Monday, October 20, 2008

India Competes with Big Dogs in Moon Race

"If you want to run with the big dogs, you have to stop pissing with the puppies". These words are attributed to Robert Blackwill, former US Ambassador to India, in his oft-repeated lectures to the Indian government earlier this decade. The "puppies" reference here is apparently a dig at India's obsession with Pakistan.

Finally, after years of futile focus on Pakistan, India is heeding the advice of Ambassador Blackwill. The country began the countdown Monday to the launch of its first unmanned mission to the moon that will signify a major catch-up step with Japan and China in the fast-developing Asian space race, according to media reports published today.

"Everything is going perfectly as planned," the center's associate director M.Y.S. Prasad told AFP from Sriharikota, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Chennai, after the official countdown began in the early hours of Monday.

Earlier this year, India did a successful launch of a mission with 10 satellites from the Sriharikota space center to become a serious contender in the fast growing $2.5B commercial satellite launch business.

Beyond the Indian commercial ambitions, this milestone for India represents a strategic capability as an emerging economic and military power on the world stage. This is also a great comeback for ISRO about two years after a launch in 2006 had to be destroyed less than a minute after lift off when it veered from its path.

India still has a long way to go to catch up with China which, along with the United States, Russia and the European Space Agency, is already well-established in the commercial launch business. Chinese officials are already planning a manned mission to the moon in the future, after following the United States and the former Soviet Union last month by a successful space walk, although a more immediate goal is the establishment of an orbiting space lab. AFP reports that Beijing's long-term ambition is to develop a fully-fledged space station by 2020 to rival the International Space Station, a joint project involving the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada and several European countries. Japan has also been boosting its space efforts and has set a goal of a manned mission to the moon by 2020. Japan's first lunar probe, Kaguya, was successfully launched in September last year, releasing two mini-satellites which will be used to study the gravity fields of the moon among other projects. The development of a space race in Asia has both commercial and security implications, with the potential for developing military applications such as intelligence gathering and space-based weapons. Earlier this year, Japan ended self-imposed prohibition on militarization of space, hoping to remove any legal barriers to building more advanced spy satellites.

The Pakistan Space Agency or Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), the equivalent of ISRO in India, is the Pakistani state-run space agency responsible for Pakistan's space program. It was formed in September 1961 by the order of President Ayub Khan on the advice of Professor Dr Abdus Salam, Nobel Laureate, who was also made its founding director. The headquarters of SUPARCO is located in Islamabad, however with the development of Sonmiani it is expected that the new headquarters will be moved in the near future. The agency also has offices in Lahore and at Karachi (an engineering installation). SUPARCO has no launch capability of its own. It has relied on Chinese and Russian space agencies to launch its satellites Badr-1 and Badr-2.

SUPARCO saw major cuts in its budget in the 1980s and 1990s. Last year, its annual budget was a modest $6m. In fact, Pakistan had no communication satellites in space until 2003. The urgency to place its first satellite in a geo-stationary orbit was keenly felt in the middle of 2003, by which time Pakistan had already lost four of its five allocated space slots. The five slots were allocated to Pakistan by ITU (International Telecommunication Union) back in 1984, but the country failed to launch any satellite till 1995. That year Pakistan again applied for and received the five slots, but once again the government failed to get a satellite into orbit, losing four of it slots in the process. According to officials, if Pakistan had failed to launch its satellite by April 19, 2003, the country would have lost its fifth and last 38-degree east slot when the availability of these space slots is getting difficult every day.

With the current economic crisis, it is unlikely that Pakistan will boost space spending to try and follow its bigger, better funded neighbor into space.

Related Links:

Pakistan's Space Capabilities


libertarian said...

There's a larger undercurrent than "playing with the big dogs". With the US severely wounded on both the military and economic fronts, there is an opportunity for significant shifts in the current world order. China, and to a lesser extent, India, must seize the initiative and help the US keep widespread chaos at bay. Doing so will establish them as legitimate global players. Training day is done.

For starters, India should broker the reapproachment of the US and Iran. And China needs to deliver on North Korea.

Riaz Haq said...

There is a distinct difference between Indian and Chinese statements on their undeniable global ambitions. While the Indians are quite strident about their "resurgence" and "emerging superpower" status, the Chinese president and prime minister always refer to their nation as a "developing country" with no reference to their global roles and responsibilities. In reality, though, the Chinese are everywhere: Africa, South America, South Asia etc. vying for global resources to sustain their rapid growth. Compared to their Indian counterparts, the Chinese prefer to speak softly.

libertarian said...

Riaz: Compared to their Indian counterparts, the Chinese prefer to speak softly.

Agree. They don't indulge in monkey-style hooting - a distinctly subcontinental trait. They act decisively - sometimes brutally. The elephant in the room, though, is their weakening demographics: negative birth rate (1.77 births/woman), female infanticide, aging population (median age is already ~34 years), and rising life expectancy (74 years). India, in comparison, has much more favorable demographics - if it can raise literacy to 80% in the next 10 years.

Seems Pakistan would be much better off hitching its wagon to the Indian train rather than attempting the highly contrived China-Pak hook-up. Of course, if the Pak Army has anything to do with it, there's no chance that will happen.

Riaz Haq said...

With deep distrust between India and Pakistan, it seems unlikely that Pakistan would be "hitching its wagon" with India anytime soon. India would have to show a great deal of magnanimity toward its smaller neighbor to the west to overcome this distrust. For starters, it needs to get serious about settling Kashmir. And follow that up with not taking hostile positions toward Pakistan at various world forums, a knee jerk Indian response.

It can happen. But not in the next decade or two.

libertarian said...

Riaz: For starters, it needs to get serious about settling Kashmir.

That's a blocker right there. Neither India, nor Pakistan can back off from their maximalist positions without fatal political repercussions for the proponents. That issue, unfortunately, is radioactive for both.

India could unilaterally open its markets to Pakistan - and wait for Pakistan to reciprocate. That would dovetail nicely with India taking care of its neighborhood while China does its part in its neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I am a neutral observer to this. This sucess of India to land itself among the big dogs in the business, is owed to the struggle that 2 generations of Indians did in the last sixty years. Decades of technological apartheid, and attempts by world powers to confine india as a third world state did not stop indians scientists,vikram sarabhai, abdul kalam etc,to struggle and break the barrier. This sucess is owed to the exraordinary courage and spirit shown by two generation of ordinary indians (not the govt) who have struggled to remove the tag of 3rd world citizens,& underdeveloped people.Thus The moon rocket is not a one day wonder.

Riaz Haq said...

I agree with you. Such missions are not possible without the long-term dedication and commitment of scientists who spend their entire lives working and dreaming for successes like India's moon shot.
Government policy and funding are important but they do not guarantee results. Kudos to the Indian space scientists for a job well done. India is indeed very lucky to have them.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Haq,

Robert Blackwill's comments were made in reference to India's vote in the UN against the nuclear ambitions of Iran. The "pissing with the puppies" reference had nothing to with Pakistan. Here is the link that may enlighten you and your readers,

In commercial space launching business, India has no catching up to do with China. Unlike India, it's Pakistan which is obssessed with its eastern neighbor and your writings reinforce that view.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "In commercial space launching business, India has no catching up to do with China."

China continues to grow its commercial satellite launch business. Having launched 15 commercial satellites since 2002, the country has established a track record, the latest being a communication for satellite for Venezuela last October. China has in the pipeline 15 more commercial satellites to be sent into orbit this year. A new agreement to put a five-ton satellite for France's Eutelsat Communications into orbit, apparently wrapped up in the past few days, represents a high-water mark for Beijing's campaign to expand the scope and global influence of Chinese space technology. Coupled with Beijing's ambitious satellite-construction program and aggressive space-exploration efforts, the latest move is likely to heighten concerns inside the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill about China's ascendancy as a space power.

"Unlike India, it's Pakistan which is obssessed with its eastern neighbor and your writings reinforce that view."

Let's see if Stephen Cohen can change your mind about this statement. He said recently:

India is groping now for a national identity that would allow it to approach Pakistan with confidence, but there is no consensus on how to mesh India’s identity with that of Pakistan’s. Indians do not know whether they want to play cricket and trade with Pakistan, or whether they want to destroy it. There is still no consensus on talking with Pakistan: sometimes the government and its spokesman claim that they do not want to deal with the generals, but when the generals are out of the limelight, they complain that the civilians are too weak to conclude a deal. The default option seems to be that Pakistan is now someone else’s problem--in this case the United States’. Not a few Indian generals and strategists have told me that if only America would strip Pakistan of its nuclear weapons then the Indian army could destroy the Pakistan army and the whole thing would be over. This of course is both silly and dangerous—and could lead to a catastrophic misjudgment when the fifth India-Pakistan crisis does come. We were close to one last year, I have no doubt that the people who tried to trigger a new India-Pakistan war will try again.

Riaz Haq said...

There are reports that Pakistan is working on developing a satellite launch vehicle (SLV) called Taimur. It'll be based on Shaheen 2 design:

Pakistan successfully test-fired in four times a Shaheen-2 surface-to-surface ballistic missile. It has a range of 2,700 kilometres. It were the first test flights of the two stage solid-fuel Shaheen-2. The Shaheen-2 is the longest-range missile tested by Pakistan so far. Shaheen-2 is not an advanced version of Shaheen-1, which has a range of 700 kilometres.
All the planned technical parameters were successfully validated during the tests. The tests demonstrates Pakistan’s advanced scientific capability in the strategic field.
It is reported that the Shaheen 1 and 2 missiles have been developed by the Pakistan National Defence Complex (PNDC) with assistance from SUPARCO, the Pakistan space research organisation, and from the Atomic Energy Commission.

The Shaheen-1 (Hatf-4) is probably a copy of China's M-9 missile. The Shaheen-2 (Haft-6) is probably a copy of China's two-stage missile M-18.
The Shaheen-2 uses like the M-18, two aerospace solid rocket motors developed by China Hexi Chemical & Mechanical Company. A relevant motor for the first stage is the L-SpaB-140B with diameter of 1.40 m.

The future Space launch vehicle Taimur (three stage solid-fuel, diam. 1.40 m, length ~25 m) can transport a little scientific payload in a Low Earth Orbit. For the Taimur SLV is doubled the first stage of the Shaheen-2.
During the IDEAS 2002 defense exhibition Pakdef spotted two similar models of Pakistani Satellite Launch Vehicles. The first model points out a possible three stage SLV. Judging from other similar SLV's, it is estimated that it can place a payload weighing less than 80 kilogram to an orbit 450 kilometers above Earth's surface. The second model of the SLV seems similar to the first model however, with four extra boosters ( ? Abdali). Exact data are still unknown.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on space technology education in Pakistan:

The Institute of Space Technology is a federally chartered degree awarding institute established in 2002 under the aegis of PNSA. The programs offered are approved by Higher Education Commission of Pakistan as well as The Pakistan Engineering Council. Institute of Space Technology (IST) also offers Linked Graduate Programs in collaboration with foreign universities in a host of disciplines, providing a solution to earn a foreign degree economically.

Institute of Space Technology has admissions open to graduate programs.

IST, Indigenous Programs (Evening)

Islamabad Campus

* Aerospace Engineering
o Aerodynamics/CFD
o Propulsion
o Structural Design and Analysis
o Aerospace Vehicle Design
o Guidance, Navigation and Control
* Communication Engineering
o Wireless Communication
o Signal and Image Processing

IST (National Center RS&GIS – Karachi)

* Remote Sensing and Geo Information Science
* Geo-informatics
* Spatial Information Technology

Master’s and Ph.D. Linked Programs, IST and Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU), China

* Aerospace Engineering

Master’s and Ph.D. Linked Programs, IST and Beihang University (BUAA), China

* Aerospace Engineering
o Aerodynamics/CFD
o Propulsion
o Structural Design and Analysis
o Aerospace Vehicle Design Guidance
o Guidance, Navigation and Control
* Satellite Engineering
o Guidance, Navigation and Control
o Spacecraft Design and Applications
* Materials Science and Engineering
* Manufacturing Engineering
* Welding Engineering

Master’s Linked Program, IST and University of Surrey (UniS), UK

* Satellite Communications Engineering
* Electronics Engineering
* Mobile Communication Systems
* Mobile and Satellite Communication
* Space Technology and Planetary Exploration

Riaz Haq said...

Growing Space Focus in Sino-Indian Rivalry, November 12, 2010, By Global Intelligence Report Analysts:

ANALYSIS: Pakistan’s Ambassador to China, Masood Khan, signed a loan agreement with the government-owned Export-Import Bank of China on 9 October to finance the ground control apparatus for a new ‘Paksat-1R’ communications satellite, to be launched on 14 August 2011. This bilateral effort to ensure technical interchange illustrates space as a growing area of contestation in regional strategic developments.

Chinese Space Outreach: This satellite project builds upon a substantial history of China serving as a reliable supplier of sensitive military technology to Pakistan. China launched Pakistan’s first indigenous satellite, Badr-A, in 1990 from Xichang Launch Center in Sichuan. The operation of this satellite gave Pakistani scientists practical understanding of telemetry, orbital patterns, surveillance, and Chinese launch platforms.

The Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), headquartered in Beijing, was established in 2005 to improve Chinese multilateral space collaboration. APSCO members include Bangladesh, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru, and Thailand. International technical cooperation enables Beijing to encourage interoperability with Chinese rocket technology and obtain a greater share of the international commercial launch market.

Achievements in civilian space programs can have great relevance to military projects. Civilian and military rockets utilize similar propulsion, positioning, and control technologies. Space cooperation can therefore serve dual purposes, and support Chinese strategic as well as commercial aims in placing Chinese assistance at the heart of rocket programs of potential allies.

Chinese Strategic Developments: A core aim of Chinese strategic planning is to improve its utilization of space-borne assets. Chinese Air Force Commander General Xu Qilang commented in November 2009 that “as far as the revolution in military affairs is concerned, the competition between military forces is moving towards outer space…this is a historical inevitability and cannot be turned back”.

China’s determination to hold the option of denying the use of space-based capabilities to other states was illuminated in its successful test of an anti-satellite weapon in January 2007, eliminating an old Chinese weather satellite. Building upon this experience, Beijing conducted its first ballistic missile defense (BMD) test on 11 January 2010.

China is developing a geospatial positioning Compass Navigation Satellite System (CNSS), equivalent to the American GPS and Russian GLONASS systems. This will further improve military targeting and location abilities, while offering civilians a satellite positioning service that heralds Chinese technical acumen. Beijing also seeks to launch a manned space lab by 2020.

Indian Capabilities: New Delhi shares the recognition by Beijing of the importance of a wide range of space capabilities as an indispensable element of a robust defense. India’s ‘Phase 1′ BMD system incorporates the Prithvi Air Defense missile for high-altitude elimination of adversary missiles, and an Advanced Air Defense system for low-altitude interception. Supportive radar technology for this system has been sourced from Israel.

This system has been successfully tested and is moving toward active service. An improved ‘PDV’ interceptor is in development to replace the Prithvi Air Defense missile. The ‘Phase 1′ system is designed to target missiles with a maximum range of 2,000km, such as the Pakistani Shaheen-2 and Ghauri missiles. A ‘Phase 2′ system is planned for missiles with a range greater than 2,000km, implicitly those of Chinese origin.
American Leverage: The Indian Space Research Organisation is working with NASA on lunar exploration tasks. Indian diplomats are seeking for Washington to lift remaining restrictions ......

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Business Recorder report on the inauguration of PakSat-1R ground control station in Lahore:

He (Gilani) expressed pleasure that PAKSAT 1R has reached its intended orbit and all subsystems are functioning perfectly.

The PAKSET- 1R was launched on August 12 from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre by China Great Wall Industry Corporation (Cawie).

It was moved to its designated position at 38 degrees East longitude in the geo-stationary orbit to replace the existing satellite Pakistan 1.

It has 32 trans-transponders with three communication antennas to cover the whole of Pakistan and 75 other countries across Asia , East Africa and part of western Europe.

The Prime Minister said that application of space technologies is contributing significantly to socio-economic and security concepts of the developing countries like Pakistan.

He said that with this realisation in mind he approved Pakistan's Space Vision-2040 earlier this year, adding that successful launching and commissioning of PAKSAT 1R marks the first significant step towards realising the Space Vision.

He said that communication satellites were playing a vital role across the world over in bridging the digital divide between backward and remote areas and urban centres in the fields of health, education, entertainment and communication service delivery.

Gilani said PAKSAT-1R would help to extend the communication infrastructure to the entire country thus bringing the fruits of socio-economic development to the remotest corners of Pakistan.

He said that Suparco's space applications programme was already contributing to various fields, the significant ones being agriculture, crop monitoring, yield estimation, food and water security, improvement of water courses, monitoring of environment, disaster monitoring and mitigation, land cover use and many others.

He said with the availability of communication satellite PAKSAT-1R, significant strides would be made in mentioned areas to give impetus to all walks of national reconstruction and development.

The Prime Minister said that besides playing its fundamental role for extending communication facilities, he would urge Suparco and other stakeholders to focus more on tele-education and tele-medicine for improving the quality of life in the remote areas of the country.

He said by doing this benefits of the communication satellite services would be extended to the less privileged strata of society.

The Prime minister said that after successful deployment of PAKSAT 1R, he had directed Suparco to focus on the development of Remote Sensing Satellites to ensure that these satellites are developed and launched as envisaged in the Space Vision 2040.

The Prime Minister urged all federal ministries and provincial portfolios to optimum utilise space technology as an instrument of socio-economic development pointing that it was crucial that the space assets that nation acquired were used at best for the national cause.

He said that he was sure that in view of Pakistan's strategic relationship with China co-operation in space technology and its applications would become yet another hallmark of Pakistan-China friendship.

He said academia has a key role to play to spread knowledge about space technology.

He emphasised that academic and research institutions need to incorporate aspects pertaining to space sciences, space technology and their applications in their curricula.

About close co-operation, collaboration, co-ordination and interaction between Suparco and universities he said it could significantly lead to explore all avenues of space technology.

The Prime Minister expressed pleasure that Suparco, besides other responsibilities was making endeavours to create awareness about the space technology amongst youth.....

Swapneel said...


If Chinese are every where,Indians are trying to be everywhere.
Today undeniably India and China are two success stories in Asia.
And in coming years,India has a demographic advantage over Chinese,besides the advantage of language.
The fact is we are honest about our aspirations,now perceptions might vary as to whether we are justified or not.Believe me we do even more soul searching than any one else.
We are an young and impatient nation.That's not any way being loud mouthed.That's just the vibe of the people's aspiration.
Now on a lighter note the only reason why sugar daddy Chinese speak softly.well none of them are native English speakers,hence are bound to be careful.
On a serious note,we have much to learn from Chinese too.They surely have proved a not slow but steady progressor.
About Indians being obsessed about Pakistan,to be frank youngsters hardly care only thing they obsess about are Pak cricketers,or singers,actors coming over here.
In political sphere,agreed theres a huge trust deficit.Honestly I cannot and should not be saying that its only Pakistan thats responsible.I believe mistakes have been made from both sides.Often debating with Pakistanis becomes a chicken and egg affair.Then there are deadlocks,we say trade first,you say Kashmir first.Kashmiris say we don't care about either of you and we come first.
The positive thing that pakistan can do today is stop obsessing about India as a threat,for we are least interested in breaking you guys apart or annexing you into our territory,we have enough problems already to add a dozen to them.

"India is groping now for a national identity that would allow it to approach Pakistan with confidence, but there is no consensus on how to mesh India’s identity with that of Pakistan’s"

India with an Identity crisis ,well I can only say Stephen Cohen might as well have been on dope.For Allah/Ram/Jesus/Na(which ever u believe)we are a 5000 year old civilization and We are aware of our identity.
I think cohen statement fits rather aptly for Pakistanis.before 1947 they were indians,our daily lives,and cultures are more or less same,yet Pakistanis try to feel closer to arabs with whom they have nothing in common.You yourself sir would be mistaken for an Bihari Hindu than an Arab Muslim .
So junk what Cohen says for he is mistaken,great people do that too.

Riaz Haq said...

Satellite built by Pakistan IST students launched:

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's first Cubesat satellite, iCUBE-1, was launched on Thursday on-board Dnepr launch vehicle from Yasny launch base in Russia.

Built by the Institute of Space Technology (IST), iCUBE-1 was designed and developed at a cost of Rs3-3.5 million.

Talking to, Spokesperson IST Raza Butt said that it’s a positive move for technology in Pakistan.

“The world is moving towards miniaturisation. The launch cost is significantly low for CubeSats as compared to the bigger satellites. The low cost factor is very attractive for researchers who can test their payloads using these cubesats and then incorporate this technology in their bigger satellites,” he commented.

For the uninitiated, a CubeSat is a type of miniaturized satellite for space research that usually has a volume of exactly one liter (10 cm cube), has a mass of no more than 1.33 kilograms.

The cubesat will open up a wide vista of future experiments that can be carried on cubesats in the domain of imaging, microgravity, biology, nano technology, space dynamics, chemistry, space physics and various other fields. Cubesats can also provide a test bed for developing satellite constellations for specific applications.

“In addition, CubeSats need to pass the standard testing procedures which are same for all other satellites giving it’s manufacturers the confidence of building and launching bigger satellites,” he informed.

A team of around 20 faculty members and 15 students worked on the project which was initiated in 2009.

ICUBE-1 is expected to be operational for a period of 2 years. It is a low earth polar orbit at an altitude of 600km.

Sharing an interesting observation during the development of the project, Butt said: “It was interesting that during launch integration, the team had interaction with developers from other countries, such as Italy, Spain, USA and Peru. They were excited. A number of them are open to collaboration with IST on future cubesat missions.”

APP adds:

The Institute of Space Technology has achieved this astounding success in a short span of ten years, owing to the concerted efforts by its leadership, students and faculty to standout in this field and to create a national center of excellence in space technology.

Vice Chancellor IST, Engr. Imran Rahman congratulated 'Team IST' for this great achievement.

He specifically thanked the Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal, Chairman HEC and Chairman of National Space Agency for their continuous encouragement, support and help in achieving this milestone.

Talking to APP, Spokesperson IST Raza Butt said “iCUBE-1 has been launched in a polar orbit, 600 Km above the surface of the Earth, and is designed to take low resolution images of Earth and other space objects.”

Initially, iCUBE-1 will transmit a Continuous Wave Morse coded beacon with message “iCUBE-1 First CubeSat of Pakistan”.

Amateur radio operators have a great opportunity to hear those signals on the VHF band. iCUBE-1 has a mass of 1.1 Kg and is thus categorized as a pico-satellite.

The satellite has a volume of 10cm cube and it houses several sensors to collect data for scientific purposes. iCUBE-1 is a fully autonomous satellite and is capable of maintaining its health via its on-board computer.

The satellite will send its health data to ground stations and can also be commanded from Satellite Tracking and Control Station at IST.

Riaz Haq said...

Bitter rivals blast off as #Pakistan enters #space race with #India. Both plan #astronauts in space in 2022. via @bpolitics

The rivalry between India and Pakistan seems to be extending into outer space.

“The first Pakistani will be sent to space in 2022,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Thursday, the same year that India is planning its first manned mission. Pakistan’s space agency, the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission, has “an agreement for this venture” with China’s Manned Space Agency, Chaudhry said.

While Pakistan’s financial capabilities for such a mission are seen as limited, the announcement still reflects the latest swipe between the two countries who have fought three wars since the partition of British India in 1947 and still trade fire across a de facto border in the disputed region of Kashmir.

The countries’ bitter rivalry is costing them $35 billion in annual trade, according to a World Bank report.

India has already conducted missions to Mars and the moon, and plans to spend $1.4 billion to send a crew of three to space by 2022, which would put it on track to become the fourth nation to send humans to space.