India Intelligence Report

   ISRO & NASA in Moon Tie-up


The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) & US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) so NASA can send 2 instruments on the Chandraayan-1 mission to the Moon. The European Space Agency will be sending 4 payloads along with 1 from Bulgaria and 5 from India. 

The NASA payloads will be 1 Synthetic Aperture Radar (MiniSAR) developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory at John Hopkins University and a Moon Mineralogy Mapper, jointly developed by Brown University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 

An official communiqué said that the MiniSAR will help search for water in the permanently shadowed areas of the Moon and the Mapper will help in characterization and mapping of minerals on the lunar surface.

ISRO Chairman Madhavan Nair said that the primary objective is to investigate the distribution of minerals and chemical elements and develop high-resolution three-dimensional mapping of the entire lunar surface.

NASA Director Dr. Michael Griffin said, “NASA is honored to be a participant on the Chandraayan-1 mission.” He also hoped that the “United States and India will be partners in many more technically challenging and scientifically rewarding projects.” 

ISRO’s Chandraayan-1 project is India’s 1st unmanned project to be launched on a modified indigenously developed Polar Space Launch Vehicle into a 240 X 24,000 kilometer earth orbit. After the initial launch, the spacecraft’s propulsion system will place the craft about 100 km polar orbit around the moon.

Nair said that there was no financial exchange but India will have the opportunity to see the data first. Nair also clarified that ISRO has decided to postpone decision to send manned missions to the Moon till 2008 and even then the thought is to send robots and not human beings. 

Griffin also apologized for the US Government policies on banning interaction with or placing sanctions on some research labs saying “sorry about the past.” The US continues to have the Liquid Propulsions Systems Center and Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota Andhra Pradesh and Vikram Sarabhai Space Center at Thiruvanathapuram Kerala on its banned list. Nair said that it would like some critical components and doing away with the ban will help.

It is ironic that 10 years ago the US leaned hard on Russia to stop the sale of cryogenic engines to India to stop the Geo-Stationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) project and contain the same organization that it will partner with. Russia agreed to stop the sale but sent two fully built engines with all the necessary manuals. This promoted India to accelerate indigenous development of a cryogenic engine and get the GSLV off the ground in 2008 and will carry 2 Russian Global Navigation satellites. It is also developing reusable launch vehicles

It is important that India does not stop projects or terminate contracts if it gets these banned organizations removed from the sanctions list. While it will be wonderful to have access to technology to get projects off the ground, it is important that India has its own Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).