By Staff Correspondent
India’s space authority, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is set to punctuate the country’s burgeoning status as a significant player in space exploration and commerce with the imminent launch of a lunar mission. The attempt by India to land a rover on the moon positions it among the elite group of the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China, which have accomplished successful moon landings previously.
The ISRO’s moon-bound Chandrayaan-3, assembled with a budget of just under $75 million, is prepared for lift-off from Andhra Pradesh’s primary spaceport at 2:35 p.m. local time (0905 GMT). This launch represents the country’s premier venture since Narendra Modi’s government introduced initiatives to foster private sector investment in space missions and related satellite industries.
Government officials have outlined ambitious plans for the nation’s space firms to expand their global launch market share to 10% within the coming decade, a significant leap from the 2% revenue share recorded in 2020.
Chandrayaan, or ‘moon vehicle’ in Sanskrit, includes a 2-meter tall lander that will deploy a rover near the lunar south pole, where it is expected to remain operational for a fortnight to conduct an array of experiments.
“This mission signifies India’s commitment to enhancing its international standing and expanding the commercial aspects of the space industry,” commented Ajey Lele, a consultant at New Delhi’s Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA).
India’s upcoming moon mission Chandrayaan-3, scheduled for launch on 14 July 2023, follows the Chandrayaan-2 mission in 2020, which successfully deployed an orbiter but experienced a crash that resulted in the destruction of the lander and rover.
Following the liberalisation of India’s space sector to private launches in 2020, the number of startups in the sector has more than doubled. A notable achievement of this liberalisation was Skyroot Aerospace, backed by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, launching India’s first privately-built rocket last year.
Last month’s visit to the United States by Prime Minister Modi resulted in both nations pledging to bolster their collaboration in space exploration. As part of this endeavour, Voyager Space, a NASA-contracted Denver-based firm, announced a memorandum of understanding with ISRO to utilise Indian rockets and explore collaborations with Indian space startups.
India’s pursuit of space exploration is strategic, positioning itself as a prominent player in the space industry, as Carla Filotico, managing director at consultancy SpaceTec Partners, noted. She said, “This could be India’s opportunity to be one of the pioneers in this industry.”