The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has outlined its plan for the next decade in line with global directions. The space agency is planning to work on developing a 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.
Due to restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many of the launches that ISRO had planned for 2020 were delayed. In 2020, ISRO could launch only two missions — one in November and the other in December 2020 as against six launch vehicle missions and seven satellite missions in 2019.
Isro Chairman K Sivan said that the last decade was a decade of many firsts in almost all the verticals of the organisation. For example, the operationalisation of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (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 and on-demand delivery of space-based services through satellite constellations," said Sivan, adding that that 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.
He added, the new paradigms in manufacturing as well as the advances made in artificial intelligence & machine learning are being maximally exploited to realise 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 need 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, he said.
Every centre of Isro has been directed to work out a decadal plan, considering the expanded capabilities required in the short term as well as the long term.
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 semi cryogenic propulsion capability, which is expected to boost Isro's Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit payload capability to almost 5.5 tonnes while also focusing on LOX/Methane propulsion, green propulsion as well as electric propulsion.
At U R Rao Satellite Centre, Isro's lead centre for satellites, emphasis will be on satellite constellation for broadband communication, all electric satellite platform and high performance satellite platforms in all the application areas.
Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikotta 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.
Similarly other centers will work on respective plans.
"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," said Sivan adding that The Human Space Flight Centre is a body under Indian Space Research Organisation to coordinate Indian Human Spaceflight Programme in association with all Isro centres/units, 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.
In the short term, Isro has 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, Isro used all its resources at its disposal to achieve a firm foundation for the next decade. Those months were utilised as a period of introspection and planning to review the R&D and technology development in the individual centres and units along with the formulation of the individual decadal plans.