Major Earth Satellite to Track Disasters, Effects of Climate Change

The S-band SAR, one of two kinds of radar on the NISAR mission, arrived at JPL on March 19. The next day, technicians and engineers moved the S-SAR into the airlock to the Spacecraft Assembly Facility’s High Bay 1 clean room. The equipment will be unpacked over several days in the clean room. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Designed to spot potential natural hazards and help researchers measure how melting land ice will affect sea level rise, the NISAR spacecraft marks a big step as it takes shape.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — An SUV-size Earth satellite that will be equipped with the largest reflector antenna ever launched by NASA is taking shape in the clean room at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Called NISAR, the joint mission between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has big goals: By tracking subtle changes in Earth’s surface, it will spot warning signs of imminent volcanic eruptions, help to monitor groundwater supplies, track the melt rate of ice sheets tied to sea level rise, and observe shifts in the distribution of vegetation around the world. Monitoring these kinds of changes in the planet’s surface over nearly the entire globe hasn’t been done before with the high resolution in space and time that NISAR will deliver.

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UK Space Sector Receives £1 Million Government Boost to Support International Innovation

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — Five new projects have been awarded a share of over £1 million [$1.38 million] of government funding to work with international partners on innovative space technology.

Projects to remotely probe ice on Mars to help explorers find life below the surface, a system to warn of impacts of flood risks to infrastructure based on research in India and a scheme to design UK imaging technology for a space telescope are among the new international initiatives to receive backing from the UK Space Agency’s National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP).

The funding will see UK companies and organisations working with partners such as NASA, and space agencies from Canada, Japan and Italy. NSIP is the first fund dedicated to supporting the UK space sector’s innovation through collaborations with international partners designed to contribute to UK science, security and prosperity.

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ISRO Makes Breakthrough Demonstration of Free-space Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) Over 300 Meters

BENGALURU, India (ISRO PR) — For the first time in the country, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully demonstrated free-space Quantum Communication over a distance of 300 m.

A number of key technologies were developed indigenously to accomplish this major feat, which included the use of indigenously developed NAVIC receiver for time synchronization between the transmitter and receiver modules, and gimbal mechanism systems instead of bulky large-aperture telescopes for optical alignment.

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Indian Cosmonaut Candidates Complete Training Program in Russia

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Dmitry Rogozin, General Director of the State Corporation Roscosmos, on March 22, 2021, held a meeting with Indian cosmonauts candidates who successfully completed general space training in Russia. The meeting was also attended by the Ambassador of India to the Russian Federation, Mr. D.B. Venkatesh Varma, and representatives of subsidiaries of the State Corporation Roscosmos, who took part in the training of Indian candidates for cosmonauts.

The Indian ambassador thanked Rogozin for supporting the training program for Indian cosmonauts. The contract for the training of Indian candidates for space flight between the Glavkosmos company (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) and the Manned Space Flight Center of the Indian Space Research Organization was signed on June 27, 2019. Cosmonaut Training Center named after Yu.A. Gagarin on February 10, 2020 began the planned training of Indian astronaut candidates.

The entire process of preparation and training took place on the territory of Russia and included a number of elements necessary for future cosmonauts, such as medical and physical training, studying the Russian language, studying the design, layout and systems of the Soyuz transport manned spacecraft.

Spaceflight Inc. Readies Its Largest Satellite Contracted to Date, Amazonia-1, for Launch

Amazonia-1 satellite

The launch service provider purchased an entire PSLV from NSIL to support the launch of Brazil’s first Earth observation satellite

SEATTLE, February 17, 2021 (Spaceflight Inc. PR) — Spaceflight Inc., the global launch services provider, today revealed details about the upcoming launch of its largest customer satellite launch to date, the Amazonia-1 spacecraft. To accommodate the nearly 700-kilogram satellite, Spaceflight purchased an entire NewSpace India Limited’s (NSIL) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). The mission, named PSLV-C51/ Amazonia-1, is targeted for launch at the end of February from Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota (SDSC, SHAR), India.  

The spacecraft was produced by INPE, the National Institute for Space Research (in Portuguese: Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais), Brazil’s leading entity dedicated to space research and exploration and is the first Earth observation satellite to be completely designed, integrated, tested and operated in Brazil. Amazonia-1 will launch under a commercial arrangement with NSIL, an Indian government company under Department of Space (DOS) and the commercial arm of ISRO. 

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Skyroot, ISRO to Cooperate on Development of Commercial Satellite Launcher

Vikram boosters (Credit: Skyroot Aerospace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Skyroot Aerospace and India’s Department of Space have signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that will enable the Hyderabad-based startup to access the facilities and technical expertise available in ISRO centers to proceed with development of its Vikram family of launch vehicles.

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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.

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ISRO Chairman Given 1-Year Extension of Term

Dr. K Sivan (Credit: ISRO)

ISRO Chairman K Sivan has been given an one-year extension to his term, postponing his planned Jan. 14, 2021 retirement date.

Sivan, 63, was appointed ISRO chairman in January 2018. He joined ISRO in 1982 and previously served as director of the space agency’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre and the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre.

In an interview with the Times of India, Sivan said he would do his best to move the Gaganyaan human spaceflight program toward a crew launch by the August 2022 deadline set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Other priorities include continuing the ongoing commercialization reforms of the Indian space industry and fast tracking the launch of the Chandrayaan-3 lunar landing mission.

ISRO Signed MoU with IIT BHU, Varanasi

BANGALORE, India (ISRO PR) — Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Indian Institute of Technology, Varanasi for setting up the Regional Academic Centre for Space at IIT BHU, in the country.

This is the 5th Regional Academic Centre for Space being set up in the country. This is a regional level initiative to pursue advanced research in the area of space technology, space science and space applications relevant to space programme. This will also encourage student centric research activities in the region.

The MoU was signed by Dr. P V Venkitakrishnan, Director, CBPO, ISRO and Prof. Pramod Kumar Jain, Director, IIT BHU, Varanasi on 23rd December 2020.  Shri R Umamaheswaran, Scientific Secretary, ISRO delivered the inaugural address.

ISRO Opens Space Situational Awareness Center

BANGALORE, India (ISRO PR) — In view of ever-growing population of space objects and the recent trend towards mega-constellations, Space Situational Awareness (SSA) has become an integral and indispensable part of safe and sustainable space operations.

For the last few decades, ISRO has been carrying out SSA activities, mainly focused on safeguarding India’s space assets. Recognising the need for dedicated efforts to tackle the emerging challenges of operating in an exceedingly crowded and contested space domain, Directorate of Space Situational Awareness and Management (DSSAM) has been established at ISRO.

The Directorate engages in evolving improved operational mechanisms to protect Indian space assets through effective coordination amongst ISRO/DOS Centres, other space agencies and international bodies, and establishment of necessary supporting infrastructures, such as additional observation facilities for space object monitoring, and a control centre for centralized SSA activities.

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Agnikul Cosmos Becomes the First Company to Sign an Agreement With ISRO Under the Newly Proposed IN-SPACe Entity

CHENNAI, India, December 8, 2020 (Agnikul Cosmos PR) — The Department of Space (DoS) and Agnikul Cosmos Private Limited, an IIT Madras based launch vehicle startup, are pleased to announce that they have signed a non-disclosure agreement under the newly proposed IN-SPACe entity. Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe) is an independent nodal agency under DoS for allowing space activities and usage of DOS owned facilities by private organizations as well as to prioritise the launch manifest.

Under the agreement, Agnikul will be able to work with various Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) centers to get access to technical information and facilities necessary to go forward with their launch vehicle development that will enable rapid space access to anyone launching a small satellite. This is a significant step & the first such step by the Department of Space in mentoring private players to collaborate with ISRO.

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India’s Gaganyaan Human Spaceflight Program Delayed by 1 Year Due to Covid-19

Capsule descending under parachute (Credit: ISRO)

PTI reports that India’s human space flight program is likely to be delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As per the mandate of Gaganyaan, two uncrewed missions would be undertaken prior to the manned mission. Accordingly, the unmanned missions were slated for launch in December 2020 and July 2021, and the first manned mission was scheduled in December 2021.

“That will be delayed because of COVID,” ISRO Chairman, Kailasavadivoo Sivan, told PTI. “We are targeting for sometime next year-end or the subsequent year,” he said on the expected time-line for the first of the two proposed uncrewed missions.

The Gaganyaan project has the objective of demonstrating human space flight capability to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) with three crew members in orbit and safely recovering them after the mission.

COVID-19 has significantly slowed India’s space program this year. ISRO typically launches about six times annually. The space agency launched for the first time and only time this year on Nov. 7. ISRO’s second and possibly final launch of 2020 is scheduled for Nov. 14.

Private Launch Company Agnikul Cosmos Signs NDA that Allows Access to ISRO Facilities

BENGALURU, India (ISRO PR) — Department of Space has today (3rd Dec. 2020) entered into a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with M/s Agnikul Cosmos Pvt. Ltd, a Chennai based start-up company located in the National Centre for Combustion R&D, IITM, Chennai building private small satellite launch vehicle.

Under the NDA, the company will be enabled for accessing the facilities and technical expertise available in ISRO centers to proceed with their launch vehicle development program.

The agreement is the first one of its kind, the Department has signed after the establishment of IN-SPACe, the authorization and regulatory body under DOS for enabling private players to undertake space activities in India.

The NDA was signed in the presence of Dr. K Sivan, Secretary, DOS/ Chairman, ISRO, and Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras. Shri R Umamaheswaran, Scientific Secretary, ISRO, was the signatory on behalf of Department of Space for the NDA with M/S Agnikul Cosmos Pvt Ltd. Shri Srinath Ravichandran, CEO, Aginukul signed the NDA on behalf of the company.

Dr K Sivan along with ISRO Centre Directors; Shri S Somanath, Director, VSSC, Dr V Narayanan, Director, LPSC, Shri Sam Dayala Dev, Director, IISU and Shri K Alagavelu, Director, IPRC assured all support to M/s Agnikul for testing and qualifying their launch vehicle.

The event ended with the wishes from the ISRO team to Agnikul for a grand success in their Space endeavor.