As India prepares to usher in the New Year with a specialized observatory mission studying neutron stars and black holes, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is set to send a unique addition into space—the ‘PSLV Orbital Experimental Module’ (POEM). This innovative module, serving as the fourth stage of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), is designed to conduct ten experiments, including the groundbreaking ‘Women Engineered Satellite’ (WESAT). The launch, marking the 60th flight of the PSLV, emphasizes ISRO’s commitment to repurposing space debris for valuable scientific endeavors.
POEM: Transforming Space Debris into Scientific Resources
The POEM initiative represents a paradigm shift in ISRO’s approach. Traditionally, the fourth stage of the PSLV was left to burn up in space, contributing to space debris. However, with POEM, ISRO is repurposing this spent stage, conducting high-value experiments that contribute to the growth of space technologies. The experiments, spanning one to six months, involve collaborations with Indian startups and ISRO itself, testing and validating various space technologies.
Women Engineered Satellite (WESAT)
A notable highlight among the experiments is WESAT, a ‘Women Engineered Satellite’ crafted by the LBS Institute of Technology for Women in Thiruvananthapuram. While some experts argue that labeling WESAT a ‘satellite’ might be a misnomer, its significance lies in being the first women-led, women-only satellite in India and the inaugural student satellite from Kerala. The project spearheaded by Dr. Lizy Abraham and coordinated by student Sheril Mariam Jose adds a significant milestone to India’s space endeavors.
Green Innovations and Microsatellites
The POEM mission also incorporates eco-friendly initiatives, with established space startup Bellatrix Aerospace Limited contributing two payload experiments. These experiments include the utilization of a green monopropellant thruster, aligning with global efforts to make rocket launches more environmentally friendly. Additionally, Dhruva Aerospace Private Limited focuses on microsatellites, emphasizing the creation of exceptional small satellite systems for advancing space exploration technology.
Future Vision: Space Economy Boost
ISRO’s forward-looking vision extends beyond individual missions. Dr. Pawan Goenka, Chairman of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), highlights ISRO’s commitment to broadening private-sector participation. The collaboration aims to boost the space economy, aligning with India’s goal of self-reliance (Atmanirbhar Bharat). IN-SPACe’s assessment suggests that the Indian space economy, currently valued at $8 billion, has the potential to reach $44 billion by 2033, capturing about 8% of the global share.
Towards a Bhartiya Antariksha Station (BAS)
As part of a grander ambition, India is working towards establishing a full-fledged Bhartiya Antariksha Station (BAS) by 2035, as mandated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Weighing about 25 tonnes, BAS will serve as a gateway for interplanetary missions, micro-gravity studies, and experiments in space biology and medicine. ISRO’s Chairman, S Somanath, envisions a sustained Indian presence in space by 2035 through a self-reliant effort.
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