct an experiment in a crew module to ensure it remains upright after splashing down. The astronauts for the mission, who were initially being trained in Russia, are undergoing further training in India to prepare for takeoff.
Lunar sample return missions are also considered critical as they will lay the groundwork for India to launch a manned mission to the Moon. The ‘lunar hop’ performed by the Chandrayaan-3 launched earlier this year is considered the precursor to the upcoming mission. It demonstrated the Chandrayaan-3’s ability to lift off from the surface of the Moon, meaning it could return with samples in the future.
The progress of the country’s first human spaceflight mission was discussed last month at a high-level meeting chaired by Modi. The Indian leader said that the ISRO should aim to set up a space station by 2035 and send the first Indian to the Moon by 2040. In the follow-up, the space agency has formed specific committees overseeing various missions, Somanath said.