Not locked in a space war with China, says ISRO

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ISRO on Sunday denied it is locked in a space war with China and said its Mars Mission was aimed at learning more valuable lessons as a scientific community.

"We never raced with anybody. In space, science drives technological development and that will subsequently result in developing an application," ISRO chief Dr K. Radhakrishnan said in reply to a question from a reporter on whether India is locked in a space war with China.

He said the Mars Mission has a relevance and one may understand many problems including methane (there).

"The mission, approved recently by the Cabinet, is a challenge and ISRO is geared to face it," he said.

Radhakrishnan said the Mars Mission is a time-bound programme which would ensure development of new technology and applications. He said India is one among the top six countries to have a successful space programme.

The satellite would be ready by November 2013 and the conducive period to launch it would be during that time when Mars would come close to Earth, he said.

"Challenges include developing new technology, reliable launch vehicle and the objective was to achieve an elliptical orbit of 500 km closest and 80,000 km farthest," he said.

The mission would involve a voyage of 300 days and there would be a series of operations after the vehicle leaves Earth's orbit, the ISRO chief said.

"From the lessons learnt in Chandrayaan (lunar) mission, we need to build on-board automation so that the satellite will manage itself in any eventuality," he said.

Speaking to reporters after the successful launch of two foreign satellites on board PSLV here, a jubilant ISRO chief said more such foreign ventures, including SPOT 7, were in the pipeline.

ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle placed in orbit French spacecraft SPOT 6 and Japanese micro satellite PROITERES some 18 minutes after lift-off at 9.53 am on Sunday.

The historic mission was described as a 'spectacular success' by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who watched the launch sequence at the mission control centre at Satish Dhawan Space Centre here, about 110 km from Chennai.

On Chandrayaan 2, Radhakrishnan said the Indo-Russian Joint Venture on a GSLV launch vehicle would be on an Indian rover and Russian landing station.

But there could be some delay in the latter as there was a 'major' review of Russian space programme following a recent failed mission.

"The orbiter is in very good shape (and the launch could be) possibly by 2014. When exactly the landing module is made available is to be seen but we are ready for 2014," Radhakrishnan, flanked by ISRO's top scientists said at a press conference here.

Radhakrishnan said with today's successful launch, enquiries were on for injecting more foreign satellites into orbit. ISRO's commercial arm, Antrix, was in discussion with many customers, he said.

A range of launches and other efforts were lined up in the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17), including 25 launch vehicles and 33 satellites, he said, adding this included navigation and communication satellites such as the advanced Cartosat.

On the ambitious indigenous cryogenic stage engine, which is yet to taste success, he said a series of efforts were on in this regard, including redesigning the engine shroud, wind tunnel tests and focus on structural engineering.

"GSLV per se has been audited," and action is being taken to overcome all scenarios, he said.

There was no Cabinet approval for human space flight as a plan but a pre-project exercise had been okayed with an allocation of Rs 150 core, he said.

On expansion plans at the SHAR here, he said a Multi-Object Tracking Radar would be set up which will among others, keep track of debris (ahead of launches) and allow scientists to make necessary adjustments.

He declined to divulge details on the financial part of ISRO, but said it spent Rs 20,000 crore in the 11th FYP.

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