Tag Archives: ISRO

The Mission Readiness Review–Episode 5: NOAA Means NO!!

This site contains my opinions and ideas only, not the opinions or ideas of any organization I work for. It’s my idea playground, and I’m inviting you in. Welcome!

Click on the link below to get the latest TMRR episode. There will be no TMRR next week–I’m gonna be really, REALLY busy.

https://tmrr.podbean.com/e/episode-5-noaa-means-no/ .

On this episode we talk about: A space nation takes us to its leader; SpaceX and NOAA point fingers at each other; and India’s communications satellite just won’t speak up.

We are also on Google Play Music.

Intro background music POD Dreams by Stefan Kartenberg (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. dig.ccmixter.org/files/JeffSpeed68/56307 Ft: Debbizo, Michael Bacich.

Show links

Launch schedule: https://spaceflightnow.com/launch-schedule/

NOAA licensing: http://spacenews.com/noaa-speeds-up-remote-sensing-license-reviews-amid-broader-regulatory-changes/

SpaceX/NOAA: http://spacenews.com/noaa-explains-restriction-on-spacex-launch-webcast/

Asgardia: https://gizmodo.com/the-mostly-online-space-kingdom-of-asgardia-attempts-de-1824310853

Cult analysis: https://carm.org/cults-outline-analysis

Asgardia-1: https://asgardia.space/en/satellite/

Beer in Space: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-to-make-beer-in-space-180968404/


India Did WHAT??!

The Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle Mark III in action. Image from the ISRO.

What if you did something that was awesome, a first for you and your country, and the world just yawned? Can you imagine how irritating that would be? Especially if your accomplishment was nearly as important as certain other accomplishments that occurred weeks earlier? Imagine India being in that awkward position and the something significant they accomplished was a capsule re-entry test.

Yes, India tested a crew capsule last week. And barely anyone seemed to mention it. Compare this with the SLS/Orion hoo-rah-ing. Perhaps India’s focus is more on development than PR? (Doubtful, really. Most big organizations pursue PR like a lawyer chasing an ambulance.)

Last Friday, I happened upon an article in the Bangalore Mirror about India’s latest launch of a very big rocket–the Launch Vehicle Mark III (LVM3). On December 18, the LVM3 was finally successfully launched into the skies. More importantly, it carried a payload called the Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE). The whole idea of the launch was to test a few things, such as the LVM3 actually working as it should while pushing through the Earth’s atmosphere into space and that it was going in the direction it was supposed to go. CARE was another experiment, which really was designed to allow the Indians to understand the re-entry characteristics of the module itself (pictured below).

A lot of space objects floating in the oceans lately… Image from the ISRO.

So, again, the Indians are testing a crew capsule, and this time they dropped it from the LVM3 about 126 km (nearly 80 miles) above the Earth. According to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the crew module weighs 3775 kg (a little over 4 tons), which is just shy of the new LVM3’s Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) payload weight limit of 4,000 kg. The re-entry vehicle/crew module came back to Earth safely, using parachutes near the end of its descent. It landed in the Bay of Bengal and was recovered. The ISRO is considering the test of the rocket and the CARE mission a success.

India’s been rather busy with space this year. There’s the BIG mission, the Mars Orbiter Mission, which is now orbiting Mars and twittering pictures back to us (although it’s been fairly quiet lately). India is also halfway towards getting its own positioning, navigation, and timing satellite constellation, the IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System), in orbit. Now India caps it all off, literally, with a successful crew capsule test AND gaining the ability to lift heavier satellite payloads in orbit.

And who were the idiots saying this was a bad year for space? The glass is halfway full, people…

Update:  At the risk of turning this into an echo chamber, one of the people who liked this post actually has a very nice run-down of their watching the launch 11 kilometers away from the Satish Dhawan Space Center. It’s very short, but you can read about it right here: http://verseherder.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/a-concert-with-satellites-for-drummers/

The Indian Mechanical Martian

Image from Universe Today.

The above image is a great reminder of the playful part of conducting serious missions.  The latest mission to Mars in this case just arrived Tuesday and was placed into Mars’ orbit.  The country responsible for the mission?  India.

11 months ago, in November 2013, the Indians launched the Mangalyaan, or Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) with the goal of getting the spacecraft to Mars.  MOM is now in orbit around Mars, and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is happily posting Martian snapshots (below) taken from the Mars Colour Camera payload on Mangalyaan. You can follow the ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Twitter feed here.

Mars from MOM. Image from the ISRO’s Twitter feed. Posted 1121PM on 24 Sept 2014.

Side shot of Mars from MOM. Image from ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Twitter feed, 737AM 25 Sept 14.

A lot has been written about this mission’s low price tag of about $74 million, which is significantly lower than just ULA/DoD launch pricing of $450 million.  But I’ve already written about that part earlier in the year.

Why did India send out a probe to orbit Mars?  The ISRO is extremely interested in the processes that allowed for the loss of water on Mars (at least the Delhi Daily News says so–I didn’t see it as part of the ISRO’s written mission objectives).  They also want a map of Mars’ surface.  There are a few other parts to the ISRO’s scientific objectives for MOM involving the measuring of methane levels, and discovering what minerals the red planet is also composed of.

The ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission website has a decent amount of information, as well as a few videos and images, that are all about the mission, the spacecraft, and the new data they’re collecting now.  If you’re interested in this Indian spacecraft and its mission, then you should perhaps go there to read all about it.

Is it cool that India did this on a shoestring?  Yes.  Is it awesome they even did it at all?  Definitely.  Welcome to the Mars High Club, India!!

Skylon: They Do it with Smoke and Mirrors?

The proposed Skylon space transport. Looks a little SR-71 derivative, doesn’t it? Image from Wikimedia.org.

Every now and then I’ve heard of this Skylon space transport.  It sounds very interesting and I honestly hope technology like it does come to fruition.  But here’s the thing:  Skylon-related research has apparently been going on for over thirty years.  According to the wiki, which might contain some inaccuracies, the idea of horizontal take-off and landing with a single stage reusable spacecraft was starting to be explored by the United Kingdom government as early as 1982.  Skylon has cost UK taxpayers about $12 billion just in development (at least according to the wiki).  What has the result been thus far?

This is my question, because Skylon sounds very neat.  It seems like it would really be revolutionary if the technology becomes a reality.  But the catch is that I haven’t seen signs of Skylon approaching reality at all.  There are a few BBC videos of engine tests, but I’m not a engine specialist, and they could just be showing off a jet engine.  What I am seeing is a lot of “dog and pony” animations only of what Skylon could look like and what Skylon could do.  Maybe the BBC is part of the cheering section?

It looks like the Skylon animation budget is at least getting its money’s worth.  But the animations seem to be the only product from the Skylon program, which raises red flags to me.

Why?  Well, let’s look at a few other rocket programs, also aiming to be reusable and inexpensive.  SpaceX has been making a lot of noise and news about their Falcon 9 rocket.  Not only has the Falcon 9 been successful for the relatively new rocket company, but SpaceX have been developing many different technologies to make their rocket approach reusability (you can read up on some of those things, here).

While SpaceX is testing basically vertically launched and vertically landed rockets, Virgin Galactic seems to be edging more into the horizontally launched and landed rocket territory of the Skylon.  They’ve been test launching their rocket for a few years now, and SpaceShip one, the first of this type of Virgin Galactic rocket, first flew into space over 10 years ago, in June 2004.  There is no similar evidence of progress from Reaction Engines, Limited, which has been working on Skylon for nearly 25 years.

Even more distressing is the fact that Skylon is supposed to make access to space cheaper, which this CNN post states will be about $94 million per flight.  That price is cheaper than Arianespace and ULA rocket flights–however, SpaceX already advertises around a $6o million per rocket flight basic cost–without reusability thrown in.  And Musk has said he believes once his rockets attain reusability, the prices will suddenly be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range, not the ridiculous millions needed currently.

Virgin Galactic is selling seats for $250,000 a pop.  This means it will also be able to sell the option to launch payloads cheaply–definitely cheaper than $94 million.  Just to be more international, even India is managing to get payloads into geosynchronous orbit for about $70 million (and their system isn’t designed to be reusable).

Have either SpaceX or Virgin Galactic actually used their reusable rockets for any commercial launches yet?  No–but they are showing more than animations and engine tests.  They are showing actual rockets in flight with video of what their rockets are doing during testing.  Shouldn’t Skylon, after all of these years, be able to do the same thing?  And for cheaper than $94 million?  If that price is their goal, then isn’t that already heading for failure, because it just won’t be able to compete with cheaper possible reusable options?

Anyway, until they can actually fly a Skylon, the program will all be just smoke and mirrors to me.  And too expensive for my tastes.

Update:  Oh dear!  It seems there are true fans out there of this particular technology, just like with SpaceX.  Some care enough to clarify a few things about REL, Skylon, etc.and point out the initial pricing launch, which comes from ESA via CNN, is too high.  Read those comments if you wish to learn more.


PSLV: A SpaceX/ULA/Ariane Alternative?

A PSLV launch, but not this article’s PSLV launch. Image from Wikimedia.org.

The Indians continue proving they are in the space business for real.  The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), their success with the Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV), and their continued success with their latest launch today of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from the Satish Dhawan Space Center (formerly known as Sriharikota Launching Range), are all examples of India’s commitment to move forward into space.

Today’s PSLV launch successfully inserted a French SPOT 7 imagery satellite into a sun-synchronous low earth orbit (LEO).  Five small satellites were also boosted into orbit by PSLV:  Canada’s University of Toronto two satellites, numbered 4 and 5, from the Canadian advanced nanospace eXperiment program (CanX); one picosat (PSAT) and nanosat (NSAT) from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University VELOX-I; and a German ship-tracking satellite, Automatic Identification System satellite 1 (AISat 1).  All of these satellite will be in LEO as well.

Such an international satellite payload base should be no surprise when you consider the cost of a PSLV launch:  $75 million.  This is small change compared the to the mounting costs of launching a rocket through the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program run through the United Launch Alliance (ULA–about $450 million per launch–here’s why), but may be a little more that what a SpaceX launch costs ($56-$60 million).  PSLV even gives the Arianespace Ariane5 launches, which currently run at about $192 million per launch, some interesting competition.

While $75 million per launch nearly seems downright reasonable in the weird world of the space launch business, keep in mind that  that number is also nearly the price of what it cost India to run an entire Mars probe program, MOM, in which the probe, Mangalyaan, is expected to orbit the red planet this September.

GSLV, PSLV, and MOM–they are all proof positive to any doubters that the Indians are very serious about moving out into space.  Add in the very inexpensive costs of launch and space project management, and it shouldn’t be very surprising they are rapidly gaining space business from other nations.  IF the Indians, through their Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), can successfully keep the costs down while increasing launch frequency and availability, then this development could be quite a boon for India, economically, technologically, and perhaps socially(?).

I wonder if they have any work for me over there?  Hmmmm…