Self-eating rockets, self-vanishing satellites and from make-in-space concepts to quantum communication and radars, it is known that ISRO will now play an important role in the coming years, and it would significantly more focused on the best preparation for India for the future, and on the other hand, private enterprises indulge in day-to-day launches, has initiated 46 projects on futuristic technologies.
The reason these projects have been based is on assessment of global advancements and India’s needs for the next four-five decades. Talking about the future, some other critical futuristic technologies are: Self-healing materials, humanoid robotics, space-based-solar-power, intelligent satellites and space-vehicles, AI-based space applications, etc.
Being pursued through the Directorate of Technology Development and Innovation (DTDI), which is a futuristic and innovative technology development that wings at ISRO headquarters, and the agency has synergised technological capabilities of its centres. The laboratories with a coordinated effort will also see collaborations with national and international experts.
According to the reports of TOI, K Sivan informed TOI about many future plannings such as Self-Eating-Rockets & Vanishing Sats on some technologies, and K Sivan told TOI on Tuesday: “All our rockets have metal casings that are dropped into the sea after launch or become (final stage) space debris. We are working on a technology where rockets will effectively ‘eat themselves’ leaving no waste dropping into seas and no space debris. For this, we’re looking at special materials for casings that can burn up along with motors.”
Similarly, to further mitigate space debris, self-vanishing satellite technology would be used to enable spacecraft destruction and after its lifetime, it can be destroyed through a ‘kill-button’, or a method that will burn it up in-orbit
“Also, when rockets fly, there are defects sometimes, like formation of a crack due to pressure etc. At present, we keep doing multiple checks before clearing anything. Self-healing materials will be those that can correct some of these defects by themselves without interference. There’s a lot of work to do,” he said.
Further, with Gaganyaan and space station programmes in its pipelines ISRO has projects to deliver make-in-space concepts, more extensive use of humanoids, that is Vyomitra, the first attempt at a humanoid, is expected to fly on uncrewed missions and artificial intelligence (AI) based technologies. It seems that it’ll also look at technologies to leverage in situ materials on some celestial bodies.
“As we look at a continuous human presence in space, we’ll need things like the proposed space station. To achieve this, we are looking at enhanced robotic arms, AI-based technologies etc that can make things in space,” Sivan said.
Besides, Isro is already working on intelligent satellites and launch vehicles and some aspects of these have been introduced in the GSLV-MkIII human-rated version, while work on satellites is ongoing.
Quantum Leap & Umbrella Agenc, as reported by TOI earlier that ISRO was the first step towards developing quantum satellite technology, successfully demonstrated secure communication between two buildings that were 300 metres apart by using free space quantum communication technology in March 2021.
This will be useful for a range of strategic sectors, that is defence to digital money transactions. While ISRO has plans for extending this to satellites as well.
All the futuristic and disruptive technologies spearheaded by DTDI, which can be called as a brainchild of Sivan and headed by R Umamaheshwaran, the scientific secretary, department of space, are being materialised by researchers and engineers at various ISRO centres across India.
Isro is also in a plan to conduct a five-day conclave that began on Monday.
“…While Isro will be the lead agency, as envisaged by the Centre as part of the space reforms, work won’t be restricted to us. We will be roping in startups, academia and even industry,” Sivan added.