BENGLAURU: India’s first human spaceflight mission (Gaganyaan), which has already seen multiple countries providing assistance — Russia and France primarily — will also see Australia establishing a transportable terminal for tracking.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) and Australian Space Agency (ASA) are in talks for the said terminal, which is likely to come up at Cocos (Keeling) Islands, as part of continuing space co-operation between the two countries.
“As India prepares to become the fourth country to launch humans into space, the Australian Space Agency is leading cross-government coordination on Isro’s request to place temporary ground station tracking facilities in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands to support the Gaganyaan mission. This includes facilitating advice to Isro from a number of Commonwealth agencies which will need to grant approvals for the project to go ahead,” an ASA spokesperson told TOI from Adelaide.
Sources in Isro said that the terminal will have Indian instruments. “We will need a 360° view for Gaganyaan as we cannot afford to have any blind spot. So, apart from all our regular tracking facilities — both Indian and other partners’ that are used for other launches — we are keen on having one at Cocos Islands. We will be using our own land-based tracking instruments at the facility,” one source said.
The ASA spokesperson added that aside from Gaganyaan, the agency is keen on working closely with Isro on a number of other aspects through a strategic partnership.
“…India’s recent draft Space Policy heralds a new age for private sector involvement in India’s space industry and can lead to increased international industry collaboration. The (Indian) government is seeking to expand its international space cooperation with Australia focused on Earth observation; satellite communications; telemetry and tracking; space exploration; space laws; and capability building, and we welcome this,” the spokesperson said.
As reported by TOI earlier, Isro is targeting to launch the first uncrewed mission as part of Gaganyaan by the end of this year.
Last week, sources said Isro chairman K Sivan reviewed a crucial aspect of the programme — the human-rating of GSLV-MkIII. He had visited VSSC (Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre). Some important modifications on systems to render them safe for humans have already been carried out and Isro is in the process of testing and evaluating them.
With finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman having announced the uncrewed mission as part of the union budget a significant part of the human resource in the space agency is dedicated to work on Gaganyaan this year, which will be Isro’s main project.