In what seems to be the most ambitious mission, the Indian Space Research Organisation is planning to set up an ‘Indian Space Station’ in the next five to seven years, which will have space for three astronauts, reports Times of India.
According to the reports, the ISRO’s space station will be an extension of the human spaceflight programme Gaganyaan. The initial designs for the space station, which is still in a nascent stage, suggest a 20-tonne modular abode in the low earth orbit (LEO), at an altitude of 120km to 140km.
ISRO Chairman K Sivan announcing the project in June this year had said, “We don’t want to be part of ISS. Our station, which will be set up in five to seven years, won’t be very big.”
The International Space Station (ISS), which is currently in the low earth orbit of the space is jointly managed by the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. The ISS orbits at an average altitude of 400 km.
However, the mission to set up a space station depends on the success of Gaganyaan, which envisions to send three Indian astronauts to space and bringing them back in the same crew module in 2022. ISRO plans to use technologies from Gaganyaan for the space station. These include an orbital module, life-support system and human-rated launch vehicles for space station programme.
Meanwhile, ISRO has been working on space docking technology for three years now, which is a crucial aspect to manned space missions. The Department of Space has earmarked Rs 10 crore to achieve this technology. The technology will allow the transfer of humans from one vehicle or spacecraft to another and refuel spacecraft. ISRO is also likely to conduct a docking experiment in 2020.
According to ISRO officials, private firms will also be part of the space station programme. “They will make significant contributions,” said a scientist. ISRO Sivan had earlier stated that Gaganyaan will include participation from about 650 industries.
A space station with its zero-gravity environment and exposure to space is a unique laboratory for scientific research that is often impossible to carry out inside Earth’s atmosphere. The cells and chemicals behave in a different way in space, which enables scientists to study variant behaviours and their applications. The space station serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.
Some of the major experiments being conducted at ISS include those on Parkinson’s disease and resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapy. Research in space has applications also in material development, disaster relief, food and water conservation and waste management.