By Dr. Gary Deel, Ph.D., J.D.
Faculty Director, School of Business, American Military University
This article is the fifth of a five-part series profiling the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). This series looks at the past, present, and future of ISRO and why the global space exploration community should keep an eye on this rising star. In this final article, we’ll discuss the vision for ISRO over the coming years and some challenges it might face along the way.
According to the ISRO website, the space agency’s vision is to “harness space technology for national development, while pursuing space science research and planetary exploration.” This statement portrays a benign and peaceful purpose, but thinly veils a subtle bias toward Indian nationalism. To be fair, such leanings are not uncommon among national space agencies.
ISRO’s Mission Statements and Objectives Provide Insightful Information
The mission statements published on ISRO’s website cover a number of different specific objectives, including the development of reliable launch vehicles for space access, and satellites and spacecraft for a variety of different observation and communication purposes. In these mission statements, ISRO specifically mentions its role in supporting both the Indian National Satellite (INSAT) program for telecommunication and television services in India, and the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) program for natural resource and environmental monitoring.
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However, it is peculiar that ISRO chooses to emphasize these two projects over all of the other missions that it supports. Possibly, the Indian national government pushed these priorities on the agency.
ISRO drills down to more detailed specifics in the “Objectives” section of their website. The agency cites distinct goals that include:
- Flight reliability for the PSLV, GSLV Mk II and GSLV Mk III launch vehicles
- Development of different kinds of satellites
- The general advancement of space-based technologies
- Cooperation with international partners
Clearly, ISRO has an ambitious agenda moving into the next decade. The agency seems determined to actualize all of these various goals.
Future Obstacles for ISRO Operations
Despite its impressive track record and lofty ambitions, India faces a number of obstacles with its future operations. Some challenges that ISRO must confront in the immediate term involve shifting geopolitical climates and the technical difficulties of more advanced interplanetary missions.
In the past, India leaned heavily on the Soviet Union/Russia for assistance with space launches and other space mission support services. Even today, they work with Roscosmos on various projects, including spacesuits for their upcoming manned missions. At the same time, ISRO also works on projects with other agencies, such as NASA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the European Space Agency (ESA).
However, the geopolitical climate of the world is changing rapidly at the current moment, so ISRO will need to be very careful and strategic about which countries to have as partners. For example, there may come a time when cooperation with agencies like the ESA or NASA will be mutually exclusive with cooperation with communist space agencies like Roscosmos or the Chinese National Space Administration. If this happens, India will be forced to make very smart choices in order to create sustainable, beneficial relationships.
ISRO will also need to invest heavily in its research and development for expensive planetary missions to Venus, Mars and other celestial bodies. The Chandrayaan-2 mission was the only time that ISRO ever attempted to touch down on another celestial body, and the lander component was an abject failure.
ISRO won’t want to make this same mistake with future planned missions like Mangalyaan-2 and the partnership with JAXA to go drilling on the Moon. A lot of time and money will ride on the operational success of these missions, so ISRO needs to do its homework on what makes for a successful planetary lander.
The good news is that ISRO has the benefit of lessons learned by older space agencies. If ISRO makes wise choices in the years ahead, there is no reason why India cannot become a major player on the world stage for space research and exploration in the 21st century.
About the Author
Dr. Gary Deel is a Faculty Director with the School of Business at American Military University. He holds a J.D. in Law and a Ph.D. in Hospitality/Business Management. Gary teaches human resources and employment law classes for American Military University, the University of Central Florida, Colorado State University and others.