Isro Sets Ambitious Space Mission Schedule for 2024

Tirupati: The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has marked a banner year in 2023, notching multiple historic achievements that have propelled India's space programme into an elite group of leading space exploration nations. Isro scored its biggest triumph on August 23 when its Chandrayaan-3 lander and rover gracefully touched down on the rugged surface of the Moon's previously unexplored southpole region. In achieving the first ever landing in this area, the mission completed a major milestone for India's space programme.

Launched on July 14 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Tirupati district, Chandrayaan-3 conducted a battery of scientific experiments during its orbital and surface operational phases to study the lunar soil, atmosphere and seismic activity. In a visit to Isro's Bengaluru campus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared August 23 as National Space Day, praising the organisation's “can-do” spirit in mastering innovative technologies.

Just days after, Isro checked off another first on its bucket list by
placing its Aditya L1 satellite into orbit on September 2. Fired by a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, Aditya L1 is the country's inaugural solar observatory spacecraft, designed to study the Sun's outer corona from the vantage point about 1.5 million km from Earth. The data it beams back is expected to significantly enhance scientific understanding of how solar storms and activity affect space weather closer to our planet.

Meanwhile, Isro’s first ever manned space mission ‘Gaganyaan’ crossed
several crucial milestones through the year, bringing the audacious plan to send Indian astronauts into orbit by late 2024 tantalisingly close to reality. Powerful new rocket engines designed to propel space voyagers were test fired. An uncrewed first test flight on October 21 demonstrated the Crew Escape System’s ability to swiftly eject astronauts and safely parachute them down in an emergency.

While undertaking these futuristic projects, Isro also maintained a brisk launch schedule in 2023. The space agency's impressive year began with the SSLV-D2 launch on February 10, introducing a Small Satellite Launch Vehicle tailored for tiny satellites into a 500 km orbit. This marked a new era, prioritising low-cost and quick launches. On March 26, Isro achieved its sixth consecutive success with the LVM3 launch, deploying 36 OneWeb Group Company satellites into a 450 km circular orbit. With this success, Isro’s commercial arm, New Space India Limited (NSIL), successfully executed its contracts to launch 72 OneWeb satellites into Low Earth Orbit.

April 2 witnessed the RLV LEX mission, demonstrating Isro’s autonomous landing capabilities for reusable launch vehicles. The PSLV-C55/TeLEOS-2 mission on April 22, a commercial venture through NSIL, successfully launched Singapore’s TeLEOS-2 and Lumelite-4 into an Eastward low inclination orbit. GSLV-F12/NVS-01 on May 29 achieved a milestone by deploying a navigation satellite, enhancing NavIC services with second-generation satellites. Isro continued its success with the PSLV-C56/DS-SAR mission on July 30, deploying the DS-SAR satellite, developed in partnership with DSTA and ST Engineering, to support Singapore's satellite imagery needs.

Isro has lined up an ambitious roster of complex missions in 2024. Planned for early January is the launch of a pioneering X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) using a PSLV rocket, which will study the polarisation of high-energy cosmic X-rays from exotic phenomena like pulsars and black holes. Isro also aims to launch its first-ever solar sailing demo mission which harnesses the Sun's photons for propulsion.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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