ISRO Chairman K Sivan Lays Out 10 Year Plan for Indian Space Program

Dr. K Sivan (Credit: ISRO)

BENGALURU, India (ISRO PR) — In the future, when we look back upon the year 2020, we will be reminded of the trials and tribulations caused in our official as well as personal lives, owing to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Notwithstanding this situation, huge quantity of work progressed in virtual mode in design and development of systems.

Gaganyaan & Chandrayaan-3 major technical issues were addressed. The concept of virtual LCC and SCC got evolved and implemented. In fact, this mode of work appears to be more efficient and can be the new normal. Even where field work was involved, the activities were completed with minimum travel and social distancing.

And thanks to the dedicated and hardworking personnel, who carried on the torch of progress and made sure that we complete two hugely successful launches by the end of the year. These achievements, even during hard times, in the face of financial & human resource constraints, is truly commendable and speaks volumes about the resourcefulness of team ISRO.

This is also a year of change in the global space arena brought about by the participation of private players in all aspects of the space sector including launch vehicles and human spaceflight, which were hitherto the domain of Government space agencies. The situation is not different in our own country; for the first time in the history of this nation’s space programme, we have a handful of entrepreneurs who have come forward to develop end-to-end launch vehicles and satellites with the intention of providing space-based services and thereby contribute to the space economy. Having taken note of this transformation, the Government lost no time in announcing a series of initiatives in the space sector to provide policy support to such initiatives and thereby enable such players to co-exist and achieve commercial success.

As part of the policy, the Government announced a dedicated Indian National Space Promotion & Authorization Center (IN-SPACe), to promote and foster the Indian players in the space programme, to synergize the existing capabilities & facilities and also provide the essential authorization in compliance with national & international regulations.

A precursor body for this Centre is already making all efforts to interface with 28 interested players in the country & processing applications, which would also put in place a seamless operating mechanism for IN-SPACe, as and when it becomes fully operational, which is expected to happen very shortly. The commissioning of second launch site at Kulasekarapattnam in near future will also give a major boost to private space entrepreneurs.

In the meanwhile, all the essential aspects of the overall space policy required to facilitate space system development & operation in the country including the specific satellite communication policy, remote sensing data policy, space transportation systems policy etc. are in the final draft stages in order to guide and support the implementation of the space sector reforms. Most importantly, the policy of unlocking the potential in the space sector is expected to foster innovation in this strategic sector towards further self-reliance and global leadership in space systems.

With the expansion of space sector, the work of ISRO is going to increase with major focus on innovation and development. ISRO is a torch-bearer of innovation in the country, mainly due to the unique challenges with respect to the development, qualification and reliable operation of space systems in harsh space environments. We are all aware how the forefathers of the space programme like Prof. Sarabhai & Prof. Dhawan seeded the space programme, which has grown from strength-to-strength under their successors, purely based on the innovative execution & operationalization of the various space systems with concurrent indigenization.

ISRO has also contributed toward the development of industry within the country and has empowered several MSMEs to thrive and contribute to the space programme. During the inauguration of the Indian Science Congress in January 2019, our Honourable Prime Minister had observed that our strengths in research and development are built on the backbone of our national laboratories, IISc, IITs, TIFR, Central Universities, etc. and called for the establishment of an expanded research ecosystem.

The research and innovation investment in India is, at present, only 0.69% of GDP as compared to 2.8% in the United States of America, 4.3% in Israel and 4.2% in South Korea. Even we spend about 22% of the ISRO budget for R& D activities. The Government is also introducing ways and means to enhance the investment in research, considering the critical importance in research towards knowledge creation in the country. The whole nation looks up to ISRO as a leader of innovation and knowledge creation in the country and our activities in this decade should reflect the spirit of expanded research and technology development towards future capabilities.

The last decade was a decade of many firsts in almost all the verticals of ISRO. To name a few, the operationalization of GSLV with indigenous cryogenic stage and GSLV MkIII, Mars Orbiter Mission, Astrosat, the NavIC constellation, heaviest high throughput satellite, and technology demonstration missions of winged body Reusable Launch Vehicle & Scramjet engine.

When we are looking towards the next decade, we must be aware that globally, the space sector is facing disruption due to the entry of many private players, whose development efforts are targeted towards cost-effective space transportation systems andon-demand delivery of space-based services through satellite constellations.

New paradigms in manufacturing as well as the advances made in Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning are being maximally exploited to realize the next generation of space systems. 5G connectivity is at the horizon and the role of satellites in facilitating the 5G ecosystem as well as the Internet-of-Things (IoT) have been established.

In line with global directions, we require to develop heavy lift launch vehicle, semi-cryogenic stage, reusable launch vehicle, advance propulsion, next generation avionics, advance materials, dynamic space applications and efficient integration of space based services as well as advanced space science missions.

In this regard, every Centre of ISRO have been directed to work out a decadal plan, considering the expanded capabilities required in the short term as well as the long term. I am glad that all the ISRO Centres/Units have actively contributed to the formulation of the decadal plan provides ample focus on research & innovation, considering the national requirements, the new space policy, as well as the transitions occurring in the global space arena.

In this decade:

Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), the lead centre for space transportation systems, will carry forward its competence in launch vehicle development towards heavy lift capabilities, achieving partial & full reusability and achieving progress in scramjet engine research. All these developments require inter-disciplinary research and development in many areas including aeronautics, structures, propulsion, avionics, chemicals & materials.

 Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), the lead centre for liquid propulsion systems, will fructify the much-awaited high thrust semicryogenic propulsion capability, which is expected to boost our GTO payload capability to almost 5.5 tonnes while also focusing on LOX/Methane propulsion, Green propulsion as well as electric propulsion.

U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC), our lead centre for satellites, have got the tremendous challenge of developing & demonstrating new in-orbit technologies meeting the expanding requirements of India’s space infrastructure. In the next decade, emphasis will be on satellite constellation for broadband communication, all electric satellite platform and high performance satellite platforms in all the application areas. 

Space Applications Centre (SAC) will ensure the new technology payloads and also complete its indigenization efforts for the indigenous Atomic Clock and TWTA. In this decade, SAC & NRSC need to work towards ensuring the collection, processing and on-demand delivery of satellite data services in line with user expectations.

Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) will witness the scaling up of the launch infrastructure to support human spaceflight as well as new heavy lift vehicles and perhaps support & facilitate the launching of private space transportation systems in the country.

ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) needs to gear up its test facilities to support the qualification of the new propulsion systems and also expand its integration facilities to realize the new semicryogenic & LOX/Methane stages.

ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU) will realize the state-of-the-art inertial systems for the planned missions but also scale up its capabilities to support the space science & exploration missions in the decade.

LEOS will realize the state-of-the-art electro-optic sensors and optics for remote sensing cameras, radiometers, star sensor, optical filter, optical masks, IR detectors and MEMS based inclinometer.,

ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) and Master Control Centre (MCF) will upgrade the ground systems to meet the future requirements including that of human space flight.

Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS), Development and Educational Communication Unit (DECU) and Indian Institute of Space Science and Technolog (IIST) will have to play a greater role in human resource development and outreach activities keeping in line with the dynamics of space sector.

Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), National Atmospheric Research Laboratory (NARL) and North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NE-SAC) will have to cater to the scientific aspirations of new India in the next decade, where the society will transform from economic societies to knowledge based societies. 

Semi-Conductor Laboratory SCL will works towards creating a strong microelectronics base in the country and enhance capabilities in Very Large Scale Integrated circuit (VLSI) domain.

A lion’s share of ISRO’s technology development & advanced R & D activities is expected to be carried out for facilitating the Gaganyaan programme and sustaining the human spaceflight activities in the long term.

Human Space Flight Center (HSFC), in association will all ISRO Centre/Units, are working towards the enhanced capabilities essential for the human spaceflight programme including the human rated launch vehicle, Orbital Module, rendezvous & docking, regenerative life support systems and space habitats.

This decade is going to be highly promising and challenging for the Indian Space Programme if we consider the distinct challenge of expanding our research footprint while also handling the transition towards the technology transfer & implementation of a more demand-driven operational launch vehicle & satellite programmes by our Public Sector Enterprises (PSE) and industry.

In the short term, we have diverse missions to be achieved including the first developmental flight of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), operational Geo-Imaging capability, Chandrayaan-3, the first solar mission, Aditya-L1, and the first Indian Data Relay Satellite. The first unmanned flight under the Gaganyaan Programme is another significant milestone to be achieved this year.

In spite of a nationwide lockdown extending over a few months in 2020, I was pleasantly surprised at the way ISRO rose to the occasion and worked, employing all resources at its disposal to achieve a firm foundation for the next decade. Those months were effectively utilized as a period of introspection and planning to review the R & D and technology development in the individual Centres & units along with the formulation of the individual decadal plans.

I take this opportunity to express my heartiest appreciation to each one of you for your hard work even during difficult times & keep the ISRO flag flying high. I wish you and your family members a New Year full of happiness, hope and prosperity and also a great decade, when every one of you shall fulfil their dreams and aspirations.

Thank you