In­dia stakes its claim as a global space power

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

Any lin­ger­ing doubts as to the rise of In­dia as a global power when it comes to the peace­ful ex­plo­ration and ex­ploita­tion of outer space must fi­nally be put to rest with the suc­cess­ful test of Mis­sion Shakti and sub­se­quent putting into or­bit of Emisat, an elec­tronic in­tel­li­gence satel­lite.

Shakti, mean­ing ‘power’ in Hindi, saw the suc­cess­ful launch of an anti-satel­lite mis­sile on March 29, en­shrin­ing In­dia as the fourth great space su­per­power, on par with the US, Rus­sia and China.

De­signed by the De­fense Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO), it has demon­strated ca­pa­bil­i­ties to reach up to 30,000 kilo­me­ters.

Then, days af­ter the suc­cess­ful test of Mis­sion Shakti, the Indian Space Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ISRO) on April 1 used a PSLV-C45 rocket to launch Emisat, with 28 cus­tomer satel­lites on­board.

The feat was a first in many re­spects, as it wit­nessed ISRO plac­ing pay­loads in three or­bits in one launch for the first time. More­over, the fourth stage of the PSLV will turn into an or­bit­ing re­search plat­form for the con­duct of space re­search.

Re­spon­si­ble power

There was con­cern that Shakti would cre­ate some 400 pieces of de­bris in or­bit which could pose a threat to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion (ISS). How­ever, Shakti was de­signed specif­i­cally to min­i­mize de­bris by choos­ing a tar­get at an al­ti­tude of 300 kilo­me­ters.

This stands in stark con­trast to a sim­i­lar Chi­nese op­er­a­tion in 2007 at an al­ti­tude of 800 kilo­me­ters. While the 100,000 pieces of de­bris gen­er­ated by China will be in outer space for decades, the de­bris gen­er­ated by Shakti will be cleared within weeks.

Like­wise, Indian PM Naren­dra Modi him­self in­formed the world im­me­di­ately of the test, whereas China kept its test a se­cret un­til it was forced to ac­knowl­edge the launch af­ter in­tel­li­gence was gath­ered from other sources.

Thus, Shakti not only demon­strated In­dia’s space power but also the cred­i­bil­ity and re­spect In­dia en­joys in­ter­na­tion­ally.

This is fur­ther proven by the US stat­ing its “shared in­ter­ests [with In­dia] in space and sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal co­op­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing op­er­a­tion on safety and se­cu­rity in outer space.” Sim­i­larly, Rus­sia “high­lighted the non-di­rect­ness of the test as well as In­dia’s con­tin­ued peace­ful outer space pol­icy”.

The ra­tio­nale

The re­cent suc­cess of Shakti and Emisat aim to demon­strate In­dia’s in­dige­nous ca­pa­bil­i­ties and adds an­other achieve­ment to an al­ready well-es­tab­lished space pro­gram. More­over, In­dia proved it is one of the most pre­ferred des­ti­na­tions for na­tions as well as cor­po­ra­tions the world over from which to launch their satel­lites, fur­ther en­hanc­ing the coun­try’s eco­nomic po­ten­tial.

A sim­i­lar test to that of Shakti con­ducted by China in 2007 had the po­ten­tial to al­ter the strate­gic bal­ance

in the Indo-Pa­cific re­gion. How­ever, by car­ry­ing out the Shakti mis­sion with its in­her­ent de­ter­rence ob­jec­tive, In­dia has cor­rected the bal­ance.

The im­per­a­tive of Shakti was also driven home by In­dia’s ex­pe­ri­ence with the Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty, de­mon­strat­ing that it needs to be among the pow­ers with proven ca­pa­bil­ity to be able to sit at the de­ci­sion-mak­ing ta­ble.

Con­tin­u­ing a pol­icy for a peace­ful outer space

An ad­dress by PM Modi to in­form about the launch was de­signed to main­tain the trans­parency of In­dia’s space pro­gram as well as to re­it­er­ate, at the high­est level, In­dia’s con­tin­ued ad­her­ence to a peace­ful outer space pol­icy.

Ad­di­tion­ally, In­dia, in re­sponse to these re­cent ad­vances in space tech­nol­ogy, is likely to come up with a new space doc­trine that will not only high­light this as­pect but might also of­fer some in­no­va­tive mech­a­nisms to fur­ther en­sure a peace­ful outer space.

A proven space power

Even prior to Shakti and Emisat, In­dia had carved a niche for it­self in space and mis­sile tech­nol­ogy by host­ing the largest con­stel­la­tion of civil­ian satel­lites in the Indo-Pa­cific re­gion, hold­ing the world record for max­i­mum satel­lites launched in one go (104) and by car­ry­ing out tech­ni­cal and highly chal­leng­ing mis­sions like the Mars Or­biter Mis­sion.

How­ever, un­like some other pow­ers, In­dia has con­tin­ued to share its sci­en­tific pro­grams with the whole world, in­clud­ing its South Asian peers. To bring this point home, In­dia is the only coun­try to have launched satel­lites for a group of coun­tries for free, in the form of South Asian As­so­ci­a­tion for Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion (SAARC) satel­lites.

Photo: ISRO

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