Tuesday, April 26, 2011

DRDO to make sun-powered UAVs (Drones) that can fly for 15 days

After launching development of stealth UCAVs (unmanned combat aerial vehicles), India is now also looking at designing solar-powered spy drones which can cruise in the sky for several days at a time.

The high-altitude, long endurance (HALE) solar-powered UAV will not just reduce Indian military's carbon footprint but more importantly provide a cost-effective and flexible 24x7 ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) platform akin to "a pseudo-satellite" orbiting closer to the ground.

"Yes, Army and IAF have asked us to develop the solar-powered HALE UAV. Initial work is in progress for such a drone which can undertake a 15-day continuous flight over 30,000-feet,'' DRDO's chief controller R&D (aeronautics) Dr Prahlada told TOI.

The drone will harvest solar energy during the day, storing it in fuel cells to provide power for electric motors for night flying. "Solar efficiency is low but we are looking at a payload of around 50kg (sensors, cameras etc). We will seek some collaboration from either US or European companies,'' said Dr Prahlada.

This comes at a time when several international aviation majors are doing cutting-edge research on solar UAVs . Boeing , for instance, is developing a UAV with a 400-feet wingspan, called Solar Eagle, which can operate continuously for an astonishing five years. It is being described as a "zero-maintenance, launch-and leave UAV''.

With remotely-piloted spy as well as combat drones being seen as major force-multipliers or game-changers in modern-day warfare, DRDO has launched a series of UAV programmes for Indian armed forces, which have largely depended on Israeli drones like Searchers and Herons till now.

As was first reported by TOI recently, this includes the secretive AURA (autonomous unmanned research aircraft) programme to develop UCAVs capable of firing missiles, bombs and PGMs (precision guided munitions).

The Cabinet Committee on Security has also now cleared a Rs 1,500 crore DRDO project to develop the Rustom-H MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) drone, capable of operating for 24 hours with a 350-kg payload. "Its first flight will take place in two years,'' said Dr Prahlada.

Then, of course, there is the smaller Rustom-I drone, with 8-12 hour endurance and a 100-kg payload, as well as the already-developed Nishant UAV, which has a 4.5 hour endurance level.

Army, in fact, has projected a requirement of seven "troops" (akin to squadrons) of Rustom drones. As for Nishants, Dr Prahlada said, "Army has already inducted four such drones, which can be launched from hydro-pneumatic launchers without the need of runways, while eight more are being manufactured.''

"Nishants can carry electro-optical, electronic intelligence and communication intelligence payloads so the home ministry is also interested,'' added.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

ISRO plans joint moon mission with NASA

Another dimension to the ''moon mission'' may open up as Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning a joint mission with United States’ National Aeronautics Space Administration’s (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to collect samples from the moon.

“This (project) is in the planning phase, alongside India’s lunar mission programme activities centered around ‘Chandrayaan II,”  ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan told a news conference here after the successful launch of PSLV-C16 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, 100 km North of Chennai.

NASA is planning to execute this mission in the year 2016, while the ISRO will provide the “communicating orbiter” of the project, besides chipping in with a few scientific instruments, he said. That will be called the “Moonrise Mission.”

PSLV-C16 launch video

PSLV successfully launched

Reaffirming its workhorse tag, India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) today completed its 17th successful mission in a row when it launched the country's remote sensing satellite Resourcesat-2 from the spaceport of Sriharikota.
Today's successful launch by PSLV-C16 , which also carried two nano satellites, has again demonstrated India's commercial launch capabilities in the multi-billion dollar global market in the sector.
After overcoming the lone failure of PSLV-D1 launched on September 20, 1993, it has been a success story all the way for the ISRO's homegrown four-stage launch vehicle.
Since 1994, PSLV, designed and developed by ISRO's Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, has launched a total of 44 satellites, including 25 from abroad.
Among the key launches undertaken by the PSLV are India's maiden moon mission Chandrayaan-I in October 2008, four Cartosats and Resourcesat-1.
A standard PSLV version is 44 metres tall with a lift off weight of 295 tonne and designed to launch 1600 kg satellites in 620 km sun-synchronous polar orbit and 1050 kg satellite into geo-synchronous transfer orbit.
PSLV has become "a more versatile vehicle for launching multiple satellites in polar SSOs , Low Earth Orbits and geosynchronous transfer orbit," ISRO said.
The launch vehicle has four stages using solid and liquid propulsion systems alternately.
With its variant configurations, PSLV has proved its multi-payload, multi-mission capability in a single launch and its geosynchronous launch capability.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Indian Pursuit Of Ballistic Missile Defence Program – Analysis

Recently India conducted a successful ballistic missile defence test which was capable enough to intercept and kill the incoming missile. This shows that Indian ballistic missile defence program comprising of long range tracking radar, command and control system and the interceptor, is maturing at a faster pace. As a result, the South Asian strategic stability would be challenged as there are diversification of threats and limited response options, BMD adds value to the complexity of the region.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

ISRO to launch three satellites on April 20

ISRO today announced that it will launch three satellites, including an advanced remote sensing satellite to study and manage natural resources, on April 20.

"Preparations for the launch of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C16) carrying Resourcesat-2 satellite are progressing well at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. In this mission, PSLV-C16 will launch Resourcesat-2, Youthsat and X-Sat satellites," the space agency said.