Scientific Research, SPACE, Gravitational Waves, LIGO, PSLV, GAGAN, IRNSS, Chandrayan

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Challenges in Scientific Research
  • Our innovation has remained backward because of lack of support for R&D by govt. India spends barely 0.85% of GDP on R&D.
  • Govt funds are mainly from central govt with least from states
  • Lack of corporate participation
  • Industry-university disconnect
  • Although India has 7th largest patent requests, the patents per capita are quite low
  • Government attitude of research only in technologies that can be easily monetized or result in betterment of existing technology.
  • Our education system that breeds a mentality of choosing risk- averse careers. Our colonial legacy was that they wanted to create labour that was plug-and-play type who would start doing work wherever placed. This attitude continued in our system and has killed innovation
  • Lack of innovation – Global Innovation Index 2019 ranks India at 52. The time for patent approval is more than 2 years. Rise of protectionist tendencies leads to lack of innovation. Lack of innovation hampers Make in India. In order to enhance innovation, Atal Innovation Mission, focus on Startups by using India innovation fund. If innovation picks up, most to benefit will be manufacturing sector which is crucial for any economy
  • As per Global Competitiveness Report 15-16, India’s capacity for innovation is lower than US, UK, South Africa etc. India features badly compared to BRICS nations in patents per million population ratio
Positive aspects of India’s innovation ecosystem
  • Large graduates in science and engineering
  • High Gross capital formation
  • India is the seventh largest patent filing office in the world
  • High ICT services exports
  • Large creative goods exports
Drawbacks of India’s innovation ecosystem
  • India’s R&D expenditures have remained stagnant at 0.6-0.7% of GDP over the past two decades.
  • Lack of industry investment
  • Inadequate regulatory environment
  • Issues with education in terms of assessment in reading, mathematics, and science
  • There is a disconnect between the teaching and research enterprise with research being concentrated in specialized research institutes
  • Lack of Firms offering formal training
  • Difficulty in getting credit for research and innovation
Steps taken for India’s innovation ecosystem
Economic Survey suggests
  • Increase interest in science since childhood- Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyaan
  • Linking universities to create a knowledge network- National KN
  • Increase role of private investments and CSR in research
  • Use of diaspora in research- re-entry schemes like Ramanujan scheme
  • Liberal funding for PhD like PM fellowship program
  • Focus on startup innovation and IPR protection
  • Eco Survey suggests to go on mission mode- New National Missions on Genomics, Mathematics, Dark Matter, AI, etc
Why less women in STEM fields?
  • Minority: As a very small number of women are present, there are a minority in their professional circle and thus their needs are not/under addressed.
  • Sexism: A prevalent notion among the pure science communities is that women scientist are not at par with their male counterparts.
  • Stereotype: Girls at young age are discouraged from taking up pure science as it is considered as a male bastion.
  • Lack of mentoring: Women often lack mentors who are can guide them especially while facing the inherent discrimination in the system works against them
  • Role models: Many accomplished women scientist still remain unsung heroes who can spur girls of next generation to take up natural science. Eg- women in ISRO
  • Addressing special needs: Supporting married scientists and mothers while taking care of their needs of safety, household responsibilities, child rearing are not addressed.
  • Peer support – As number of women in the hierarchy remain scarce, peer networking becomes a challenge
  • Working for long hours and overnights
  • Govt schemes- KIRAN, STEM, Udaan for class 12 girls
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Is space research necessary in a poor country?

• ISRO’s Antrix has launched more than 240 satellites in last 3 years earning Rs 6000 crore revenue for government

Brief timeline of space research
  • 1962- space research center by Vikram Sarabhai
  • 1963- first sounding rocket released
  • 1969- ISRO formed
  • 1975- First satellite Aryabhatta launched
  • 1979- Bhaskara I as first remote sensing satellite
  • 1984- Indian astronaut Rakesh Sharma
  • 2008- Chandrayaan I
  • 2013- Mangalyaan
Indian space research has gone leaps and bounds in technology
  • Own cryogenic engine
  • GSLV Mk III launch vehicle
  • Scramjet Engine
  • Pad Abort Test and Crew Escape System

Gaganyaan– These include a Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-2007),

Crew module Atmospheric Reentry Experiment (CARE-2014), GSLV Mk-III (2014), Reusable Launch Vehicle- Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), Crew Escape System and Pad Abort Test.

ISRO has launched many satellites which are novel and innovative

  • EMISAT for catching electromagnetic signals of enemy satellites
  • ASAT for anti-satellite warfare
  • HySis for remote sensing
  • After success of MOM and Chandrayan, Chandrayan 2, Aditya and Gaganyaan mission proposed.
  • ISRO wants to build India’s permanent space station
Chandrayan 2
  • Vikram Sarabhai- we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role amongst nations, we should be no second to none in applying advanced technologies for betterment of man and society
  • To land on Moon’s south pole, something which has never been done.
  • Chandrayan 1 gave unmistakable proofs about existence of water on moon, thus reigniting world’s interest in Moon.
  • It has 3 parts- Orbiter, Lander and Rover
  • A lander and a rover will take samples. Plan is to study the shadowy side of moon.
  • It will search for presence of water around south pole, prsemce of Helium-3 as a possible energy source, seismic activity on surface of moon, 3D mapping of lunar surface
India’s activities in Outer Space
  • ASAT launched under Mission Shakti.
  • Benefits- elite club of Russia China USA, credible deterrence, indigenous efforts, no international criticism
  • India has put up a responsible position wrt outer space.
  • India is a signatory to Outer Space Treaty 1967 which prevents utilizing space for ballistic missiles.
  • India also supported the PAROS agreement under Conference of Disarmament against deploying missiles in space
  • The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) is envisaged to be a system of seven satellites, four of which will be in a geosynchronous orbit. The remaining three would be in a geostationary orbit.
  • These seven satellites together would help deliver navigation/positional accuracy of up to twenty meters in the strategically important Indian Ocean region IOR and up to an area of 1,500 km from the Indian landmass.
  • it has two parts – Standard Positioning Service and Restricted Service for armed forces.
  • They have military as well as civilian usage.

It is a global positioning system (GPS) aided geoaugmented navigation system which is intended to provide accurate navigation services. Range is over the Bay of Bengal, Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean, Middle East and African regions.

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  • Gagan works by augmenting and relaying data from GPS satellites with the help of two augmentation satellites and 15 earth-based reference stations.
  • The system corrects any anomalies in the position data and gives accurate routes, landing guidance and time saving information to the pilots.
  • Fully approved for use in April 2015.
  • AAI and ISRO have jointly established the Rs. 770-crore GAGAN over a decade.


  • It will be able to help pilots to navigate in the Indian airspace by an accuracy of 3 m.
  • This will be helpful for landing aircraft in tough weather and terrain like Mangalore and Leh airports.
  • Accurate guidance for planning shorter routes and safer landing patterns will reduce fuel cost.
  • Will help in improving safety, easing air traffic and airport congestion across the country.
  • After completely establishing this system, India reached a select league comprising the US, Europe Union (EU) and Japan which have similar systems.
Gagan vs IRNSS

IRNSS 1E launched. Fifth of seven satellites. It is a regional navigation system which covers the region over India. It is a substitute to.US GPS that covers entire globe. It is currently being used by ISRO and other institutions. GAGAN is similar such initiative which will help in directions for civil aircrafts. Uses – terrestrial, Arial and marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking, integration with mobile systems, visual and voice navigation for drivers, guidance for missile systems

Aditya Mission

India’s first dedicated scientific mission to study the sun. FY 17 budget gave 378 crores for Aditya Mission.

  • A joint venture between ISRO and physicists from leading institutes of the country.
  • The mission aims to put a heavy satellite into what is called a halo orbit around a point between the Sun and the Earth. This point is at a distance of about 1.5 million km from the earth.
  • It earlier had 3 Lagrange points. But now it has 5.
  • Lagrange point is a position in space where the combined gravitational forces of two large bodies, such as Earth and the sun or Earth and the moon, equal the centrifugal force felt by a much smaller third body. The interaction of the forces creates a point of equilibrium where a spacecraft may be “parked” to make observation.

Importance of Aditya mission:

  • Help in understand the origin of solar storms and also for constraining how the storms evolve and what path they take
  • Help us to understand the corona and solar wind’s impact on environment
  • Will yield information for space weather prediction and a possibility of Indians developing their own space weather prediction models.

PSLV launches the satellites in polar orbits. That is, the satellites which would revolve around the earth from South Pole to North Pole (pole to pole) will be launched by PSLVs.

Difference between PSLV and GSLV

  • The PSLV is older than the GSLV
  • The GSLV has a much greater load capacity than the PSLV. While the PSLV can only lift slightly over a ton of payload, the GSLV is capable of lifting more than double that with a rated capacity of 2 to 2.5 tons.
  • The GSLV use cryogenic fuel while the PSLV doesn’t
  • The PSLV has 4 stages that alternate between solid and liquid fuels while the GSLV has three stages with the only the first stage having solid fuel.
Reusable Launch Vehicle- Technology Demonstrator

• ISRO launched RLV-TD

  • Objectives include- Hypersonic aero thermodynamic characterization of wing body, Evaluation of autonomous Navigation, Guidance and Control(NGC) schemes Integrated flight management, Thermal Protection System Evaluation
  • The cost of access to space is the major deterrent in space exploration and space utilization. RLV is the solution to achieve low cost, reliable and on-demand space access
  • Hypersonic speeds are up to 5 Mach and require a scramjet engine.
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Scramjet Engine
  • Scramjet stands for Supersonic Combustion Ramjet.
  • Scramjet breathes air and uses high speed vehicle to forcefully compress the incoming air before combustion.
  • Conventional aircraft engines on the other hand compresses air using fan before combustion.
  • It is also called the air breathing engine as it uses atmospheric oxygen to burn the hydrogen fuel.
  • Scramjets are efficient only at supersonic speed.
Advantages of Scramjet Engine
  • Use of atmospheric oxygen reduces weight of carrying oxygen as a fuel
  • It reduces the cost and payload
  • It is cheap and lighter than conventional engines
  • It can be used in applications like RLV
  • However, challenges include speeds up to mach5 which need to be developed first for scramjet to work.
Gravitational Waves
  • They are distortions in the space-time grometry just like ripples in a pond.
  • Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916 in his general theory of relativity.
  • They are formed when explosion of giant stars, the collision of ultradense dead ones, and the coming together of black holes.
  • India is an important partner in the LIGO project and the announcement was simultaneously made at the IUCAA in Pune
  • Based on the principle of interference
  • In LIGO, a high powered laser beam is split and sent down two L-shaped vacuum tunnels, each 4 Km. long.
  • They get reflected from two high precision mirrors and reach back at the base. They come back in such a way that they completely cancel out each other. No light is detected at the photo-detector.
  • But when a gravity wave passes-by, it distorts space and changes the distance that the beams have to travel.
  • No longer are the p
  • eaks and troughs of the two reflected waves perfectly aligned. As they do not cancel out each other now, some pattern is detected at the photo-detector.

IndIGO is the consortium working towards it. India-LIGO project will be a replica of the two LIGO detectors and would be stationed at a perpendicular direction to the detectors in USA.

LIGO-India project is piloted by Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science and Technology (DST)

  • They are important because they experience no barriers like electromagnetic waves like X rays, radio waves, IR, etc.
  • Black holes don’t emit electromagnetic waves but gravitational waves. So we can now hear the sound of the universe when two black holes merge or a nebula is formed.
  • Track a supernova hours before it is visible to a telescope.
  • Hear noises of different events of the universe.