India Eyes Satellite Launch Business
"The mission was perfect," said G Madhavan Nair, chairman of the state-run Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Mr. Nair was celebrating the latest successful launch by India of a mission with 10 satellites from the Sriharikota space center off India's east coast. With its headquarters in Bangalore, the ISRO employs approximately 20,000 people, with a budget of around US$815 million. Its mandate is the development of technologies related to space and their application to India's development. In addition to domestic payloads, it offers international launch services. ISRO currently launches satellites using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and the GSLV for geostationary satellites.
This latest success by ISRO makes India a serious contender in the fast growing $2.5B commercial satellite launch business expected to grow rapidly over the next several years. The BBC is reporting that the rocket carried an Indian mini satellite to gather technological data which will be available for sale, and eight tiny research satellites belonging to research facilities in Canada, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. India started its space program in 1963, and has since designed, built and launched its own satellites into space.
Last year, India put an Italian satellite into orbit for a fee of $11m. In January, India successfully launched an Israeli spy satellite into orbit using the PSLV, according to the BBC. The Israeli satellite launch drew strong protest from Iran amidst growing and multi-dimensional India-Israel collaboration. Israeli arms sales to India in 2006 were $1.5 billion, roughly the same as in each of the preceding three years as well. This from Israel’s total arms sales of $4.2 billion in 2006; the India market comprised more than one-third. A report by the Brookings Institution, a pro-Israeli US Think Tank, welcomed this collaboration and said, "The Israeli-Indian connection in commercial military and space intelligence fields is good for both countries and for the United States. In less than two decades since diplomatic ties were upgraded, New Delhi and Jerusalem have come a long way. Camp David was a pivotal moment on the way. The cooperation between Israel and India, with U.S. blessing, provides important security to two democratic countries in a very unstable part of the world."
India's own satellite named Technology Experiment Satellite (TES), which can be used as a spy satellite, has been beaming down what space officials call "excellent pictures". TES, launched in October 2001 from the Sriharikota launch pad, is a precursor for the launch of fully operational spy satellites. Indian Defense Minister has been touting India's satellite-based Military Surveillance and Reconnaissance System that was scheduled to become operational by 2007 allowing it to keep watch on developments in its neighborhood, including Pakistan and China. It has, however, been delayed with no new dates announced.
Beyond the Indian commercial ambitions, this milestone for India represents a strategic capability as an emerging economic, political and military power on the world stage. This is also a great comeback for ISRO about two years after a launch in 2006 had to be destroyed less than a minute after lift off when it veered from its path.
The Pakistan Space Agency or Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), the equivalent of ISRO in India, is the Pakistani state-run space agency responsible for Pakistan's space program. It was formed in September 1961 by the order of President Ayub Khan on the advice of Professor Dr Abdus Salam, Nobel Laureate, who was also made its founding director. The headquarters of SUPARCO is located in Islamabad, however with the development of Sonmiani it is expected that the new headquarters will be moved in the near future. The agency also has offices in Lahore and at Karachi (an engineering installation). SUPARCO has no launch capability of its own. It has relied on Chinese and Russian space agencies to launch its satellites Badr-1 and Badr-2.
SUPARCO saw major cuts in its budgets in the decades of 80s and 90s. Last year, its annual budget was a modest $6m. In fact, Pakistan had no communication satellites in space until 2003. The urgency to place its first satellite in a geo-Stationary Orbit was keenly felt in the middle of 2003, by which time Pakistan had already lost four of its five allotted space slots. The five slots were allotted to Pakistan by ITU (International Telecommunication Union) back in 1984, but the country failed to launch any satellite till 1995. That year Pakistan again applied for and received the five slots, but once again the government failed to get a satellite into orbit, losing four of it slots in the process. According to officials, if Pakistan had failed to launch its satellite by April 19, 2003, the country would have lost its fifth and last 38-degree east slot when the availability of these space slots is getting difficult every day.
Pakistan’s former Science and Technology Minister, Dr. Atta-ur Rehman said retention of the slot was important from commercial and strategic points of view as it would assure retention of a foothold in space. Air Vice Marshall Azhar Maud, Chairman NTC, said that a geo stationary satellite could be used to secure defence communication, act as a lookout for a missile attack and detect any nuclear detonation or explosion. M Nasim Shah of the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission(SUPARCO) said that the technology is vital for making the nuclear command and control mechanisms “credible”.
Recognizing that it is significantly lagging behind Indian Space program, President Pervez Musharraf has outlined his vision for SUPARCO by laying down a clearly defined agenda for the national space agency. Revitalization, restructuring, reorientation and modernization of SUPARCO are the main objectives outlined by President Musharraf. SUPARCO is to be brought at par with other successful space agencies of the world. Specific objectives include research and development of communication satellites, remote sensing satellites and satellite launch vehicles, with the objective of bringing rapid growth and socio-economic development in the fields of education, information technology, communications, agriculture sector, mineral excavation and atmospheric sciences. As an established and well recognized nuclear and missile power the next logical frontier for Pakistan is space. President Musharraf had made it clear that Pakistan would need to catch up to the world space leaders and make up for lost time and neglect in the past.
In 2001, Pakistan was reportedly in the process of developing its own Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV). Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, considered the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, said in March 2001 that Pakistani scientists were in the process of building the country's first SLV and that the project had been assigned to SUPARCO. According to Dr. Abdul Majid, chairman of SUPARCO, Pakistan envisaged a low-cost SLV in order to launch lightweight satellites into low-earth orbits. Dr. Khan also cited the fact that India had made rapid strides in the fields of SLV and satellite manufacture as another motivation for developing an indigenous launch capability. According to an Islamabad news source, the SLV would be derived from an already available missile launching system, which may be an indication that technologies acquired for the ballistic missile program would eventually be used to develop an SLV. All the experiments necessary to ready the SLV for a complete flight test have not been completed, although Pakistani scientists have tested three of the four stages. The nuclear proliferation allegations and events leading up to the Dr. A.Q. Khan's fall from grace and subsequent house arrest have clearly been a setback for Pakistan's space efforts.
India's success in space is likely to be seen in Pakistan as a threat, or at least a major challenge that they must respond to. Pakistan has a lot of catching up to do to try and reduce the gap between the space capabilities of the two nuclear-armed rivals in South Asia.
Just as Russia's Sputnik launch on October 4, 1957, spurred the Americans to respond with a comprehensive effort in space technology, the Indian success yesterday has the potential to serve as a wake-up call for Pakistanis to renew their efforts and focus on science and technology education, innovation and research to become competitive with India in space. Only time will tell if Pakistanis are really up to this challenge.
1. News Agency Reports
2. BBC News
3. Wikipedia Entries on ISRO, SUPARCO
4. CNS-Current and Future Space Security
In an unprecedented disciplinary action, four of the biggest names in the space community, including former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) G Madhavan Nair, have been barred from occupying any government position — current or in future — for their role in the Antrix-Devas deal, in which a private company was accused to have been wrongfully allotted S-band frequencies for radio waves.
A Bhaskarnarayana, former scientific secretary in ISRO; K R Sridharmurthi, former managing director of Antrix which is the marketing arm of ISRO; and K N Shankara, former director in ISRO’s satellite centre, are the others who have been penalised, according to an order issued by the Department of Space on January 13, 2012.
Nair, during whose tenure the contract was signed, is the recipient of the Padma Vibhushan. He is the chairman of the board of governors of IIT Patna.
The order, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, is signed by Sandhya Venugopal Sharma, director, Department of Space. While it does not specify the allegations against these scientists, the order says that the decision comes after the government “carefully considered” the report of the high-powered review committee set up on February 10, 2011 and that of another team set up on May 31, 2011.
The order, sent to all Secretaries of the Government of India and Chief Secretaries of state governments and Union Territories, says that these “former Officers of the Department of Space shall be excluded from re-employment, committee roles or any other important role under the government”.
Further, the order states that “these former officers shall be divested of any current assignment/consultancy with the government with immediate effect”. Ministries and departments concerned have been asked to communicate necessary action taken towards the same to the Department of Space.
The deal involved a contract that Antrix Corporation — whose mandate is to market technologies developed by ISRO — had signed with Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia in 2005. The multi-million dollar deal gave Devas bulk lease — 90 per cent — of transponders on two yet-to-be-launched satellites for supporting a range of satellite-based applications for mobile devices through S-band frequencies. For this, the company was given access to 70 MHz of the 150 MHz spectrum that ISRO owns in the S-band.
The Cabinet approved the building of these two satellites — GSAT-6 for Rs 269 crore and GSAT-6A for Rs 147 crore — in 2009. The cost of the launch of satellites was to be Rs 350 crore. Interestingly, the Cabinet was not informed that these two satellites were meant to be used by Devas, a fact admitted by ISRO. ...
In a bid to reduce dependence on foreign satellites for civil and military purposes, Pakistan plans to launch an aggressive space programme during the next fiscal year by initiating several projects.
The budget of the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Organisation (Suparco) for the upcoming fiscal year 2018-19 is Rs4.70 billion which includes Rs2.55bn for three new projects.
The funding includes allocation of Rs1.35bn for Pakistan Multi-Mission Satellite (PakSat- MM1) and the country is also planning to establish Pakistan Space Centre in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad with the allocation of Rs1bn. The third project is establishment of Space Application Research Centre in Karachi with the budget of Rs200 million in 2018-19.
The total cost of PakSat-MM1 is Rs27.57bn and that of the space centres is Rs26.91bn.
These projects are part of several ongoing and upcoming schemes to develop self-reliance capacity and reduce dependence on foreign satellites, mainly the US and French satellites for civil and military communications.
Analysts have stressed that advanced space programme is the need of time not only due to growing demand from the civil communications, including the GPS, mobile telephony and the internet but due to changing scenario in the region also.
“There are two unusual developments in the region effecting the strategic situation — first of all Pakistan has to keep an eye on Indian side and previously their programme had limited quality advancements but now the US has active cooperation with the Indian satellite programme,” Maria Sultan, a defence analyst said.
By: Usman Ansari
Pakistan has launched an ambitious satellite program as part of ongoing efforts to wean itself off dependence on foreign-owned assets for civil and military applications.
Pakistan’s domestic space agency, the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission, or SUPARCO, will receive a budget of just more than $40 million for fiscal 2018-2019.
Of this, some $22 million has been allocated for space centers related to the Pakistan Multi-Mission Satellite in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore, plus the establishment of a research center in Karachi.
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However, the final cost of all three aspects of the project is reported in local media as being in the region of $470 million.
No response from SUPARCO was forthcoming when asked by Defense News regarding details about foreign cooperation on this endeavor, although existing information on planned remote sensing satellite programs list an electro-optical sensor-equipped satellite, and a synthetic aperture radar-equipped example.
An existing communications satellite partially co-developed in Pakistan, PAKSAT-1R, was launched by China Great Wall Industry Corporation in 2011.
“It is essential for all countries that they free themselves from dependence on U.S.-location satellite programs,” said Brian Cloughley, author, analyst and former Australian defense attache to Islamabad.
“I have no doubt this has been [in] the cards for some time and that the Chinese are helping.”
Defense News previously reported that Pakistan’s military had access to China’s BeiDou satellite navigation system for military applications, which had special implications for the effectiveness of its sea-based deterrent.
Pakistan also has a long-standing satellite development agreement with Turkey, which has its own recently unveiled observation satellite program.
However, at present it is unknown if anything has resulted from this, or if it will be pushed further down the road.
Cloughley believes it would take a long time to come to fruition, making cooperation with China more likely still.
Also, on cost grounds alone for the new program, Cloughley believes it likely that reliance on China will grow.
“The big question about this development is about where the money is to come from. Pakistan’s economic situation is dire, and commitment to such a program will not meet with [International Monetary Fund] approval. The China connection will probably deepen even further,” he said.
Whether China’s satellite technology will meet Pakistan’s requirements is unknown.
Brian Weeden, director of program planning at Secure World Foundation and an expert in space technologies and satellites, is unaware of the details of any satellites China may be building for Pakistan. However, he “would rate China’s technology in these areas as fairly good.”
“They’re not yet as capable as the most advanced American or European commercial technology, let alone the U.S. or European military satellites, but the Chinese technology is rapidly improving,” he said.
India will send a manned flight into space by 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Wednesday as part of India’s independence day celebrations.
He said India will become the fourth country after Russia, the United States and China to achieve the feat and its astronaut could be a man or a woman. The space capsule that will transport India’s astronauts was tested a few days earlier.
Rakesh Sharma was the first Indian to travel in space, aboard a Soviet rocket in 1984. As part of its own space program, active since the 1960s, India has launched scores of satellites for itself and other countries and successfully put one in orbit around Mars in 2014.
It hopes to showcase its technological ability to explore the solar system while also using research from space and elsewhere to solve problems at home. The $1 billion-a-year space program has already helped develop satellite, communication and remote-sensing technologies and has been used to gauge underground water levels and predict weather in the country prone to cycles of drought and flood.
India won independence from British colonialists in 1947. Modi’s 80-minute speech, broadcast live from the historic Red Fort in New Delhi, comes months before national elections.
Modi listed his government’s achievements in the past four years in reforming the country’s economy, reducing poverty and corruption. He announced a health insurance scheme for 500 million poor people providing a cover of 500,000 rupees ($7,150) per family a year.
He said India will become a growth engine for the world economy as the “sleeping elephant” has started to run on the back of structural economic reforms.
He said its economy was seen as fragile before 2014 but was now attracting investment. India is the sixth-largest economy in the world and Modi said international institutions see India as giving strength to the world economy for the next three decades.
He said the structural reforms like a national tax replacing various state and local taxes, bankruptcy and insolvency laws, and a crackdown on corruption have helped transform the economy.
Modi became prime minister when his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won a resounding victory in the national elections in 2014. He will seek another 5-year term for his party at elections due by March-April next year.
Voyaging to Mars has captured the imagination of many Americans and inspired billionaires to talk of interplanetary colonization, but unfortunately, it makes little economic or scientific sense.
My colleague Andrea Rumbaugh reports from SpaceCom that "NASA wants to get people to Mars in the 2030s." While that's a romantic marketing tool to convince the public to pressure Congress to boost NASA's budget, it makes no sense when robots and virtual reality devices can do the job better, cheaper and safer.
Admittedly, this is a raging debate in scientific circles, but one the public needs to join in. There are even some serious questions about the value of the experiments underway on the International Space Station, not to mention the logistical challenge of sending humans on a three-year trip to Mars and back.
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Folks who want to go to space believe that only humans can truly explore, and that machines are a poor substitute. Yet robots are growing so sophisticated, and so capable, that many believe they will exceed human capabilities, just as no human can beat a computer anymore at playing chess, or the much more complex game called Go.
U.S. Air Force pilots on the ground in Nevada fly spy planes all over the world, 24 hours a day. The technology is so good that last year Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter "almost certainly will be, the last manned strike fighter aircraft the Department of the Navy will ever buy or fly."
Virtual reality goggles are also getting very good at giving people the sense of being outside their bodies. The right equipment mounted on a robot on another planet could allow every human on earth with Internet access a chance at feeling like they are on another planet.
So why go the expensive, manned spaceflight route? What often goes unstated is the role of business in lobbying for the most expensive space program possible.
In an era of low defense spending, companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin are looking for new government contracts to boost their bottom line. The Apollo program cost the United States $275 billion in today's dollars, and a single flight of the space shuttle cost $450 million, the main reason the program was discontinued. Boeing and Lockheed made fortunes on the programs.
The Mars Curiosity Rover cost $2.5 billion and is doing great work using fairly dated robotics and sensors. The same mission today could accomplish much more and cost less. In comparison, a manned mission to Mars is conservatively estimated to cost $100 billion. NASA could send 40 robots to many planets for the price of one manned trip to Mars.
NASA supporters like to talk about the technological benefits of spin-off technology. And that's perhaps the most compelling argument for sending robots and using virtual reality instead of sending humans. Both technologies have broad application in earth's economy, ranging from virtual trips to the Amazon to self-driving cars.
The rivalry between India and Pakistan seems to be extending into outer space.
“The first Pakistani will be sent to space in 2022,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Thursday, the same year that India is planning its first manned mission. Pakistan’s space agency, the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission, has “an agreement for this venture” with China’s Manned Space Agency, Chaudhry said.
While Pakistan’s financial capabilities for such a mission are seen as limited, the announcement still reflects the latest swipe between the two countries who have fought three wars since the partition of British India in 1947 and still trade fire across a de facto border in the disputed region of Kashmir.
The countries’ bitter rivalry is costing them $35 billion in annual trade, according to a World Bank report.
India has already conducted missions to Mars and the moon, and plans to spend $1.4 billion to send a crew of three to space by 2022, which would put it on track to become the fourth nation to send humans to space.
Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco), which is often criticised by Pakistani scientific community for not being on par with its Indian or Chinese counterparts, sent two satellites in space from a launching facility in China this July.
A surprise as it may be, one of the satellites launched the PakTES-1A, which was indigenously designed and developed by Pakistani engineers. Primarily aimed at remote sensing, the satellite is providing promising results, meeting or even exceeding expectations, a senior official of Suparco says.
Talking about the development phase of the satellite, the official says that it was a tough task to complete it on time because the launch date had already been fixed and a delay of not even a day could be afforded.
“The other satellite, PRSS-1, developed by China and Pakistan in collaboration, was due to launch on July 9, and PakTES-1A had to be co-launched, thus the Pakistani engineers worked day and night to have it ready by then,” he says.
There are currently astronomy societies in Pakistan’s cities of Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta. These societies were started and are being operated by amateur astronomers — enthusiasts who have little to no professional education in astronomy but are guided by their love for the universe.
Founded in 2008, the Karachi Astronomers Society is a society that is known for owning one of the biggest private telescopes in Pakistan. Chaired by a retired combat pilot of Pakistan Air Force Khalid Marwat, the society organises star parties for the public at different public places of the city, and sometimes the group also ventures out to dark skies for having a better view of the skies as compared to the massively light-polluted skies of the city of the lights.
The society has an 18-inch diameter telescope which is a prized possession of the society’s chairman Mr Marwat. Apart from that, Mehdi Hussain, former president of the society and an IT expert by profession, has built an astronomical observatory at his home’s rooftop. Named Kaastrodome (Karachi Astronomical Dome) the observatory is fitted with a 12-inch diameter telescope. The dome was built locally in Karachi and was supervised and funded privately by Mr Hussain and his brother Akbar Hussain, who also shares the same interest.
Karachi also is home to Pakistan’s biggest telescope, a 24-inch diameter telescope that is owned by astronomy enthusiast Naveed Merchant. This telescope is bigger than any other private or public telescope in Pakistan.
Recently, the society gained much attention after a photograph of the Moon by one of its members, Talha Zia, made it to NASA’s website Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD).
Mr Zia’s photograph was the first from Pakistan to make it to the prestigious listing of carefully selected astrophotos from around the world. 150 kilometres to the north of Karachi, the city of Hyderabad has its own astronomy society, the Hyderabad Astronomical Society.
The now-dormant society was founded by a group of students of Isra University including Amjad Nizamani and Zeeshan Ahmed on the eve of World Space Week 2011. This was the first-ever session on astronomy in the city and gained much media attention. The society also collaborated with Suparco to organise observing sessions at the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET) in Jamshoro, a city next to Hyderabad for the World Space Week 2012.
India's anti-satellite missile test created at least 400 pieces of orbital debris, the head of NASA says -- placing the International Space Station (ISS) and its astronauts at risk.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Monday that just 60 pieces of debris were large enough to track. Of those, 24 went above the apogee of the ISS, the point of the space station's orbit farthest from the Earth.
"That is a terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris at an apogee that goes above the International Space Station," Bridenstine said in a live-streamed NASA town hall meeting. "That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight."
He added: "It is not acceptable for us to allow people to create orbital debris fields that put at risk our people."
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on March 27 that the country had achieved a "historic feat" by shooting down its own low-orbit satellite with a ground-to-space missile.
Only three other countries -- the US, Russia and China -- have anti-satellite missile capabilities.
India's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the test was conducted in "the lower atmosphere to ensure that there is no space debris," and "whatever debris that is generated will decay and fall back onto the Earth within weeks."
But Bridenstine said the Indian test had increased the risk of small debris hitting the ISS by 44% over the 10 days immediately afterward.
"It's unacceptable, and NASA needs to be very clear about what its impact to us is," he added.
India election 2019: latest updates
India election 2019: latest updates
"We are charged with enabling more activities in space than we've ever seen before for the purpose of benefiting the human condition, whether it's pharmaceuticals or printing human organs in 3-D to save lives here on Earth, or manufacturing capabilities in space that you're not able to do in a gravity well.
"All of those are placed at risk when these kind of events happen — and when one country does it, then other countries feel like they have to do it as well."
NASA is tracking 23,000 pieces of orbital debris 10 centimeters (almost 4 inches) or bigger.
A third of all debris cataloged by NASA was created in 2007, when China conducted an anti-satellite test, and in 2009 when American and Russian communications satellites collided.
However Bridenstine said India's test was conducted low enough that "over time, this (debris) will all dissipate," with the ISS and all astronauts on board safe.
While the government claims that the ASAT test has provided ‘credible deterrence’ against threats to space-based assets from long-range missiles, a former ISRO Satellite Communication Engineer said that this won't be effective at all. "Most of the countries' satellites are in the higher orbit, and even with this India won't be able to knock out those satellites," he said. N Kalyan Raman, who has worked with ISRO for over two decades feels that it cannot be an "effective spy satellite".
According to Raman, this kind of 'deterrence' doesn't quite add up because as he puts it, "Not only will you be spending a lot, the enemy can always hit you." He also pointed out that there are various effective ways to spy on your enemy, and the anti-satellite weapon doesn't quite help in it. "In a war like situation, if a country wants to spy on its enemies there are various ways to do it-- for example, Google Earth. All you need is good resolution photos. Why do we even need this?" he asked.
Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT, told the Wired that while China can knock out all of India’s satellites India cannot do the same to China. "So it’s kind of a weird balance for India if it’s interested in getting into the anti-satellite deterrence game," he said.
India had acknowledged back in 2012 that it had the “building blocks” for ASAT technology, and it has since tested ballistic missiles that have that capability. However, this most recent test is the first time that India actually intercepted a satellite with one of its missiles.
Raman said that the anti-satellite test was more a demonstration of India’s ballistic missile defence system, rather than its ability to challenge its adversaries in space. "Most medium and long-range ballistic missiles reach apogees well above 300 kilometres, and it's not that simple to destroy them," he added.
Meanwhile, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has warned any nations contemplating ASAT weapons tests, like the one India carried, risk making a "mess" in space because of debris fields they can leave behind.
This anti-satellite weapon demonstration has a long history. It first came into existence in the Cold War/Space Race era, 1985 was the last time that the United States had used an anti-satellite system to destroy its P-781 satellite that had instruments aboard to study solar radiation. "Then was a paranoid situation. We don't live in those times anymore," Raman said. He said that if this was an effective tool in winning wars other countries would be interested in developing them too. But, they aren't.
He also said that space is occupied by multiple satellites of many countries. "The ASAT weapon won't give any strategic advantage, no country is dependent on one satellite," he said. "This is is just about optics. It's a part of the aggressive posture, this is just telling the country that we have muscle," he added.
Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai, an Indian scientist and innovator widely regarded as the father of India's space programme, had once said, "There is a real danger that developing nations may adopt a space programme largely for the glamour, devoting resources not through a recognition of the values of which we are talking about here, but from a desire to create a sham image nationally and internationally." Raman agrees.
Consequently, if India succeeds in developing anti-missile weapons, “Pakistan’s nuclear strike capability will undoubtedly be effectively weakened”.
India’s test of an anti-satellite weapon last month has made some experts in China conclude that the trial will feed into New Delhi’s bid to firm up its ballistic missile defences.
A blog posted on website guancha. cn, points out that by destroying a satellite at a height of 274 km during the March 27 test, India has taken a major step to develop its missing capacity to intercept incoming ballistic missiles at high altitudes.
The article, penned by Shi Yang, described as a foreign relations and military observer, says that so far India has shown the capacity to intercept short-range ballistic missiles at heights ranging from 30 km to 150 km. Its capability to target mid-range missiles has been limited.
But by striking a satellite at 274 km during the test, India is now on its way to developing a parallel capacity to destroy mid-range ballistic missiles at greater heights.
The article says that there is an overlap in the ASAT and anti-ballistic missile technology - destroying medium-range missiles is much harder. It is easier to strike a satellite, as its movement along its orbit is predictable and can be monitored over time. But the tasks involved in downing incoming ballistic missiles are far more complex.
“From detecting, locating, calculating the elements to intercepting the missile launch and meeting with the target, all processes must be performed before the missile hits,” says the blog.
Specifically, “the development of long-range radar equipment, and command and control systems required by an anti-missile system are obviously a huge challenge for India”.
Pakistan has been a major factor driving the advancement of India’s ballistic missile defences. “Because India and Pakistan have huge differences in overall national strength, India has an advantage in most areas, but in the field of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles, it is not much different from Pakistan,” the article observes.
Consequently, if India succeeds in developing anti-missile weapons, “Pakistan’s nuclear strike capability will undoubtedly be effectively weakened”.
India’s attempt to land a robotic spacecraft near the moon’s South Pole on Saturday appeared to end in failure.
The initial parts of the descent went smoothly. But less than two miles above the surface, the trajectory diverged from the planned path. The mission control room fell silent as communications from the lander were lost. A member of the staff was seen patting the back of K. Sivan, the director of India’s space program.
He later announced that the spacecraft was operating as expected until an altitude of 2.1 kilometers, or 1.3 miles. “The data is being analyzed,” he said.
The partial failure of the Chandrayaan-2 mission — an orbiter remains in operation — would delay the country’s bid to join an elite club of nations that have landed in one piece on the moon’s surface.
An Israeli nonprofit sent a small robotic spacecraft named Beresheet to the moon, but its landing attempt in April went awry in a manner similar to Chandrayaan-2. The initial descent went as planned, but then communications were lost near the surface. It was later discovered that a command to shut off the engine was incorrectly sent.
Chandrayaan-2 launched in July, taking a long, fuel-efficient path to the moon. Earlier this week, the 3,200-pound lander, named Vikram after Vikram A. Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space program, separated from the orbiter and maneuvered toward the moon’s surface.
Fifteen minutes before the planned landing, the Vikram lander was traveling at more than 2,000 miles per hour at an altitude of about 20 miles. Four of its engines fired to quickly slow it down as it headed toward its landing site on a high, flat plain near the South Pole. Later in the landing process, it appeared that Vikram was descending too fast and then data from the spacecraft ended.
The moon is littered with the remains of spacecraft that have tried and failed to land in one piece. Two American craft, from the robotic Surveyor series that helped blaze the trail for Apollo, crashed in the 1960s. Several probes from the Soviet Luna program also collided with the moon’s surface.
Applause swept through viewing parties in Bangalore for most of the lander’s descent. At the command center, scientists rose to their feet as they tracked the mission’s progress. When communication was abruptly lost, Sathya Narayanan, 21, an educator with Astroport, a group in Bangalore that spreads awareness about astronomy, said his heart dropped.
“At this point, it is a partial failure,” he said. “We will push until the end.”
While the mission may briefly soften the muscular nationalism espoused by Mr. Modi, whose government is already facing challenges from job losses and international criticism of his recent moves in the disputed territory of Kashmir, the prime minister tried to reframe Saturday’s landing attempt as an opportunity for improvement in brief remarks after contact was lost.
Hours later and back at the space center in Bangalore, the prime minister greeted the scientists, engineers and staff of the space agency after delivering a motivational speech that was broadcast nationally in India. He stopped short of stating explicitly that the lander had failed.
“We came very close, but we will need to cover more ground in the times to come,” he said.
Later in his address, Mr. Modi added, “As important as the final result is the journey and the effort. I can proudly say that the effort was worth it and so was the journey.”
Space has become a popular topic in India.