Indian Defence News [View All Articles]

The World gets set for Race to Space

Six decades after the erstwhile Soviet Union stole a lead in the space race by launching the Soyuz rocket ahead of the US, a fresh round of jousting seems to have reached critical mass. Even as the Trump Administration plans a contentious Space Force and Nasa looks to intensify its efforts to explore Mars and deep space, PM Narendra Modi has announced a human space mission by 2022. Space race 2.0 also has private players looking beyond the skies. Here is a low-down on the great flight.


USA ::
History: After losing the race to be the first country to have a human in space, Nasa won the one to land humans on the moon in July 1969. From then on the US has made leaps in space, with reusable space shuttles, exploratory programmes of Mars, Saturn and the Sun.

The flameouts: Space shuttles have proven to be lethal. Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff and in 2003, Columbia disintegrated, ending the space shuttle mission and America's manned space flight programme. Since then, Nasa has focused its energies on more distant planets, but has also seen some of its space thunder stolen by private companies flush with funds and massive ambitions.

Now focusing on: The International Space Station, made by the US, Russia and others, has been operational since 2000. The country has now looking at a craft to land humans on Mars, developing plans to take people back to space and unmanned deep space exploration units. Nasa's InSight mars craft is expected to land on the planet in late November this year. The country's V-P Mike Pence announced in August plans for a space force to seemingly police the skies.


Russia ::
History: The USSR was the first country to put a human in space. It lost some of the lead to the US in 1969, when Neil Armstrong stepped on the lunar surface. But the USSR scored with the 1986 launch of space station Mir (in pic), which outlived the republic itself. Mir became a legend and has several firsts to its credit.

The flameouts: The country’s space programme has seen several problems from the mid to late 1960s to the early 70s, when multiple versions of the Soyuz spacecraft saw fatal crashes. The Proton rockets failed in 2013 and 2014. Since then, the government has tightened the reigns on the space programme, consolidating two space units into one.

Now focusing on: The attention now is to provide key components to the International Space Station, make a moon orbiter and a Venus lander. A Mars mission is also on the cards. It also wants to build a new family of rockets and piloted spacecraft. In mid-August, the US called out the "abnormal" behaviour of a Russian satellite that it feared could be used as a deadly weapon from space. Russia denied any underhand plans.


China ::
History: Confronted with two giants on the brink of space war, China decided to build its own capabilities, starting with its first rocket in 1970 and all the way to the Shenzou Space Craft in 1999. The Chinese Lunar Exploration Programme was launched in 2007. The country's space station, Tiangong 1, crashed earlier this year, after ground teams lost control of the space station.

The flameouts: The third country to put a human in space has been frozen out of Nasa's initiatives since 2011 because of security issues. The crash of its Long March heavy rocket was a setback.

Now focusing on: It plans to launch a series of rockets that could lead to a manned spacecraft in five years. It plans to launch multiple lunar missions and global coverage for its BeiDou navigation system by 2020. It also wants to capture an asteroid and has planned a mission to Mars.


India ::
History: Starting with the Arybhatta satellite in 1975, India has been scaling up its space ambitions steadily. India's launch vehicle ambitions have soared with the success of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. Its satellite ambitions have been scaled up to encompass a regional satellite navigation system, launched two years ago.

The flameouts: The Indian Space Research Agency has dealt with two failures in the past year and as many as eight dating back to 1979.

Now focusing on: The aim is to launch a crewed space flight by 2022, and uncrewed missions to the moon, Venus and Mars. Chandrayan 2, India's second moon mission, is due for launch early next year.


ESA (Europe) ::
History: Europe's space push dates back to 1960, when the first tentative pact was signed to set up a joint space agency. The European Space Agency today has 22 member-countries and more than 120 satellite launches.

The flameouts: Like other agencies, ESA faced some struggles, with a Cluster earth observation mission failing to launch in 1996 and, more recently, a Mars lander crashed due to data glitch.

Now focusing on: Beyond an interest in immediate space and the moon, ESA has plans to reach Venus, Mars and Jupiter, besides venturing into deep space.


Corporate Interests ::
Investors put in nearly $4 billion into space ventures in 2017 alone, according to deal tracker Space Angels.

Company: SpaceX

Founded: May 2002 Founder: Elon Musk

Focus & progress: Enable cheaper space flights with reusable craft. Has developed Falcon launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft to meet its goals. The firm has raised over $1.5 billion to fuel its space ambitions and has won contracts from Nasa and a $130 million contract from the US Air Force to launch military satellites using its Falcon rockets.


Blue Origin ::
Founded: September 2000 Founder: Jeff Bezos.

Focus & progress: Nearly two decades after the company was founded, it is slowly moving towards taking passengers to space by the end of the year. Tickets might cost $20,000-30,000 a person. This firm which gets a $1 billion annually from Bezos, according to one estimate, has developed a range of spacecraft to fulfil these plans. It is working with both Nasa and Darpa on space plane and craft programmes.


Stratolaunch ::
Founded: 2011 Founder: Paul Allen

Focus & progress: The Microsoft cofounder has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into developing a series of flying craft to transport satellites and other payloads. Allen told Wired that his firm would charge $30 million, or half of SpaceX's reported fee, to launch satellites into orbit. A mid-size rocket called Kraken will be operational by 2022, the maverick entrepreneur claimed. There are also plans to fly astronauts to space.


Virgin Galactic ::
Founded: 2004 Founder: Richard Branson

Focus & progress: The firm wants to provide a high-speed ride for well-heeled space tourists and a craft to deliver small payloads to businesses. The progress has been spotty. Launches have been often delayed and a calamitous crash of its first vehicle pushed the programme back. In 2017, the small satellite launch business was spun off into a separate company. Branson has signed up with some 700 wannabe space tourists, each paying a reported $250,000.

Defence News Poll
Pakistan brutally kills BSF Jawan, attempts to behead him. Should India boycott Asia Cup match with Pakistan?


  
View Result  |  Archive