India – USA space cooperation

  • IASbaba
  • February 15, 2023
  • 0
Science and Technology
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Context: India and the United States agreeing to advance space collaboration in several areas, under the ‘initiative on critical and emerging technology’ (ICET) umbrella, including human space exploration and commercial space partnership, comes at a crucial time for both countries.

  • This follows from the eighth meeting of the U.S.-India Civil Space Joint Working Group (CSJWG), that was held on January 30-31, 2023.

Space research cooperation:

  • In November 2022, the U.S. kicked off its Artemis programme by launching the Orion spacecraft towards the moon and bringing it safely back to earth.
  • India itself is set to embark on its first human spaceflight mission (Gaganyaan) in 2024.

  • The two countries have also taken significant strides in advancing the private space sector.
  • Together, these endeavours will shape and impact S. and Indian space policies and programmes over the next decade.
  • In this context, a S.-India collaboration seems straightforward.
  • India could secure technologies and expertise by collaborating with an advanced spacefaring nation; the U.S. could strengthen its relationship with India on a matter that seems less controversial than others.
  • But it is not straightforward: certain structural factors limit the extent to which the U.S. and India can collaborate in the short term.
  • This is why India-U.S. cooperation can advance at a measured pace, to enable sustainable long-term civilian and military space partnerships.

Structural factors which hinders sustained long term cooperation:

The mismatch in the two nations’ interests in outer space:

  • India’s scientific community is, at present, focused on building the nation’s capability in and under earth orbits (such as low earth orbit).
  • But The US has committed to returning to the moon — and this time to stay there for the long term.
  • Thus they are not focused on, as India is, maintaining capabilities in low-Earth orbit.

The asymmetry in capabilities:

  • The U.S. has the highest number of registered satellites in space.
  • It also has a range of launch vehicles serving both commercial and national-security needs.
  • The American private sector has also assumed the challenge of replacing the International Space Station by 2030 with many smaller stations.
    • The greatest challenge for India here is lack of capacity.
  • The country has just over 60 satellites in orbit and cannot undertake double-digit launches annually.
  • The Indian government also opened the space industry to the private sector only in 2020.

NASA’s Artemis Programme:

  • NASA’s Artemis mission is touted as the next generation of lunar exploration, and is named after the twin sister of Apollo from Greek mythology.
  • With the Artemis programme, NASA aims to land humans on the moon by 2024, and it also plans to land the first woman and first person of colour on the moon.
  • NASA will establish an Artemis Base Camp on the surface and a gateway (the lunar outpost around the Moon) in lunar orbit to aid exploration by robots and astronauts.
  • Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are also involved in this mission.

ISRO’s Gaganyaan Mission:

  • Gaganyaan is an Indian crewed orbital spacecraft that is intended to send 3 astronauts to space for a minimum of seven days by 2023, as part of the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme.
  • It will be for the first time that India will launch its manned mission to space, making the country fourth in line to have sent a human to space.

Solutions lies ahead:

  • Sustain the engagement between academics, the private sector and state-led entities in the two countries.
    • For example, collaborating on highly specialised projects such as the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission.
  • But these solutions are slow and not entirely suited for the new space age, where diplomacy struggles to keep up with the rate of technological innovation.
  • Promoting partnership between state and private entities.
    • For example, recently signed a convention of American and Indian aerospace companies to advance collaboration under the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) programme.
  • India could send its astronauts to train at American private companies.
    • This could help India reduce its dependence on Russia while ISRO builds its own astronaut training centre.
  • Promoting a consortium led by the government-owned NewSpace India Limited which involves private companies in the U.S.
  • This setup could accelerate India’s human spaceflight programme and give the U.S. an opportunity to accommodate Indian interests in earth orbits.

Way Forward:

India and USA can break new frontiers in space research and strategic cooperation as ‘natural allies’. But for that, Indian space agency and private sector must build their capacity and bridge the existing gap with USA.

Space industry observers believe that the space sector is poised for a three-fold expansion in the next two decades, propelled by the miniaturisation of satellites and the growing presence of a range of private players. As a result, India must rapidly develop its space capabilities, and cooperation with the world’s largest and most advanced space nation is the need of the hour.

Source : The Hindu

Previous Year Questions

Q.1) If a major solar storm (solar flare) reaches the Earth, which of the following are the possible effects on the Earth?

  1. GPS and navigation systems could fail.
  2. Tsunamis could occur at equatorial regions.
  3. Power grids could be damaged.
  4. Intense auroras could occur over much of the Earth.
  5. Forest fires could take place over much of the planet.
  6. Orbits of the satellites could be disturbed.
  7. Shortwave radio communication of the aircraft flying over polar regions could be interrupted.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1, 2, 4 and 5 only
  2. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 only
  3. 1, 3, 4, 6 and 7 only
  4. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7

Q.2) Which one of the following is a reason why astronomical distances are measured in light-years? (2021)

  1. Distance among stellar bodies do not change
  2. Gravity of stellar bodies does not change
  3. Light always travels in straight line
  4. Speed of light is always same


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