ISRO System for Safe and Sustainable Operation to help the country achieve Space Situational Awareness targets
Startups, numbering around 60, have been registered with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) ever since the Indian space sector was unlocked by the government. Among them, a slew of them are those that have initiated projects related to space debris management. Meanwhile, there are also those that have proposed activities in the nano-satellite, launch vehicle, ground systems, and research segments.
Union Minister of State for Science & Technology Dr Jitendra Singh, while inaugurating the ISRO System for Safe & Sustainable Operation (IS4OM) at the ISRO Control Centre in Bengaluru said that the passion of private players and innovative startups will augment the role of the Department of Space in protecting India’s interests in Space through the development of all-round capabilities in the domains of space transportation, debris management, infrastructure and applications.
It was only last month that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stated that when the strength of government Space institutions and the passion of India’s private sector will meet, not even the sky will be the limit.
Providing timely information of space environment
The newly inaugurated IS4OM facility is expected to take the country towards achieving its Space Situational Awareness targets. This is expected to be done through providing comprehensive and timely information of the space environment to users. This multi-domain awareness platform is seen as bringing in a prompt, accurate and efficient information on on-orbit collision, fragmentation, atmospheric re-entry risk, space based strategic information, hazardous asteroids and space weather forecast.
The IS4OM facility has been conceived with a holistic approach towards ensuring safety and sustainability while reaping the benefits of sustainable utilization of outer space for national development. It needs to be noted that the ISRO has been taking necessary measures to safeguard all its space assets from intentional and accidental close approaches by space objects including operational spacecraft and space debris objects. The Space Situational Awareness activities have many strategic implications such as identifying and monitoring other operational spacecraft with close approaches, having overpass over Indian region, intentional manoeuvres with suspicious motives and re-entry within the Indian region.
According to Dr Singh, the new IS4OM facility has the capability to support all routine operations safeguarding Indian space assets, mitigating collision threats from space objects through specific collision avoidance manoeuvres, information required for strategic purposes and research activities in space debris and space situational awareness.
Tracking space objects including debris
Stressing that the significance of radars and optical telescopes as the main ground-based facilities for tracking space objects including space debris needs to be highlighted, he added that this is because accurate orbital information from such ground-based sensors is a prerequisite for mitigating any collision threats to an operational space asset from other objects.
The backbone of the space situational awareness system is the network of observational facilities in which the nation is lagging behind other space faring nations. It is required to set up necessary Indian observational facilities for a meaningful and value added space situational awareness system development and alerts generation.
It has also been brought to the fore that the Long-Term Sustainability (LTS) of outer space activities is of great importance so as to ensure that the outer space remains utilizable to the future generations of mankind. The effective management of safe and sustainable operations in outer space entails a holistic approach encompassing multiple areas related to observation and monitoring of space objects and space environment, processing observations for orbit determination, object characterization and cataloguing, analysis of evolution of space environment, risk assessment and mitigation, data exchange and collaboration.