India's Space Program Suffers Setback

By Ameer Alam
The Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO) terminated the Chandrayaan-1 mission 18 hours after losing contact with the spacecraft on Aug 29, 09. The spacecraft completed less than half (10 months) of its two year mission life.

The initial inkling of something amiss came of May 19, 09 when the satellite was suddenly raised from a lunar orbit of 100 km to 200 km orbit. ISRO did not disclose the nature of the problems at that time, instead it claimed that "the higher altitude would enable further studies on gravity anomalies and imaging a wider swath of lunar surface". Later it was revealed that both the primary and secondary star trackers (sensor units), had failed on orbit. Star tracker is a part of the spacecraft attitude control system, which accurately orients the spacecraft and helps keep the cameras and other instruments properly aimed at the lunar surface. The ISRO controllers then switched to a less accurate option of a combination of gyroscopes, antenna-pointing data and lunar landmarks to determine spacecraft orientation.

To make matters worse the Chandrayaan-1 had earlier lost power supply to the satellite primary bus management unit due to overheating. The bus management unit is an on-board computer that performs real-time data, navigation and control processing for the satellite. After the secondary unit lost power the ground controllers stopped receiving telemetry data, radio contact was lost and the mission was abandoned.

Earlier on Aug 20, NASA and ISRO performed joint observations with their lunar orbiters to determine evidence of water/ice at the moon’s North Pole Erlanger Crater, using the US built Mini-SAR/Mini-RF devices. The hope was that bistatic imaging data will reveal whether the radars were actually seeing ice or just surface material with same characteristics. Later on Sep 3, 09 it was announced that the experiment failed because of the pointing problems (gyro drift of 0.8 deg/hr) with Indian spacecraft. Ground controllers managed to get data back from both spacecraft, but it turned out to be unusable. Further experiments were cancelled due to the loss of Indian spacecraft.

These failures are indicative of a lack of understanding of space environment; as a result erroneous thermal profiling caused cascading failures of the spacecraft equipment. Compared to Chandrayaan-1 the Chinese Chang’e-1 and the Japanese Selene lunar missions have performed beyond their expected mission life. The Chinese indigenous space programs continue to thrive despite the technological restrictions imposed by the West.

Nevertheless, Chandrayaan-1 completed 312 days in lunar orbit, circling the moon more than 3,400 times and providing a large volume of data from its suite of sensors which included the Terrain Mapping Camera, Hyper Spectral Imager and Moon Mineralogy Mapper. High-resolution cameras relayed over 70,000 digital images of the lunar surface, providing breathtaking views of mountains and craters, including those in the permanently shadowed area of the moon's polar region. The ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair declared that the mission was a success with 95% of the objectives achieved.

Ameer Alam
The Boeing Co
Space and Network Systems
Huntington Beach CA

Editor's Note: Ameer Alam believes that ISRO is not coming clean with actually what happened to the spacecraft. His view is that it is a great set back to India's space program. Ameer thinks that they are busy analyzing the data and will put out a report in six months (available only to the top govt officials).

Related Links:

India Space Probe Chandrayaan I

India in Moon Race with Big Dogs

China's Chang-e I Ends Lunar Mission with a Bang

Iran Launches Homegrown Satellite

Satellite Capabilities of Emerging Space-Competent Nations

Iran's Space Program

An Indian Analyst's assessment of Pakistan's Space Program


Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Russian report about Chanrayaan-1 suffering a "heat stroke" in space:

NEW DELHI, September 7 (RIA Novosti) - India's first lunar mission may have failed as a result of overheating, a national daily reported on Monday.

Chandrayaan-1 was launched in October 2008 and its main mission was conducting geological mapping of the Moon's surface aimed at producing a complete map of the chemical characteristics and 3-D topography. Chandrayaan means Moon Craft in Sanskrit.

According to The Times of India, Chandrayaan's orbit around the Moon was raised up to 200km (124 miles) from 100km (62 miles) earlier in May this year because of a blunder in calculating the Moon's temperature that led to a faulty thermal protection.

The paper quoted Dr. T. K. Alex, director of the satellite center at the Indian Space Research Organization, as saying that it had been assumed the temperature at 100km above the Moon's surface would be around 75 degrees Celsius (167 Fahrenheit). "However, it was more than 75 degrees and problems started to surface. We had to raise the orbit to 200km."

The paper said heating problems on the craft had begun last November, forcing some of the payloads to deactivate.

In early 2009, the orbiter's two star sensors started malfunctioning and then failed because of high temperatures. The sensors are crucial in determining the orientation of the craft in space.

The project was terminated on August 30, when communication with the spacecraft suddenly failed, although 95% of the scientific aims had been accomplished, according to space officials.

Despite the failure, Chandrayaan-1 managed to transmit excellent images including that of the solar eclipse on July 22.
Riaz Haq said…
There are reports that Pakistan is working on developing a satellite launch vehicle (SLV) called Taimur. It'll be based on Shaheen 2 design:

Pakistan successfully test-fired in four times a Shaheen-2 surface-to-surface ballistic missile. It has a range of 2,700 kilometres. It were the first test flights of the two stage solid-fuel Shaheen-2. The Shaheen-2 is the longest-range missile tested by Pakistan so far. Shaheen-2 is not an advanced version of Shaheen-1, which has a range of 700 kilometres.
All the planned technical parameters were successfully validated during the tests. The tests demonstrates Pakistan’s advanced scientific capability in the strategic field.
It is reported that the Shaheen 1 and 2 missiles have been developed by the Pakistan National Defence Complex (PNDC) with assistance from SUPARCO, the Pakistan space research organisation, and from the Atomic Energy Commission.

The Shaheen-1 (Hatf-4) is probably a copy of China's M-9 missile. The Shaheen-2 (Haft-6) is probably a copy of China's two-stage missile M-18.
The Shaheen-2 uses like the M-18, two aerospace solid rocket motors developed by China Hexi Chemical & Mechanical Company. A relevant motor for the first stage is the L-SpaB-140B with diameter of 1.40 m.

The future Space launch vehicle Taimur (three stage solid-fuel, diam. 1.40 m, length ~25 m) can transport a little scientific payload in a Low Earth Orbit. For the Taimur SLV is doubled the first stage of the Shaheen-2.
During the IDEAS 2002 defense exhibition Pakdef spotted two similar models of Pakistani Satellite Launch Vehicles. The first model points out a possible three stage SLV. Judging from other similar SLV's, it is estimated that it can place a payload weighing less than 80 kilogram to an orbit 450 kilometers above Earth's surface. The second model of the SLV seems similar to the first model however, with four extra boosters ( ? Abdali). Exact data are still unknown.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a report on space technology education in Pakistan:

The Institute of Space Technology is a federally chartered degree awarding institute established in 2002 under the aegis of PNSA. The programs offered are approved by Higher Education Commission of Pakistan as well as The Pakistan Engineering Council. Institute of Space Technology (IST) also offers Linked Graduate Programs in collaboration with foreign universities in a host of disciplines, providing a solution to earn a foreign degree economically.

Institute of Space Technology has admissions open to graduate programs.

IST, Indigenous Programs (Evening)

Islamabad Campus

* Aerospace Engineering
o Aerodynamics/CFD
o Propulsion
o Structural Design and Analysis
o Aerospace Vehicle Design
o Guidance, Navigation and Control
* Communication Engineering
o Wireless Communication
o Signal and Image Processing

IST (National Center RS&GIS – Karachi)

* Remote Sensing and Geo Information Science
* Geo-informatics
* Spatial Information Technology

Master’s and Ph.D. Linked Programs, IST and Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU), China

* Aerospace Engineering

Master’s and Ph.D. Linked Programs, IST and Beihang University (BUAA), China

* Aerospace Engineering
o Aerodynamics/CFD
o Propulsion
o Structural Design and Analysis
o Aerospace Vehicle Design Guidance
o Guidance, Navigation and Control
* Satellite Engineering
o Guidance, Navigation and Control
o Spacecraft Design and Applications
* Materials Science and Engineering
* Manufacturing Engineering
* Welding Engineering

Master’s Linked Program, IST and University of Surrey (UniS), UK

* Satellite Communications Engineering
* Electronics Engineering
* Mobile Communication Systems
* Mobile and Satellite Communication
* Space Technology and Planetary Exploration
Riaz Haq said…
Growing Space Focus in Sino-Indian Rivalry, November 12, 2010, By Global Intelligence Report Analysts:

ANALYSIS: Pakistan’s Ambassador to China, Masood Khan, signed a loan agreement with the government-owned Export-Import Bank of China on 9 October to finance the ground control apparatus for a new ‘Paksat-1R’ communications satellite, to be launched on 14 August 2011. This bilateral effort to ensure technical interchange illustrates space as a growing area of contestation in regional strategic developments.

Chinese Space Outreach: This satellite project builds upon a substantial history of China serving as a reliable supplier of sensitive military technology to Pakistan. China launched Pakistan’s first indigenous satellite, Badr-A, in 1990 from Xichang Launch Center in Sichuan. The operation of this satellite gave Pakistani scientists practical understanding of telemetry, orbital patterns, surveillance, and Chinese launch platforms.

The Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), headquartered in Beijing, was established in 2005 to improve Chinese multilateral space collaboration. APSCO members include Bangladesh, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru, and Thailand. International technical cooperation enables Beijing to encourage interoperability with Chinese rocket technology and obtain a greater share of the international commercial launch market.

Achievements in civilian space programs can have great relevance to military projects. Civilian and military rockets utilize similar propulsion, positioning, and control technologies. Space cooperation can therefore serve dual purposes, and support Chinese strategic as well as commercial aims in placing Chinese assistance at the heart of rocket programs of potential allies.

Chinese Strategic Developments: A core aim of Chinese strategic planning is to improve its utilization of space-borne assets. Chinese Air Force Commander General Xu Qilang commented in November 2009 that “as far as the revolution in military affairs is concerned, the competition between military forces is moving towards outer space…this is a historical inevitability and cannot be turned back”.

China’s determination to hold the option of denying the use of space-based capabilities to other states was illuminated in its successful test of an anti-satellite weapon in January 2007, eliminating an old Chinese weather satellite. Building upon this experience, Beijing conducted its first ballistic missile defense (BMD) test on 11 January 2010.

China is developing a geospatial positioning Compass Navigation Satellite System (CNSS), equivalent to the American GPS and Russian GLONASS systems. This will further improve military targeting and location abilities, while offering civilians a satellite positioning service that heralds Chinese technical acumen. Beijing also seeks to launch a manned space lab by 2020.

Indian Capabilities: New Delhi shares the recognition by Beijing of the importance of a wide range of space capabilities as an indispensable element of a robust defense. India’s ‘Phase 1′ BMD system incorporates the Prithvi Air Defense missile for high-altitude elimination of adversary missiles, and an Advanced Air Defense system for low-altitude interception. Supportive radar technology for this system has been sourced from Israel.

This system has been successfully tested and is moving toward active service. An improved ‘PDV’ interceptor is in development to replace the Prithvi Air Defense missile. The ‘Phase 1′ system is designed to target missiles with a maximum range of 2,000km, such as the Pakistani Shaheen-2 and Ghauri missiles. A ‘Phase 2′ system is planned for missiles with a range greater than 2,000km, implicitly those of Chinese origin.
American Leverage: The Indian Space Research Organisation is working with NASA on lunar exploration tasks. Indian diplomats are seeking for Washington to lift remaining restrictions ......
Riaz Haq said…
Former ISRO chief Madhavan Nair barred from holding Indian govt jobs, reports The Indian Express:

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. ...

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