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What the Mars Mission means to India

What the Mars Mission means to India
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A lot. The extraordinary feat of Mangalyaan (also called Mars Orbiter Mission or MOM) getting into the Martian orbit could not have come at a better...

A lot. The extraordinary feat of Mangalyaan (also called Mars Orbiter Mission or MOM) getting into the Martian orbit could not have come at a better time. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call for ‘Make in India’ will get the much needed push, as India stands at the cusp of an influential position in the global economy

“It’s no longer science fiction,” said a beaming T K Alex, the former director of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and member of Indian Space Commission, soon after the spacecraft slipped into the smooth orbit around the Red Planet. Far from science fiction, to the delight of the 14,246 ISRO employees and millions of Indians who normally rejoice in unison whenever an Indian cricket team wins a match, the success of the 300-day space odyssey was nothing short of euphoria for a nation in transition; on threshold of turning into a superpower.

Omer Ahmed Siddiqui, Associate Editor, Geospatial Today, a niche magazine on geospatial technology says, “It is an extraordinary achievement. India had never communicated with satellites beyond 36,000 km. Now we are doing it across 400 million km. This will catapult India and place it right up there along with top space faring nations.”

The Mars Mission has happened at a time when India is about to assert itself on the world stage. With a strong government at the centre that has plans for rapid economic development with a thrust to turn India into a manufacturing hub, the success of Mangalyaan could not have come at a more opportune time.

“The time for India to assert itself has come, and it’s high time she claimed its share in the multi-billion dollar space market. This success is bound to have a cascading effect on other industries as well,” feels Dr Rajeswari Rajagopalan of the New Delhi-based think-tank Observer Research Foundation.

Sky is the limit

The mission to Mars opens up opportunities for India to capture the satellite market. Some reports predict a minimum growth of 15 per cent in the commercial launch market over the next few years. The advantage that India has is its proven ability to launch satellites at one-third the cost of others.

According to a report published by the Satellite Industry Association, the overall satellite industry revenue was US$195.2 billion in 2013. India did approximately US$240 million worth of business in 2013.

A senior official of Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of ISRO said, “With the discovery of the evidence of water on moon by Chandrayaan-1, the image of ISRO was raised and now with the success of Mangalyaan, smaller nations will look to ISRO for satellite launches. There is only one way and that is upward as far as ISRO is concerned.”

Though the satellite market is growing, some say that India needs to scale up and go to the next level, beyond Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and develop the more robust Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), which can carry 2,500-kg satellites into the geosynchronous orbit. A senior scientist at National Remote Sensing Centre, Hyderabad says, “The commercial market is interested in big satellites and large payloads. Though the PSLV has been a major workhorse for ISRO, if India has to garner a major pie in the sky, GSLV is the way.”

While India is bound to take advantage of its new found position and scale up its space programme, the domestic industry that supplies parts to ISRO too finds itself in a favourable position. Take for instance, MTAR Technologies, the Hyderabad based company that supplies aerospace engines to ISRO is looking forward to big business in the coming days. A V Sudhakar Reddy, DGM, MTAR Technologies proudly says, “The 10 N solenoid valve flexis and fluid controlled component modules for the spacecraft were supplied by MTAR. We are expecting huge business in the coming years as the satellite launch market in India is going to boom.”

MTAR has supplied over 100 Vikas engines to ISRO in the last 30 years. It is not without reason that Sudhakar Reddy is confident; during the 12th five-year plan period (2012-2017), ISRO has planned 58 missions.

Walchandnagar Industries, Godrej and Boyce, Avasarala Technologies, Ananth Technologies and MTAR Technologies are a few companies that ISRO has been working closely for decades, but there are hundreds more in the country that supply high precision parts to ISRO. Omer Ahmed Siddiqui says, “Many companies are bound to make a foray into this space, but ISRO has set very high standards, and one needs to match up to it. The scope is unlimited.”

India needs to enter into the Geosynchronous Satellite launch market by launching satellites weighing 6 tonnes and develop cryogenic engine technology, which is more powerful in launching heavy satellites.

The world is looking towards India as it can send a mission to Mars at a cost of just $74 m, which is considered peanuts in the present day. Even a cricket team in the Indian Premier League costs more.

Mangalyaan has already started sending pictures of Mars. The five scientific instruments include, a sensor that measures levels of methane in the Martian atmosphere, camera, and a thermal infrared imaging spectrometer that gauge the temperature on the planet’s surface. The detection of neutral gases will be helpful in understanding the red planet better.

“Being in the company of USA, Russia and Europe means a lot to Indians. The success of Mangalyaan gives us the power to believe, to dream and to excel,” says Aruna, a student of Kendriya Vidyalaya who nurtures a wish to study at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology at Thiruvananthapuram.

Hyderabad touch to Mangalyaan

While the Mangalyaan is on its job and various ISRO centres are busy tabulating the data sent by it, few companies in Hyderabad are basking in shared glory. For they have played a part in success of the mission by supplying parts.

Dr Subba Rao CMD, Ananth Technologies and P Ravinder Reddy Chariman, MTAR Technologies

MTAR Technologies, ASACO and Ananthy Technologies are few companies that supply state-of-the-art technolgies to ISRO. While the former two provide engines, MTAR has supplied over 100 engines to ISRO in the last 30 years, ASACO too has supplied about 150 engines.

Dr Subba Rao of Ananth Technologies says that the entire mainframe for the satellite is developed by Ananth Technologies.

It has established a centre in Bengaluru for ISRO satellites, telemetric, telecombine, orbit control and power distribution. Ananth Technologies works with ISRO in electronics and embedded systems for avionics.

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