Antariksham Weekly #08
ISRO and Covid-19 Updates, Indian Startups Agnikul and Skyroot receive funding, Bellatrix tests its Ion Thruster and more...
AO for Utilizing AstroSat data
ISRO released an announcement of opportunity (AO), inviting proposals from the Astronomy community of the nation for utilizing AstroSat archival data. AstroSat, India's first astronomy mission, celebrated its five years of operating in orbit last year. This AO is to use the third batch of data. ISRO earlier had released similar AOs for previous sets.
Presentations at the STSC 2021
The United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) organized the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) between 19th and 30th April 2021. Amongst many different presentations, ISRO officials gave three presentations.
Indian Space Programme: 2020 updates & priorities by R. Umamaheswaran
Space Technology Applications in India with relevance to COVID-19 by Shantanu Bhatawdekar
India's International Cooperation in Space by B. Pandian
ISRO and Covid-19
India is suffering through a gruesome second wave of Coronavirus infections. Once again, work in many centres of ISRO slowed down. At the same time, the National Space Agency employed its resources to sustain the efforts of the government to combat the second wave.
The work at Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC) suspended on 26th April regarding the increase of Covid-19 cases in the worker colonies. But they still continued the GSLV integration and Gaganyaan project at limited capacity. An Indian Express article quotes the SDSC director and the district collector regarding testing, treatment and vaccine facilities at SHAR. While the cases continued to rise, a vaccination drive was being conducted. There are reports of deaths of scientists and staff as well.
All these reports mean that most ISRO missions (as mentioned in the Annual Report) planned for this year are delayed. The space agency also decided to help the efforts of the government. The liquid propulsion centre at Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu, produces liquid oxygen for the cryogenic stage of the GSLV Mk III launch vehicle. ISRO started supplying oxygen from the centre to Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Chandigarh. It also fast-tracked the testing on ventilators designed last year at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.
Recently, ISRO chairman Dr K Sivan told TOI that the industrial partners had stopped work because of lockdown in the states while the work at ISRO centres has slowed down. He acknowledged the delay in all the missions while being still optimistic about the Gaganyaan first uncrewed flight in December this year.
The joint venture between NASA and ISRO, NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission is in the works. United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report stated the increase in the budget requirements and delay of the launch due to Covid-19 in both countries. NASA notified the US congress that a 15% increase in the baseline is expected.
At the same time, officials at NASA expect the launch to be delayed further than the expected September 2022. One primary reason for the delay would be the need for three successful launches of the GSLV Mk II before the NISAR launch. With the second wave prevalent in India, any launches from the SHAR are a rare possibility in the near future.
Indian Small Satellite Launch Vehicle startups Agnikul and Skyroot both announced raising $11 Million each. Both companies have made recent advancements by conducting tests on their engines. Agnikul is designing Agnibaan to launch up to 100 Kgs into orbit while Skyroot’s Vikram series would be capable of a maximum of 720 Kgs.
Bellatrix Aerospace, another Indian Space Start-up, successfully tested its hall-effect thruster for small satellites. The company will now prepare the technology for space on a European company satellite.
Team Indus, one of the first space companies in India, revealed their collaboration with Canadian company Mission Control Space Services. Together, they would demonstrate AI-powered autonomy on Team Indus's ECA micro-rover at Mission Control's facility, ahead of commercial missions to the Moon.
GareebScientist’s Exclusive Video on Bellatrix’s Hall-Effect Thruster:
Indian Payloads on Chinese Space Station
The United Nations (UNOOSA), in cooperation with China, published the 1st Announcement of Opportunity (AO), inviting the UN Member States to submit applications for conducting their scientific experiments onboard the Chinese Space Station in 2018. The final list of selected payload includes two with active Indian involvement.
The Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) and the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences are developing a spectrograph to map the galaxy forming clouds called nebulae.
IIT-BHU is working on a Micro-Gravity fluid experiment to test the mixing of various fluids at different temperatures in microgravity. Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in Belgium is collaborating on this payload.
Podcasts and Webinars
Dr S Somanath, Director of VSSC, ISRO | VJTI, Technovanza
Dr S Somanath gave a presentation on "Indian Space Enterprise" on 11th February 2021. In the presentation, Dr Somanath talks about the newly found Inspace and various Indian Space Startups. The key highlights of the talk, though, were future goals of the space agency in the launch vehicles front. Reddit user u/Ohsin listed a few highlights here.
NewSpace India Podcasts
As I have not posted in a long time (owing to my finals for PhD coursework), three NewSpace India podcasts were released.
Four decades spent on developing applications using space technology for India
A basic primer of how space industry works in India and the opportunities for anyone to start space companies