ISRO is the guiding body related to any activity related to space in India. It is the key through which the basic launch process as well as the ground to orbit control mechanism is in place. Sameer Joshi, team lead, special projects, Axiom Research Labs (Team Indus) says, “Any private company or a government organisation going for product development in the field of space has to keep that in mind”. Hence, the 5th Bangalore space expo was organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in association with Antrix Corporation & Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at BIEC Bangalore.
Over the past about 5 years, ISRO has stuck to the charter that they were begin with. The focus is on research and development specific scientific projects into the space domain, rather than repetitively doing commercial projects.
According to Joshi, “These are on the one hand necessary but end up taking up a lot of time and energy. This could be better spent in developing further in the space segment. A decision to support some vendors and private companies in India was made, adding up to the deficit in capacity, within the Indian ecosystem.”
Bangalore Space Expo connecting the industry
Which is where the events like the Bangalore space expo comes in. It brings in vendors and manufacturers from different walks of life, regions to connect and create an environment of development. Space expo brought in people involved in the industry to connect and solve the issues developers face. Some prominent among the exhibitors would be the Aerospace booths from various international organisations. The French CNES, Japanese JAXA, Taiwanese Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Indian ISRO showcased their strengths at the space expo.
As part of equipment designers, we also had Accord Software and Systems pvt. ltd. with solutions in GNSS simulators. These can be controlled by a simple computer interface while offering portability to perform tests at any desired location.
We also had GNSS test equipment manufacturers, IFEN GmbH. Dr. Gunter Heinrichs, head os customer applications, explained some of the basics of the system, which tests for GNSS signals from several constellations. The system looks interesting to use with an easy interface over a laptop.
Stesalit systems ltd. showcased their GNSS receivers. However another interesting product would be the indigenous LoPWAN gateway, developed and designed by the Indian team.
Other exhibitors include Data Patterns India Pvt. Ltd, Measat Satellite Systems, Tecnomic components pvt. ltd, Ananth Technologies Ltd. and Spur Electronics among others.
The lunar space competition
Google aside from ruling the search engines, also has an ongoing competition called Google Lunar X Prize. The competition is to land a robot and move it 500 meters on the surface of the moon. Team Indus, the only Indian team in the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition. They are building a privately funded spacecraft capable of soft landing on the moon by 2017. Team Indus was among the five competing teams and successfully won $1M milestone prize for their landing technology, last year.
Areas for improvement
According to Joshi, “The challenge that we are facing is the lack of component base in the private sector.” Every component is space grade. “But what we generally get in the market is terrestrial stuff” adds Joshi. “Any space grade component requires special testing and qualification, which is sadly lacking.”
These will be available for import, but will end up increasing the cost significantly. Sudip Kar, Avionics, TeamIndus “Jedi Knight” explains, “Around 15-20 times the cost of commercial grade.”
A commercial grade FPGA costs at about 400USD. Whereas this could go upto as high as 90,000USD for space grade one.
Another area for development could be the availability of components. Kar eplains, “The choice of components you have is very low.”
The grade of material used in making them also goes up dramatically, which in turn increases the cost factor. “So a major challenge for us is to manage the various subsystems and components of the satellite bus we are making.” With the help of ISRO the Indian diaspora can benefit and we can definitely see a change for the better.