Page 25 - ScienceIndia Magazine March 2021
P. 25

         n Dr Chaitanya Giri
An Indian Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Space Station is not a dream of the distant future. By the 2030s, it could glean slightly above the blue skies at an altitude of 100-200 kilometers from the Earth’s surface. India’s Geosynchronous Space Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III) and the currently under-design Unified Launch Vehicle (ULV) are preparing to ferry vyomanauts and supply logistics to the Indian space station. The station could host numerous experiments, test, evalu- ate various prototype technologies, and carry out myriad space biology and space medicine evaluations. The opportunities with a space station are immense, but the real question is, will India put in efforts to make it as exceptional as possible?
The Indian LEO Space Station will emerge on the space scene in a decade when the LEO will teem with commer- cially-run space stations. The Chinese Large Modular Space Station would have also settled in orbit and gathered
GSLV Mk III is preparing to ferry vyomanauts and supply logistics to the Indian space station
its international partners to join them on various missions onboard. The Chinese space diplomacy has already begun.
The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) entered into an agreement with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs known as the United Na- tions/China Cooperation on the Utiliza- tion of the China Space Station under the aegis of the latter’s Access to Space for All Initiative. Through this joint ini-
tiative, nine experiments from scientific institutions worldwide, including the Indian Institute for Astrophysics, Ben- galuru, and Indian Institute of Technol- ogy, Varanasi, have been selected to go onboard the Chinese space station.
The International Space Station will eventually accrue newer modules, which will replace some of the existing structure built by private space station module builder Axiom Space. Another private company, Bigelow Aerospace, is also advancing towards building a new space station in the LEO made from nov- el inflatable materials. These examples do not imply the end of multilateralism in terms of human spaceflight. The U.S.’ Donald Trump administration had se- cured partnerships from space agencies of Australia, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Ja- pan, UAE, UK, Ukraine, including the European Space Agency, for its Artemis programme. Through this programme, these countries led by the U.S. aim to set up a space station in the orbit of the Moon, the first of its kind.
In the coming years, China and its partners, and the U.S. and its partners will compete in outer space, and space stations will be essential to their con- test. In such a scenario, India must assess whether it will be able to rally potential partners for its space station. If yes, can it successfully attract those space agen-
Making Indian
LEO Space Station
As India is a late entrant to human spaceflight programme, it will have to make up by partnering with countries
outside China-US astropolitical blocs and give them access to space station
        Image Courtesy: ISRO

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