Tag Archives: ISRO

India hires Russia to train its astronauts

The new colonial movement: India’s space agency ISRO has hired the Russians to train its astronauts for its first home-built manned mission, Gaganyaan, presently scheduled to fly in 2022.

This decision makes a lot of sense. First, the space programs of Russia and India have cooperated a lot in the past, with Russia launch India’s first astronaut on a Soyuz in 1984. Second, Russia has a great deal of experience training new astronauts from other countries, including tourists. Third, neither of the other countries with manned programs, the U.S. and China, have established systems for this kind of training. China has never training any outsiders, and NASA’s systems for this are not designed for efficiency. Moreover, it has been eight years since the U.S. put anyone in space. If I was India I would prefer using someone with recent experience.

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India to use PSLV 4th stage for orbital research and docking tests

The new colonial movement: India’s space agency ISRO now plans to conduct research, including docking tests, using the 4th stage of its PSLV rocket following normal commercial operations.

The PS4 is the last stage of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, which until now used to go waste after putting the spacecraft into the desired orbit. ISRO, in the last two attempts tried to keep PS4 alive in space, and was successful. As the next step, it has now called for experiments from national and international institutions. The experiments will cover six areas, including space docking

“The PS4-Orbital Platform (PS4-OP) refers to a novel idea formulated by ISRO to use the spent PS4 stage (fourth stage of PSLV) to carry out in-orbit scientific experiments for an extended duration of one to six months. The advantage being the stage has standard interfaces & packages for power generation, telemetry, tele-command, stabilization, orbit keeping & orbit maneuvering,” Isro said on Saturday.

All of this is engineering research, finding ways to operate in space effectively. More important, they are doing what SpaceX does, letting their commercial operations pay for their research and development. Rather than fly separate missions to do these engineering experiments, they will let their commercial customers pay for it.

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India’s PSLV launches Earth observation radar satellite

India’s PSLV rocket today successfully put a radar satellite designed to do Earth observations into orbit.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

7 China
5 SpaceX
4 Europe (Arianespace)
3 Russia
3 India

That India at this stage ties Russia says as much about India’s growing presence as a space power as it does about Russia’s fading presence.

In the national rankings, the U.S. still leads China 10 to 7.

Note: This and the last few posts were written from our hotel in London, near Covent Garden.

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Will India’s private space industry take off?

Link here. The article describes the presentations given during an event in India that included both government and commercial representatives of its space industry.

It appears that one of the concerns of India’s private space sector is the recent creation of a new division in ISRO, the country’s space agency, focused on making ISRO’s technology available to the private sector, for a fee. From the second link:

Reports citing official documents suggest that in order to facilitate transfer of technology, NSIL [Newspace India Limited] will take license from ISRO before sub-licensing them to the commercial players. The technology transfer envisaged through the NSIL will include India’s small satellite program, the small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV) program and the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). This would mean that services including launching of satellites can be undertaken by private entities once the license is procured by the NSIL.

Speaking to Times of India, Dr. Sivan, head of the ISRO, said that the NSIL will essentially become the connecting link for ISRO with commercial players to aid in technology transfer for a fee. As he put it: “We wanted a mechanism to transfer the technologies of our new projects like SSLV and even lithium-ion cells. With this company, ISRO will be able to smoothly transfer these technologies after charging fees. Once companies start mass production of small satellites and launchers, ISRO will be charging them for using its launch services.” In another interview, he had stated that he expected a demand for 2-3 SSLV rockets per month.

It appears the speakers at the conference had mixed opinions about NSIL. Some saw it as a direct competitor, holding significant advantages because already has guaranteed government funding. Others were more optimistic.

What strikes me is the decision by ISRO to have NSIL charge private companies for its technology. This is a very bad idea, for a number of reasons. First, it makes NSIL a power-broker over the private sector, able to pick its own favorites in that industry. Second, such schemes in government always lead to corruption and bribery. Third, the fees will act to squelch new companies unable to afford them.

The U.S. approach has always been that any technology developed by its government agencies is public knowledge, paid for by the taxpayer, and thus instantly available for use by any private operation at no charge. While this policy has its own pluses and minuses, in general it works far better at encouraging development and growth in the private sector, while limiting the power of government entities.

The structure of India’s new government entity, combined with the oppressive language proposed in 2017 for India’s space law, does not bode well for the growth of an independent and competitive commercial Indian aerospace industry. In fact, both suggest that India’s government-controlled space program is beginning to travel the typical road that all government programs all eventually travel: First they are innovative and successful. Then they grow in size and power. Finally they use that power to squelch any private competition to protect their turf.

It looks like ISRO is beginning to enter that third stage.

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India sets Chandrayaan-2 launch and lunar landing dates

India’s space agency ISRO has announced that the launch of Chandrayaan-2 will take place in a window from July 9 to July 16, and the landing of its Vikram rover will occur on September 6.

The delay in the landing is probably to allow Chandrayaan-2 to get to the Moon, then review the landing site to make sure it is acceptable.

This is not the first time they have announced a launch schedule for Chandrayaan-2 and then delayed it. This time however I think the dates are firm.

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ISRO delays Chandrayaan-2 to July

An unnamed official at India’s space agency ISRO has revealed that they have decided to further delay its lunar lander/rover Chandrayaan-2 until July following the landing failure of SpaceIL’s Beresheet on the Moon.

“We saw Israel’s example and we don’t want to take any risk. Despite Israel being such a technologically advanced country, the mission failed. We want the mission to be a success,” he said.

The launch of India’s Moon mission was scheduled in April but it was postponed after Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft crashed during moon landing early this month. The ambitious mission was a first for a private effort.

“Landing on the Moon is a very complex mission and all the exigencies have to be factored in,” the official added.

No reason was given for the delay, other than a desire to be cautious. While caution is often a wise thing in experimental engineering, too much caution can be a fatal flaw. Chandrayaan-2 was originally scheduled for launch in the first quarter of 2018. It has now been delayed repeatedly since then, with the only hint of a reason being an unconfirmed story suggesting it was damaged during ground tests.

If this damage is the reason, then ISRO should tell us. Otherwise, the agency is beginning to look like it is afraid to fly.

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Chandrayaan-2 likely delayed to July

The new colonial movement: The launch of India’s first lunar lander/rover, Chandrayaan-2, will likely be delayed again, from May until July.

This further delay is not confirmed by ISRO, India’s space agency. Nor is any clear reason given in the article above to explain this additional delay.

It would not surprise me however. The head of ISRO, K. Sivan, is a trained engineer. He has shown himself to be very willing to impose delays if he has any doubts about the success of the mission.

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India launches military satellite plus 28 smallsats

Capitalism in space: India today successfully used its PSLV rocket to launch one Indian military satellite plus 28 smallsats.

The rocket’s fourth stage demonstrated an additional capability.

Monday’s launch, the second of the year for India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), was tasked with a series of maneuvers for the rocket’s upper stage to insert twenty-nine deployable payloads into their pre-planned orbits over the first two hours of its flight.

Following separation of the last payload, the upper stage will maneuver to a final orbit where it will operate as a research platform, hosting three attached payloads to demonstrate this capability for future missions. The launch also tests out a new configuration for the PSLV, a further intermediate between the lightest and heaviest versions of the rocket.

UPDATE: Yesterday China also launched a communications satellite designed to facilitate in-space communications, using its Long March 3B rocket.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

4 China
3 SpaceX
3 Europe (Arianespace)
2 Russia
2 India

The U.S. continues to lead China in the national rankings 6 to 4.

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India opens its own Human Space Flight Center

The new colonial movement: India’s space agency ISRO today cut the ribbon in opening its new Human Space Flight Center, the facility that will supervise the designing and construction of their Gaganyaan manned mission, scheduled to launch by December 2021.

The Ganganyaan project head, R. Hutton, is the man whom ISRO’s boss, K. Sivan, gave an opportunity to speak at the most recent Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launch. He had been director of that program, and has now been promoted to head Gaganyaan.

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India’s PSLV rocket successfully launches military satellite

The new colonial movement: India today successfully launched a military reconnaissance satellite using a new configuration of its PSLV rocket.

The launch was broadcast live here and is still on-going as I write.

Thursday’s launch, the forty-sixth overall for the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), marks the maiden flight of the rocket’s new PSLV-DL configuration. Filling a gap in payload capacity between two of the rocket’s existing configuration, the PSLV-DL will help reduce the cost of India’s access to space. Its first payload consists of a demonstration satellite built around the rocket’s upper stage, testing this concept for future applications, and a military spacecraft with an imaging payload.

During the speeches after the launch, the head of ISRO, K. Sivan, did several things of note. First, he introduced the launch’s mission director and explained that this was his last PSLV launch, as he is leaving the program to take over important aspects of their manned program, dubbed Gaganyaan. Then he let this man speak, giving him a big platform that suggests he is definitely a rising star in their program. Unfortunately, I was not able to catch his name. We shall see him again, however, for sure.

Sivan also noted that the deadline for that first manned mission is December 2021. He also outlined the next few missions, including Chandrayaan-2 to the Moon.

The 2019 launch standings:

2 China
1 SpaceX
1 Japan
1 ULA
1 India

The U.S. and China are tied 2-2 in the national rankings.

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Chandrayaan-2 launch now scheduled for mid-April

The new colonial movement: India’s Chandrayaan-2 lander/rover mission to the south pole region of the Moon has now been re-scheduled for mid-April.

The launch date had to be pushed from the initially scheduled January-February window, as a few related tests could not be completed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). Isro chairman K Sivan told the media on Friday that the next available slot is during March-April, and the launch could take place by mid-April. However, if this window is passed, the prestigious mission will have to be pushed again to June.

The article also suggests that they have made some changes to the mission’s flight plan.

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India delays launch of Chandrayaan-2

India announced today that it is delaying the January 3, 2019 launch of its second lunar mission, the lander/rover Chandrayaan-2.

They have not announced a new launch date. Nor did they explain the cause of the delay. My suspicion is that K. Sivan, the head of their space agency ISRO, was not happy about some engineering issue, and demanded a review.

Unlike most such administrators, Sivan is an actual engineer who helped design and build India’s two rockets, the PSLV and GSLV. Last year, after the failure of one Indian satellite already in orbit, he recalled another Indian satellite from French Guiana only weeks before launch, had it brought back to India for a careful inspection to make sure it did not have the same problem. The move saved the satellite.

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India’s 2019 space plans

The new colonial movement: In outlining India’s plans for space in 2019, the head of India’s space agency ISRO revealed that they are going to try to complete fourteen launches, more than one per month and a pace that would double that nation’s previous annual record.

For the last two years ISRO has been making this same prediction. They failed to come close in either year. I suspect however that in 2019 they will have better luck.

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India’s government approves manned space program

The new colonial movement: India’s government yesterday approved the proposed manned space program put forth by ISRO, that nation’s space agency.

The Union Cabinet on Friday approved the Gaganyaan Programme with demonstration of Indian Human Spaceflight capability to low earth orbit for a mission duration ranging from one orbital period to a maximum of seven days. A human rated Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV MK-III) will be used to carry the orbital module which have the necessary provisions for sustaining a 3 member crew for the duration of the mission. Reportedly, India plans to call its astronauts “Vyomnauts”.

The total fund requirement for the programme is Rs 10,000 crore and will include the cost of technology development, flight hardware realization and essential infrastructure elements. So far, ISRO has spent Rs 173 crore in developing critical technologies needed for the for human space flight. Two unmanned flights and one manned flight will be undertaken as part of this programme.

The approval includes a deadline for the first manned mission of 40 months from today, or April 2022. This is an extremely tight schedule. I would not be surprised if they fail to meet it.

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India aims for 24 launches in 2019

The new colonial movement: India has set a goal of two launches per month in 2019, a rate that would more than triple its previous high of seven.

Though the article does not specify, I suspect that a large percentage of these launches will be suborbital test flights. Nonetheless, this goal is ambitious, and indicates a serious commitment to advancing their space effort.

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Today’s launch update

This post will change throughout the day. At the moment, India has successfully finished out the year with its seventh launch, placing an Indian military satellite into orbit with its GSLV rocket.

Seven launches matches India’s previous high from two years ago, but it is also far below their predicted 12 launches. I have a hunch next year will see that jump in launches, especially now that they have now successfully launched their GSLV rocket multiple times.

Meanwhile, Blue Origin is now targeting December 21, in two days, for its suborbital flight of New Shepard, while SpaceX decided to hold off on a launch today of an Air Force GPS satellite while it analyzes more closely the technical issue that scrubbed yesterday’s launch.

An Arianespace Soyuz rocket is set to launch a French military satellite from French Guiana very shortly, while a ULA Delta-4 Heavy is on track for the launch of a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spy satellite later today. I will provide updates later today.

UPDATE: Arianespace has successfully launched the French military satellite, using a Soyuz rocket. This was the eleventh launch for Arianespace this year, and its third Soyuz launch. Some might assign these Soyuz launches to Russia, but I consider them European launches because the business comes from Arianespace.

UPDATE: The ULA’s launch today was scrubbed due to the detection of a fuel leak. No word on when they will try again.

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Successful launch tonight for India’s PSLV rocket

The new colonial movement: India’s PSLV rocket successfully placed 31 satellites into orbit, including an Indian Landsat-type satellite plus 30 commercial smallsats.

This ties India with Japan at six launches for the year. With one more launch scheduled for this year, they should end up ahead of Japan.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race remain unchanged.

33 China
18 SpaceX
11 Russia
9 Europe (Arianespace)
8 ULA

At 95 total successful launches so far this year, 2018 now matches the total from 1993, the last time the global aerospace industry accomplished that many. That year, China and Japan had one launch each, Europe seven, with the rest by Russia and the U.S. Now the wealth is much more widely spread, and has a strong potential to grow significantly in the next few years.

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India wants international instruments for its Venus mission

The new colonial movement: India has requested science instruments proposals from the international community for its planned Venus orbiter, set to launch in 2023.

ISRO has already selected 12 instruments, proposed by Indian scientists, including cameras and chemical analyzers to study the atmosphere. Now, it’s hoping other scientists will join. “Planetary exploration should be all about global partnerships,” says Kailasavadivoo Sivan, a rocket scientist and ISRO’s chair. (The deadline for submitting proposals is 20 December.)

For me, the big news with this article is that it is the very first I have seen that actually spells out Sivan’s first name. Since he became head of ISRO in January 2018, he has only been listed as “K. Sivan” in every single article, even those describing his background when he was appointed. Now that I have learned what a tongue-twister that first name is, I can understand why they abbreviate it.

On a more serious note, this article indicates the growing maturity of India’s space effort. They not only are planning a mission to Venus, they will fly missions to the Moon in January and Mars in 2022, and intend to launch their first manned mission in that same time period.

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India to attempt four more launches in 2018

The new colonial movement: In outlining the success of yesterday’s GSLV launch, the head of India’s space agency noted that they will attempt to complete four more launches before the end of the year.

Following the missions, Mr Sivan said, in January next, ISRO would launch the Chandrayaan-II mission (lunar lander) which will be the first operational mission of the GSLV-Mk III-vehicle.

Addressing reporters after the successful launch of the second developmental flight GSLV-MkIII-D2 carrying communication satellite GSAT-29, he said, “we have to achieve 10 missions before January.”

“That is six satellite missions as well as four launch vehicle missions. Definitely, the task in front of us is very huge,” he said.

According to him, after Wednesday’s flight, the heaviest launcher of India has completed its development flights and is entering into the operational group of launchers of ISRO, that is along with the PSLV (polar satellite launch vehicle) and GSLV.

Four launches in six weeks would require a launch every week and a half. IF ISRO can do this, they will demonstrate the ability to launch almost weekly, a capability that would place them close to becoming a world power in space.

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India’s GSLV-Mark 3 rocket successfully launches communications satellite

The new colonial movement: India today successfully launched a new Indian communications satellite on the third launch of its larger GSLV-Mark 3 rocket.

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk.III, or GSLV Mk.III, is India’s newest and most powerful rocket. After making a suborbital demonstration launch in late 2014, the rocket made its first orbital mission last June when it deployed the GSAT-19 spacecraft.

Wednesday’s launch was designated D2, indicating that it was the rocket’s second developmental launch, however like last year’s flight its payload – GSAT-29 – is a fully operational satellite.

I have embedded a video of the launch below the fold. The launch occurs at about 25 minutes in.

With this success, the fifth launch this year by India, that country will be able to move forward on the January launch by the GSLV of its Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race remains unchanged:

31 China
17 SpaceX
10 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China continues to lead the U.S. in the national rankings, 31 to 28.
» Read more

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India completes test landing for its Chandrayaan-2 lunar lander

The new colonial movement: Using a scaled-down prototype to compensate for the Earth’s heavier gravity, India’s space agency ISRO has successfully completed a soft landing test of Chandrayaan-2’s lunar lander, dubbed Vikram.

Chandrayaan-2 is scheduled for a January launch, and besides the orbiter and Vikram lander, it will also carry a rover.

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Multiple launches today

Two launches today:

  • ULA’s last Delta 2 rocket launches ICESat-2 icecap tracking satellite for NASA
  • Indian’s PSLV rocket launches two British satellites

More details about ICESat-2 can be found here.

The PSLV launch raises India’s 2018 launch total to 4, tying Japan. The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

24 China
16 SpaceX
8 Russia
7 ULA
5 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. and China are once again tied at 24 each.

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India unveils spacesuit for Gaganyaam manned mission

The new colonial movement: India’s space agency ISRO this week unveiled the spacesuit it is designing for the Gaganyaam manned mission scheduled for 2022.

The new space-suit mentioned above has been developed by ISRO at its Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre over the last two years. ISRO showcased the space suit for the Gaganyaan crew at the Bengaluru Space Expo for the first time ever. As per reports, ISRO has developed two of such space suits to date and will also develop a third one prior to the testing of the manned mission in 2022. The space suit comes with a capacity of one oxygen cylinder that claims to hold enough oxygen for 60 minutes.

This suit is not being built for spacewalks, but as a backup should the spacecraft itself develop a leak.

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India teams up with France to prep for its first manned mission

The new colonial movement: India has signed a cooperative deal with France to provide them help in preparing for its first manned mission in 2022, now dubbed Gaganyaan by India’s press.

Following the signing of agreements between the two parties on Thursday, the agencies “will be combining their expertise in the fields of space medicine, astronaut health monitoring, life support, radiation protection, space debris protection and personal hygiene systems.”

The announcement was made by CNES [France’s space agency] president Jean-Yves Le Gall during the inaugural of Bengaluru Space Expo-2018 where he was the chief guest. It is being organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry along with ISRO and Antrix, the agency’s commercial arm, from September 6 to 8.

The two countries will also work together on other space research.

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India’s manned flight schedule revealed

The new colonial movement: K. Sivan, the head of India’s space agency ISRO, announced yesterday the planned flight program that will lead up to that nation’s first manned spaceflight in 2022.

The Indian Space Research Organisation will conduct two flights of unmanned space capsules about 30 months and 36 months from now in preparation for the country’s first manned space mission by 2022, space agency officials announced on Tuesday.

The manned space capsule will be designed for a five-to-seven day mission about 300km to 400km above the Earth, officials said, adding that Isro has for over a decade been developing key technologies for human space flight.

Isro has designed a three-person space capsule but how many astronauts will be sent in the first mission has not been decided yet, they said. Only Russia, the US and China have until now sent astronauts into space aboard their own spacecraft.

This entire program hinges on the repeated successful use of India’s most powerful rocket, the GSLV Mark 3, which has only flown once so far. Two more launches are scheduled through January, including one that will take India’s first lunar lander to the Moon.

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ISRO schedules Chandrayaan-2 launch for January 3rd

The new colonial movement: ISRO has now scheduled the launch of the lunar rover/lander Chandrayaan-2 on its most powerful rocket for January 3, 2019.

An increase in the spacecraft’s weight forced the space agency to switch launch rockets and use India’s most powerful rocket, the GSLV Mark 3.

The 3,890-kg Chandrayaan-2, which will be launched onboard the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk-3, will orbit around the moon and study its lunar conditions to collect data on its topography, mineralogy and exosphere.

A lander with rover which will separate from the spacecraft will orbit the moon, and then gradually descend on the lunar surface at a designated spot. The rover’s instruments will observe and study the lunar surface.

The lander has been named “Vikram” as a tribute to the pioneer of India’s space programme and former ISRO chairman (1963-71), Vikram Sarabhai, Sivan said.

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ISRO head: Recall of India satellite prevented a failure

K. Sivan, the chairman of ISRO, India’s space agency, revealed today that the decision to recall GSAT-11 in April just as it arrived in French Guiana for a May Ariane 5 launch prevented a major failure.

They had decided to recall it because two previous satellites had failed, using almost identical equipment. As he notes,

GSAT-11 had the same set of power system configuration that two older satellites had. RISAT-1 died prematurely and GSAT-6A lost communication contact soon after launch on March 29 because of suspected power system failure, harnesses etc… We had just sent GSAT-11 [to Guiana] and no one was sure if the same issue was there in GSAT-11,” he said.

Checks found that the provision or “margin” for the deployment of the solar panel was much smaller than was required. “Had it gone in that configuration, the panel [which generates power for the 15-year life] would not have deployed in space. The satellite would have been a failure.”

Because the recall cost money and delayed the launch significantly, it required the ability to look at the engineering honestly and not let politics interfere. Sivan and his managers did that, which speaks well for future space engineering from ISRO.

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Chandrayaan-2 delayed again, until January 2019

The new colonial movement: ISRO, India’s space agency, has revealed that the launch of its lunar rover/lander Chandrayaan-2 has been delayed from October to Janaury 2019.

Dr M Annadurai, Director of U R Rao Satellite Centre confirmed to NDTV that the launch date for Chandryaan-2 “is slipping to 2019” from the initially planned launch in October this year.

Dr Annadurai said that India’s moon mission now aims to land in February and the rocket launch will take place in January next year.

Moreover, since the weight of the Chandrayaan-2 satellite has increased, Dr Annadurai said that now instead of GSLV MK-II, GSLV MK-III will be used. Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle MK-III (GSLV MK-III), also called the ‘The Bahubali’, is India’s heaviest rocket that weighs nearly 640 tons and will be used to hoist the Chandrayaan-2 satellite from India’s rocket port at Sriharikota.

It appears that in building the spacecraft they have not been able to keep its weight low enough, and have been forced to switch launch vehicles, with this switch causing the delay.

The article also provides a tidbit of information about the GLSV MK-III rocket, that they have an real name for it, Bahubali. If so, they should use it. It sells much better than GLSV MK-III.

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India tests upgraded rocket engine

The new colonial movement: India’s space agency ISRO has successfully tested an upgraded version of the Vikas rocket engine it uses in its PSLV and GSLV rockets.

The test was conducted on Sunday, and validated the performance adequacy of Vikas Engine to be used in the upcoming second developmental flight of GSLV Mk-III

Vikas Engine, a workhorse liquid rocket engine designed by the Indian Space Research Organsiation (ISRO), powers the second stage of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) of India. It also powers the second stage and the fourth strap of Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and the twin-engine core liquid stage (L110) of GSLV Mk-III.

Essentially India here is doing what SpaceX did with its Merlin engine. Rather than start over with a new engine, they are upgrading it, a process that is faster and less expensive. And as they do it, they remain operational and competitive in the launch market, with as many as five launches now scheduled before the end of 2018.

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India tests launch abort system for its own manned capsule

India on July 5 successfully tested its own launch abort system for use on its own manned capsule.

The test was over in 259 seconds, during which the crew escape system along with crew module soared skyward, reached an altitude of nearly 2.7 km, swerved over the Bay of Bengal and floated back to Earth under its parachutes about 2.9 km from Sriharikota.

A video showing excerpts of the test can be viewed here.

India has not yet fully committed to building a manned capsule, but they have been moving forward on testing for several years now, and I expect them to make a commitment within the next year. In fact, I think it likely that India will be the fourth nation, after Russia, the U.S., and China, to launch its own astronauts into space on its own spacecraft.

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