India Shoots for the Moon

It is also becoming a player in the satellite launch business

4 min read

By the end of this month or in early January, India’s space agency is scheduled to launch a four-stage rocket to put satellites into low-Earth orbit for Indonesia and Argentina. This mission was also to include an Italian cartography satellite and the first test of the agency’s reentry and recovery technology. Next month India will test-launch a more powerful, three-stage rocket, designed to put much larger satellites into geosynchronous orbits. The third stage being introduced for this mission is of Indian design, rather than the Russian third stage previously used. Topping it all off, the year after next, India plans to launch a lunar probe, joining moon probes that China and Japan are readying for liftoffs in 2007.

All this activity testifies to a certain maturity that India’s space program has attained after several decades of steady effort and to the program’s growing international credibility and acceptance [see photo, "Liftoff"]. Its moon mission, Chandrayaan-I, will carry five instruments developed exclusively by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and six developed in whole or in part by foreign collaborators. Two were developed by NASA and one by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; three are duplicates of instruments that were on the European Space Agency’s SMART-1 lunar mission, which has just ended.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

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