PSLV Launch opens new vistas; Modi’s vision inspires ISRO
With a space programme that is admittedly the most cost-effective, ISRO has travelled a long way since the launch of the Rohini satellite in 1980 using the Indian-made launch vehicle, SLV-3. Then came the PSLV, and later the GSLV rockets. The latest launch witnessed by Prime Minister Modi, was unique in two respects. First, it was a wholly commercial launch that brought revenue for the ISRO from abroad. Secondly, it was the 26th successive successful launch of the PSLV rocket. India has nearly perfected the PSLV technology. As regards the more powerful GSLV rockets, India has demonstrated its capabilities by using an indigenously developed cryogenic engine.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the space programme, observing that ISRO’s scientists have made India a member of the elite space club despite the crippling sanctions imposed by the western powers. The ISRO scientists have the last laugh now as they build their own satellites, launchers and most importantly, the cryogenic engine.
In the years to come, India will develop more powerful cryogenic engines that can power the GSLV rockets having lifting capabilities of about four tons. After this milestone is reached, ISRO, with its low-cost launch capability, will give the other commercial launchers like the NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), the Russian Space Agency (ROSCOMOS), and the China National Space Administration (CNSA) a run for their money.
With limited lift of the PSLV, India caters to a small part of the multi-million international market for space launch services.
Prime Minister Modi has outlined another very relevant vision for the ISRO. He feels, as the leading space power in South Asia, India has an obligation to offer satellite technology’s services to other nations in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation [SAARC]. These can be in areas such as telecommunications, earth observation, imaging etc. The SAARC countries can use the inputs to monitor natural disasters, forest cover, crop management and conduct of emergency relief operations.
Peaceful use of space technology forms the bedrock of India’s space programme. It would be, therefore, befitting for India to extend the fruits of space technology to its neighbors. In a very effective way, it will enhance projection of India’s soft power — an important component of India’s evolving foreign policy. Co-operation of this kind will assuage their concerns about India’s hostile big-brother attitude.
As the first step, ISRO must assess the exact needs of the SAARC countries and then design one or more satellites to cater to them. It is a grand new vision which should enthuse the ISRO scientists as much as it has inspired Mr. Modi.
With the solid backing of the Prime Minister, ISRO will have little problem in getting government funds and other such assistance. In the near future, revenue earnings from commercial launches may exceed the budgetary support from the government. In other words, it will feed money to the government coffer rather than drawing from it. It will be great day for Indian scientists.