Category Asian Space Race: Rhetoric or Reality?

Key Asian Space Players

To understand what the future will unfold in the space arena is respect of Asia, it is important to examine whether Asian states will continue with the present pace of economic and technical growth or lose momentum. For any state, future growth in the technological area would be dictated by various nontechnical factors too. Apart from economics, the bilateral and multilateral arrangements undertaken by the state would play a greater role in the development of the space futures of the countries in the region. From this perspective, it would be important to know about the past and present of the space roadmaps of the states within the region.

To build up a broad scale understanding about the investments and achievements of the Asian states in the space arena, subsequent chapters mention the details about the space programmes of few of the states. In regard to certain states since their space programmes are still in nascent stages, there is nothing much to examine. Mostly this is because they have either hired the satellite services or have total dependence on other states to implement their space agenda. Few other Asian states which do not find mention in the above table (simply because they do not have satellites) are also attempting the develop space programmes. For example, states like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and few others that have established space agencies are in the process of developing the space roadmap for their countries.

The big three in Asia, Japan-China-India are in the business of space almost for four decades now. Their yearly space budgets range from approximately 1,000­2,000 million US$ (India has the lowest). It could even be argued that they view space as an important element of their comprehensive national power. Their investments in space are for the sake of national pride, growth of S&T and for the overall socioeconomic development. The strategic importance of these technologies particularly in the twenty-first century when the states in the region are facing both conventional and asymmetric challenges cannot be overlooked. States in the region are found investing or have plans to invest in space technology for both socioeconomical and geostrategic requirements.

Launch Vehicles

Japan has a history of high level of rocket technology awareness from the time before the end of the Second World War, but it was not put in use by the country after the war. Subsequently, only by 1950s, Japan started taking interest in rocketry technology. A tiny rocket ‘Pencil’ was launched horizontally at Kokubunji near Tokyo in 1955 [7]. This could be said to be the first entry of Japan in the field of rocketry in post-World War II era. Over the years, Japan has been developing its own launch vehicles, mainly based on indigenous research and development.

Based on the research and development initiated by Professor Itokawa during 1954-1956, the Kappa series of sounding rockets were developed at Tokyo Uni­versity. These rockets were named as Pencil and Baby. The most advanced Kappa rocket (1966) could carry an 18-kg scientific package to a height of 746 km. During 1960s scaled-up versions of the solid-propellant Kappa sounding rockets were put in use called Lambda, or L series rockets. Also, Mu series rockets were developed with an aim of putting first Japanese satellite in place. However, subsequently Lambda series L-4S rocket was used to put the first Japanese satellite (Ohsumi) in orbit on Feb. 11, 1970 [8]. Other developments include the M series, the N series, H series andJ-1 series.[113]

M-V rocket also called as Mu-5 or M-5 was from the Mu family of rockets. This satellite launcher was developed to support Japanese scientific missions beyond late 1990s. It is a three-staged solid-propellant rocket with a 1.8-ton launch capability into 250-km LEO. The first two flights were successfully launched in 1997 and 1998, but the third lunch failed in Feb. 2000[114]. Subsequent three launches were successes, and the last launch was undertaken during 2006. This rocket has potential

for being converted to ballistic missile applications.[115] After six successful launches in a span of 9 years, these launchers retired in 2006.

The N series (N-1, N-2) rockets entered in service during mid-1970s and 1980s. The N-2 vehicle was manufactured to place 350 kg load into geostationary orbit. The entire process of development and manufacture of various launchers had US support behind it. Boosters and engines were manufactured in Japan under the US license, and various components and guidance systems were procured from the US firms [9]. Japan’s first remote sensing satellite was launched with the help of the N-2 booster in 1987 which incidentally was the last launch for this series of boosters.

The limited payload capability of N-series launch vehicles forced Japan to develop platforms capable of putting higher payload in to the orbit, and thus during 1980s, it started the development of H series launchers. Also, one of the aims was to achieve indigenous launch capability potential. With the help of H-1 launcher by 1986, Japan succeeded in putting 1,110 kg payload into the geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). However, they depended on US technology for this launch too.

Subsequently, Japan started the work on H-2 launcher with an aim to put 4,000-kg satellite into GTO. Also, Japan was interested in making its satellite programme commercially viable. Since Japan was concentrating for the production of an indigenous launcher, the project got delayed, and first launch could take place only in 1994. H-2 rocket conducted five successful launches during 1994-1997. Subsequently, it faced two failures, and in December 1999, Japan decided to cancel the last remaining launch. The problem was identified with the indigenous develop­ment of cryogenic engine. Understanding that H-2 cannot become a commercially viable launcher, Japan shifted its focus towards H-2A launchers [5].

H-2A launcher could be said to have reassured the Japanese scientific community about their capabilities. With its first launch in August 2001, this launcher had done 14 successful launches (out of 15) till 2009. This launcher can be in various configurations and is designed to meet diverse launch demands, at lower cost and with a high degree of reliability.[116] The same launcher was used on September 14, 2007, for launching Japan’s Moon orbiter SELENE. The launcher was also put in use to deliver a foreign payload (Australia, 2002). The only setback this launcher had was its failure to put two Japanese spy satellites into the orbit during November 2003. This launcher system has undertaken various successful launches, and in 2010, the Venus Climate Orbiter was also launched using their services. Presently, H-2A launch service operations have been transferred to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Japan has also developed the H-2B launch vehicle. This is an upgraded version of the H-2A launch vehicle. With the help of this launcher, Japan as successfully launched a cargo transporter to the International Space Station during January 2011.[117] Now, with two operational launch systems available, it would

allow Japan to undertake a simultaneous launch of more than one satellite. This would also offer other benefits like reduction in cost and boosting the space industry.

Present Generation Systems

The present generation satellite navigational systems are more direct. The satellite broadcasts a signal with exact time of transmission and the position of the satellite. ‘The receiver compares the time of broadcast encoded in the transmission with the time of reception measured by an internal clock, thereby measuring the time-of – flight to the satellite. Several such measurements can be made at the same time to different satellites, allowing a continual fix to be generated in real time’ .[200] The system overcomes various technical limitations like cases of fast-moving receivers. Errors are reduced by the various filtering techniques.

Globally, the best known satellite navigational system is the GPS (global positioning system). This US system has almost become synonymous with satellite navigation. Built under the US NAVSTAR programme in 1973, the GPS satellite constellation began with the launch of its first four satellites in 1978. It has brought about significant changes in military tactics and has also created new applications for the civilian use with a significant economic dimension. The GPS can be viewed as an application that covers almost every discipline of modern technology. It is said that GPS could be the next utility, like electricity, running water and the telephone, and could become a part of everyone’s daily life. The applications of this new high-tech capability are limited only by our imagination. GPS-based products will likely fuel the next economic expansion of the free world [1]. In 1983, the then US president, Roland Reagan offered the GPS civil services to the world, free of direct charges in the aftermath of the loss of the KAL 007.[201]

The two other systems apart from the GPS are the two major constellations, namely, the Russian GLONASS and the European Union’s (EU) GALILEO. The GLONASS went on to the drawing board in the mid-1970s while the launching of satellites began in the 1980s. There were 12 functional satellites when the USSR disintegrated in 1991. This constellation has witnessed various ups and downs mainly because of the Russian financial constraints. However, with improvement in its economic condition post 2000, Russia’s investments in its space programme in general and GLONASS in particular started increasing. Presently, the third – generation GLONASS-K programme is underway and is nearing global coverage. Russia currently has 22 fully operational GLONASS satellites in orbit. The com­plete GLONASS grouping must have 24 operational and 2-3 reserve satellites for it to have global coverage.[202]

GALILEO is the global navigational satellite system being developed by the EU and European Space Agency (ESA). This twenty-first century system expected to the best in world is hampered by financial problems and has missed various deadlines till date. This system is mainly meant for civilian purposes and was initiated in 2003. On Oct 21, 2011 the first two European Galileo satellites intended to form part of the future 30-satellite navigation constellation were launched to validate the system and the next pair would be launched during Oct 2012.[203] [204] Galileo may be able to offer an initial set of services by 2014; the system is unlikely to be fully operational before 2016 to 2019. Given its budget, Galileo is expected to provide the 4 IOV (in-orbit validation) and 14 FOC (full operational capability) satellites by 2014, which is 60% of its capacity.11

The United Nations General Assembly in 2006 set up an International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems as an informal body to promote cooperation on the matters of mutual interest related to civilian satellite-based positioning, navigation, timing and value-added services. The committee would also address the issues related to the compatibility and interoperability of global navigation satellite systems. One of the main purposes of this forum is to promote the use of this system to support sustainable development, particularly in developing countries.[205] Asian states are found taking keen interest in this programme, and the second meeting of the ICG Global Navigation Committee was held at Bangaluru, India, in 2007.

Asian Mars Missions

Alike Moon, Mars also has been a part of agenda for spacefaring almost since beginning. The first mission towards Mars was undertaken by the erstwhile USSR in 1960. However, Mars been one arena which has mostly alluded success particularly during early years to the major spacefaring nations. Almost, two thirds of all spacecraft destined for Mars have failed to achieve desired results. Till mid of 2011, only one Asian country (Japan) had attempted a Mars mission, and that too was a failure.

The first successful fly-by mission to Mars was NASA’s Mariner 4, launched in 1964. NASA’s Viking programme during mid-1970s could be viewed as one of the most successful programme where two landers had touched the Mars surface and had remained operational for 3-6 years.[252] All these years, the primary objectives of various missions have been basically to understand the evolution and present – day geophysical, chemical, geological and atmospheric states of the planet and its interaction with the interplanetary environment.[253]

The interests of Asian states in Mars are somewhat limited. Limitations of technology and the financial concerns appear to be the main reasons behind this. However, with increase in space activities and understanding the importance of Mars, the big three Asian space powers are expected to improve their investments in near future. The distance between the Moon and the Earth varies from around 356,400-406,700 km. In case of Mars, the distance increased multifold and varies from around 56,000,000-399,000,000 km. It is important to note that even though reaching the Moon allows the state to exhibit its deep space mission capabilities, the real deep space achievement is to reach the Mars.

In post Cold War era, the first Asian sate to launch a Mars mission is Japan; mission was launched on July 4, 1998. This was Japan’s first interplanetary mission and was called NOZOMI (PLANET-B) meaning Hope. The aim of this mission was to orbit Mars at an altitude 130-150, 5,000 km and to transmit data for one Martian year. It had 14 instruments onboard including sensors from EU, Canada and the USA. Initially, the performance of the craft was found normal in the Erath – Moon system. On the way to Mars, however, troubles occurred, and substantial orbit changes were made. Thus, it took 4 years more than the original plan and the mission approached closely towards Mars by December 2003; however, Mars orbit insertion could not be achieved, and the craft was lost [16]. Subsequently, Japan has not announced any other major plans for visiting Mars even though they are having an agenda of visiting other planets. Japan unsuccessfully attempted a mission to Venus during Dec 2010. Japan’s spacecraft Akatsuki (‘dawn’ in Japanese) failed to inject the orbiter into the planned orbit as a result of incorrect orbit estimation. They propose to undertake a renewed attempt to get it into orbit around Venus in 2015 [17].

China and India are the late starters as compared to Japan. China has clearly articulated a Mars roadmap; however, India’s attempts still appear to be in nascent state. China’s first planetary mission Yinghuo-1 Mars orbiter failed due to the launcher failure. It was a Chinese-Russian exploration of Mars. Yinghuo-1 was launched along with the Russian craft called Fobos-Grunt to Mars by a Ukrainian rocket. This small probe was weighing 115 kg and had a designed for a 2-year mission. The main goal of this mission was to search for the signs of liquid water on the Mars surface. The other scientific objectives of this mission include an investigation of the plasma environment and magnetic field study of Martian ion escape processes and possible mechanisms. This probe had five payloads onboard. In the vicinity of Mars, Yinghuo-1 was to be inserted into a near-equatorial, elliptical orbit. The spacecraft was to approach within 400-1,000 km of Mars’ surface at closest approach. The mission was tasked to undertake various measurements. Fobos-Grunt and Yinghuo-1 were expected to work in tandem to measure the structure of Mars’ ionosphere.[254] The Ukrainian Zenit rocket was launched on Nov 8, 2011, with Yinghuo-1 and the Russian Fobos-Grunt spacecraft onboard. Fobos-Grunt was to perform two burns, an orbit-raising manoeuvre, two and a half hours after launch [18]. This was meant to depart Earth orbit and begin its journey to Mars. However, these burns did not take place. Further efforts to retrieve the situation failed, and on Nov 17, 2011, China formally declared the loss of Yinghuo-1 probe.

The next ‘launch window’ will open around Nov 2013 when Mars and Earth would be closest to each other. Subsequent opportunity would be available only in 2016. China is presently working towards catching the earliest possible launch date. In 2013, China is expected to launch its solo Mars mission by using China –

made rockets (best option is probably Long March 3B), observation device and detector. This Mars probe is expected to be an updated and modified version of lunar probe.[255]

China appears to have long-term interest to study Mars seriously; they were part of the Mars-500 experiment (2007-2011).[256] This experiment was jointly conducted by Russia, Europe and China. The project was aimed to obtain experimental data on the health of astronauts and their ability for work in situation of prolonged isolation. For this purpose, a 520-day manned Mars mission was simulated where six astro­nauts were kept in isolation for all these days. This group had one astronaut from China. This experiment would have yielded valuable psychological and medical data which would help China in regard to their planned manned Moon/Mars mission.

Manned Mars exploration could be viewed as an ultimate dream for major space powers. The Bush administration in 2004 has identified such mission as one of the long-term goals for the USA. Interestingly, President Barack Obama views China as a potential partner for an eventual human mission to Mars.[257] It is generally felt that such mission would be difficult for any single nation to undertake such a mission due to financial and technological challenges. There are chances of resistance with the USA for such potential tie-up. It would be of interest to know how Chinese leadership views such offer.

India has begun preparations for a Mars mission; and has rescheduled its earlier plan of launching the mission during the 2016/2018 window. Now, it would be launching its Mars mission on Nov 27,2013 when the red planet will be closer to the earth for injecting the spacecraft into its elliptical orbit. India’s Mars mission was announced by the Indian Prime Minister on during his Independence Day speech on Aug 15, 2012. As per Chairman ISRO Mr K Radhakrishnan this US$80 million mission would attempt to look for life-sustaining elements 500 km away from the Martian surface. India would use PSLV-XL rocket to launch this mission which would have nine instruments to study various aspects of the red planet. Launching of this mission would allow India to join the elite club of five top nations comprising the US, Russia, Europe, China and Japan, with indigenous technology for a 300- day space voyage from the launch date. India expects to undertake this mission as one of the low-cost missions like its other deep space missions, namely, the Moon mission.[258]

Power Dynamics

Space technology is critical for progress, and space systems are strategic assets for a state. For more than half a century, this technology has been effectively used for socioeconomic development by its possessors. It still remains more of an exclusivist technology, and due to its dual-use nature, the possessor of this technology views it as a symbol of national power. The concept of power could have different connotations for different states depending on the circumstances. Quantification of national power and finding its correlation in regard to success achieved by that particular state in space arena could be a laborious but worthwhile exercise.[324]

For the purpose of macro analysis, four commonly accepted instruments of national power: political, economic, informational and military,[325] could be used. The political instrument of national power allows the execution of a nation’s foreign policy through diplomatic means. The economic instrument is the leveraging of a nation’s wealth to influence the behaviour of others. The informational tool provides the ability to disseminate (or withhold) information collected with the help of space assets. The military instrument essentially shows the capability of a state to influence the outcome of any war.

For states like Japan-China-India, these four instruments of national power have significance with varying shades of importance. In context of India, the economic instrument was not of major significance till recently, because its space industry is still in its formative years. However, current trends indicate that India is keen to develop the commercial aspects of its space programme and has started working towards it. Japan is found making investments both at commercial level as well as

at state level. Japan is in a position to influence the fate of major global projects like the international space station (ISS) because of their scientific and financial commitments to this project.[326] China is found making significant commercial investments. Presently, there are found committing financial resources more to make friends than to earn profits. They expect the business to grow in long term.

For all these years, it was becoming difficult for India to attract customers because of the restrictions imposed on them as a response to its nuclear policies. Almost for two to three decades, India was a pariah state for any global engagement in the high-technology arena. Now, the successful culmination of the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2005 and participation of the states like the USA and Russia in India’s Moon mission clearly demonstrate the emergence of a strong international collaboration and cooperative component. Various subsidiaries of ISRO were put under export control ‘Entity List’ by the USA for long. Post-2005 Indo-US nuclear deal, in an attempt to expand high-technology trade and strategic cooperation with India, the USA has removed all restrictions on ISRO by Jan 2011. All this would help India to further develop the commercial aspects of its space programme.

The satellite services of these three states play an important role towards com­munications, broadcasting, tele-education and tele-medicine services and weather forecasting services. They are sharing this information with other states as well depending on their individual arrangements. This real-time information accessibility demonstrates the potency of informational superiority these states possess. The innate dual-use nature of space technology and particularly of the availability of remote sensing satellites with sub-metre resolution capability, clearly demonstrates their relevance for the militaries of these states. China has already conducted a successful ASAT test and is reported to have developed satellite jamming technologies. This directly portrays their military space potential. Theoretically, India is in a position to develop ASAT technology if it chooses to do so.

These three states have already published their vision documents giving their plans for coming few decades.[327] These plans demonstrate that for them, the relevance of space has grown much beyond a mere tool for socioeconomic development. Economics and security have emerged as other important pillars for their future space architecture. They view space technology as a symbol of national power.

Amongst these three states, China appears to be more focused towards identify­ing their space programme as a tool for raising nationalism. It has already succeeded in sending the human to the space and has also successfully demonstrated their spacewalk capability. They are also developing an independent space station and

have successfully tested space-docking technology. India has articulated its vision for human space flight programme but is expected to take many more years to fulfil this dream.

There is a strong possibility that the first human to put its foot on the Moon in the twenty-first century could be the Chinese.[328] If China succeeds in doing this before the USA, then it could be a significant act of power expression. Apart from Japan- China-India, the states in the region with interest in space are still in the process of evolution in space arena and hence are unlikely to reach the level of placing their space accomplishments as a symbol of national power in the coming two to three decades. This is not to argue that their space achievements would not demonstrate some correlation with any of the above-stated commonly accepted instruments of national power. But, in overall analysis, they are likely to remain as tier three or tier four space powers.[329]

West Asia’s Investments in Space Technologies

West Asia (also known as Middle East) is the westernmost portion of Asia. It is a region containing large areas of mountainous terrain and also has major desert regions. Historically, the region is famous for its kingdoms and big cities. Over centuries, the people in various parts of this region are trying to stay independent, but either the invaders or the people within the region have always tried to overpower them. Over the years in this region, the means and methods of power grabbing could have changed, but the basic instinct remains the same. The region has gained importance globally mainly because of the significant availability of the energy sources. During last three to four decades, the region has witnessed few of the major wars fought in the recent history. Presently, the region could be viewed as one of the most unstable regions in the world.

One nuclear and two spacefaring states fall in this region. This chapter elaborates on the space programmes of two spacefaring states and also discusses in brief the investments made by few other important states within the region.

Satellite Systems

Japan has sent various satellites in different categories to the outer space till date, and they have varying roles to play. Information in this regard is available in various sources. The purpose here is not to intend to detail every Japanese satellite that is in orbit but to take a macro view of Japan’s efforts. Like any other spacefaring nation, Japan also has sent satellites basically for the purposes of remote sensing, communication and meteorology.

Normally, it has been observed that the Japanese space agencies tend to give two names to their satellites one in Japanese and other in English. The most interesting (or confusing!) part is that mostly these names are unrelated. One agency NASDA had named satellites after flowers, while in other cases, diverse names have been used. The other interesting aspect is that agency like ISAS had a policy of using the English name before launch, and subsequently, it used to switch to Japanese name after launch but only if the launch is successful!10 In view of this, following paragraphs discuss the Japanese investments into satellites only based mainly on the role for which they are launched and names of satellites are used only at few places where it was found essential.

The early priority for Japan was development of communication services for telephone and television. Over a period of time, satellite systems were put in place which were capable of providing transmission to the areas where reception of clear signal was problematic. Initially much of work was undertaken to provide high-definition television signals. A dedicated series of communications satellites were also launched to support domestic telecommunications, and this entire process further enabled the process of new technology development.

Initially satellite development was carried by buying expertise from abroad. Few launches were also carried out through foreign rockets because of certain limitations of Japanese rockets. Japan being a bit geographically isolated island nation and one periodically affected by typhoons obviously has a need for investments in meteorological satellites. The first meteorological satellite was launched during July 1977 [4, pp. 24-29].

The first few Japanese satellites could be categorised as demonstration or scientific satellites. The payloads were designed to measure ambient temperatures and undertake solar and cosmic radifation measurements and ionosphere and solar activity studies. Also, there was a programme constituting of resources satellites to observe the planet from space in an integrated way. Studies in the recent past

were undertaken for better understanding of global circulation of energy and water. To promote sustainable development, land observing satellite was launched (2006) which helped towards better understanding of cartography, monitoring of natural disasters and surveying land use and natural resources. A series of astronomical satellites were launched to carry out observations of cosmic sources at various wavelengths.11

Asian Navigational Systems

Various Asian states are facing significant social challenges. Management of avail­able resources is an important issue for these states while devising various growth models. They understand the importance for undertaking development which could meet the requirements of the present without harming the interests of future generations. For undertaking ‘sustainable development’, Asian states are acquiring and developing various technologies, and satellite navigation is one amongst them.

In particular, combination of the GPS and the geographic information system (GIS) is being used for geospatial analysis in a variety of contexts ranging from agriculture and environment to resource management and medicine. Satellite navigation has significant security significance too.

As in other fields, in the arena of satellite navigation too, the maximum investments are being made mainly by China, Japan and India. In view of the fact that satellite navigation is a costly technology, these states are making careful investments. Both Indian and Japan are developing the regional navigation satellite system (RNSS), while only China is investing in a global navigation satellite system (GNSS). When viewed under larger geostrategic settings, this indirectly matches with the ambitions of these states indicating that China has global interests and even their investments in satellite navigation clearly implies this. Following paragraphs discuss the specific navigational programmes for three Asian powers.

Strategic Significance of Deep Space Agenda

Taken as a whole, the Moon agenda of these three states portrays a continuing deep space policy. All these years, the space agendas of these three states have largely been application-driven programmes. The major thrust was found towards usage of space technologies for the overall growth. In regard to states like China, the covert agenda of using space technologies as a tool for security has also been obvious. Now, with investments in deep space missions, these states have succeeded in articulating their long-term ambitions for space exploration for strategic purposes. Here, the term strategic should not be viewed with narrow military vision. It could also mean long term too. In the twenty-first century, the term ‘strategic’ has additional meanings associated with diplomacy/international relations as well as economic propositions.

Human exploration of solar system, starting with the Moon could be said to be a definitive open-ended programme. It is often opinioned that the Moon-Mars exploration could be viewed as a long-term, say, 30-year effort, but in reality it should be viewed as an open-ended project [19]. For these three states, it looks that they have clear-cut roadmaps developed at least for their Moon programmes. These states missed the first round of lunar exploration (Apollo era) but with their successful launches have given them a lead (in global context) in the second round of lunar exploration. Competition could be said to be the part of this new Moon race, although it lacks the drama of first Cold War fueled context [20, p. 727].

Overall, the ‘strategic’ interests need to be viewed from the technological, military, international cooperation/competition and economic point of view. The Moon mission which is considered as a major technological marvel will always have the subtext of ‘nationalism’ at the backdrop, and states would exploit it both for tactical as well as strategic political benefits. It is premature to look for direct military applicability of this mission when the overall Moon programme is still in initial stage. Also, to argue that Moon missions of these states are with hidden military agenda would also be incorrect. What is important is that space technology is inherently dual-use technology and Moon missions also need to be analysed from that perspective. Hence, broadly the growth of technology itself could be viewed from a point of view that there could be direct or indirect benefits for military too.

Moon Missions have purposes beyond scientific explorations too. The basic advantage with such ambitious projects is that they help in the development of frontier technologies. Such technologies could in turn find applicability in various other facets of life too including the armed forces. One major aspect for research and development in regard to Moon mission is the development of Deep Space Networks (DSN). Most of the scientific developments undertaken for this are expected to find major applicability in regard to various aspects of data handling.

Additional investments in regard to development of DSN technology would be essential to enable and enhance the next wave of space exploration. This is expected to lead towards development of new types of high-level information services, enabled by high-capacity connectivity [21]. DSN developments are also expected to lead towards increased emphasis on data networking and data processing applications.

First and foremost, the ongoing missions are going to help to increase the world’s digital knowledge about the Moon manifold. It is expected that the state-of-the-art sensors onboard of these three crafts would help to generate huge data sets giving new knowledge about the Moon’s surface (stored in digitised form). This knowledge is going to be of immense importance for further research. Moon missions at this point in time could be said to have undertaken for two primary reasons. One, to check the viability of access to helium-3[259] that is available in abundance over Moon. Here the purpose is not only restricted to helium-3 but to recognise the overall mineral resources availability on the Moon. Second, to make a permanent base over the Moon.[260]

The strategic issues related to Moon and Mars surface bases will be centred on development of enabling technologies, cost of missions and international cooperation. The obvious path for tackling such issues will be through innovative and new means of international cooperation [22]. However, these three missions do not give any indication that a substantial international cooperation is being envisaged. Chandrayan-1 mission could be said to be a mission with some amount of international cooperation. In this mission, half of the sensors onboard Indian craft are from other states.

Now the issue is ‘is the lack of Asian cooperation in this field by default or by design?’ Observers feel that largely the technical and political motivations behind most of the planned missions leave little room for the international scientific community to team up on joint projects [20, p. 724]. It is also important to factor in the dynamics of overall India-China and China-Japan relationship too. It could be too naive to expect these states to shed the histological baggage and j oin hands in this field when otherwise the relationship is not so harmonious. Interestingly, this may not be the case in regard to missions on Mars. There are indications that the states are interested in bilateral or multilateral collaboration in regard to missions to Mars, but not within the region. There are proposals like China collaborating with Russia for the Mars mission. States may have their own rationale behind this. It could be that states feel that ‘race for resources’ in regard to Mars is not a financially and technologically viable proposal. Also, Moon is being viewed as a gateway to Mars, so if Moon is within a reach, then activities for Mars could be controlled. On the other hand, joint collaborations for Mars missions could help transfer of technology which could be used for Moon missions.

Most of the solar system is inhospitable to humans. States will probably never attempt to visit Mercury and Venus or venture to Jupiter and beyond. The ‘welcome mat’ is out only with Moon, Mars and the asteroids [23]. If mankind has to choose another planet to live on, the best choice is Mars because of its natural environment, which is similar to that of Earth [3]. Hence, at some point of time, states are likely to factor in the Mars missions in their overall security calculus. It needs to be remembered that having human colonies on Mars may take another 100-200 years, and hence presently states are not in a hurry to contextualise Mars in their strategic planning. Since reaching Moon is viewed as the first step for the Mars, probably at this point of time, states are self-centred in their Moon agenda but are keeping an open mind in regard to Mars.

Currently, the major military benefits states could get from the deep space agenda are expected to come from the DSN technology and the robotic technology. The composition of future missions depicts that states would be operating robots on the Moon’s surface for the purpose of mineral analysis. The entire mission would be controlled from the Earth. Already, missions on similar lines have been undertaken successfully particularly over the Mars by the USA. The military logic emerging from experimentation is simple—if you can operate a robot on the Moon, you can always operate it in the enemy state or on the battlefield. The issue could only be that of the size and role of the robot. Future warfare is expected to see significant usage of robotic technology in various forms, and the robots developed for Moon mission could get modified for the purposes of military usage. The radar networks developed for Moon/Mars missions could help the states in their intelligence gathering mechanisms. C4ISR capabilities of the states could undergo a revolution with the availability of high-speed data networking and data processing facilities. The strategic materials being developed for these missions could change the face of platform technology and future military platforms like aircrafts, tanks, ships and submarines are expected to be more robust but extremely lightweight.

Once the Moon is conquered and the resources fall in the hands of these limited few states, then the world could get divided into two groups: one the state with Moon presence and other without. At that point of time, these three states would be approached by the have-nots for getting an access to the Moon’s wealth. This could bestow on them international collaborations on their terms and larger economic benefits would follow. Also, the technological leadership of the world (in few areas) could go in the hands of these states.

Asia’s overall considered judgment for deep space should not be viewed in isolation. It is also important to factor in the USA’s position in this discussion, it being the only state to have successfully undertaken manned Moon flights, have programmes for Mars and have various plans for future in deep space region.

Space exploration in the twenty-first century may not hold the same strategic logic of the 1960s, but this does not mean that the strategic significance evaporates totally. However, the USA probably is trying to downplay the strategic significance of Moon/Mars in the present era. In 1961, the then defence secretary had mentioned that the Apollo programme was ‘part of the battle along the fluid front of the Cold

War’. But, now in his January 14, 2004, speech the then President George Bush argued that the current Moon exploration initiative should be seen as a ‘part of a journey and not a race’.[261]

The USA is generally of the view that they have already achieved much in this field almost four decades back and the new players are just trying to imitate them only now. But, this appears to be their official position. They fully understand that the purpose behind their Moon missions during the 1960s and the missions of the day are entirely different.

Few in the USA view that their state cannot lag behind in this new Moon race. As per NASA’s Chief Mr Michael Griffin (Apr 2005 to Jan 2009), ‘If China were to achieve this before the return of a manned American spacecraft to the Moon for the first time since 1972, the bare fact of accomplishment will have enormous, and not fully predictable, effects on global perceptions on the US leadership in the world’. As per Washington Post, this comment was part of the draft of the statement prepared by Mr Griffin to submit to congress but was subsequently deleted.[262]

Generally, it has been observed that NASA’s opinion on Moon and Mars programme does have a nationalistic character. The October 2006 announcement of the new national US space policy and the USAF’s ‘Strategic Master Plan for FY 2006 and Beyond’ designates space as an ‘ultimate high ground of US Military operations’.32 The overall US policies all these years indicate that they give substantial importance to space technologies in their strategic planning and same would be the case with their deep space thinking.

Moon has potential to various ‘utilities’: a base for geological study, a platform for astronomy, a laboratory to study the long-term effects of reduced gravity on humans, a test bed for future manned missions to Mars, or even a launch pad for unmanned craft on their way to the outer reaches of solar system [24]. More importantly, Moon offers achievable options in regard to energy security and replenishment of minerals on the Earth’s surface. Naturally, the USA would not like to miss the Moon bus and would make all efforts to be the first in every related field. Japan, China and India understand the US dilemma in regard to the Moon. Japan and India may engage them in their Moon journey, at least in token form. On the other hand, China feels that they should catch the opportunity before the global programme of returning to the Moon take-offs in full swing [20, p. 726]. The USA was part of India’s first Moon mission and credit for finding the water on the Moon’s surface goes jointly to the Indo-US team. States like the USA and Russia could take advantage of the Asian states developing the platforms to reach to the Moon/Mars. They could simply cooperate with them and send their sensors on such platforms to gather the information for future use.


Japan, China and India’s drive to explore the Moon (and to a certain extent Mars) depicts the case of deep space ambition supported by sound technological investments. These states are no novice in the space field, and their entry into the deep space area looks a logical progression of their space agenda. They all have successfully finished their first Moon missions, and their overall planning for the future demonstrates that the construction of lunar base is probably not too far (may be another two to three decades) beyond their technological capabilities. Today, they have successfully put together strategic, technological and commercial aspects of their space agenda in furthering their deep space agenda. Their Moon and other deep space ambitions signify that they propose to transform the unipolar world with multiple power centres and are using space technology (particularly deep space missions) as one of the components to do so.

In the post Cold War era, national security is seen more in terms of technological and economic strengths. Military capability in many cases is a by-product of technological and economic strengths of a state. For rapidly growing economies like India and China, access to cheap energy is vital. Strategically, it’s incorrect to depend on any single source of energy, and also the energy sources are finite. Hence, these states are looking for multiple answers to resolve the issue of energy security, and one of the basic purposes behind Moon mission is to examine the possibility of the usage of helium-3 as an energy source.

The end of Cold War and particularly after September 11, 2001, WTC attacks, it is articulated that conflicts amongst nation-states are on decline and in future interstate wars would be a rarity. However, the geostrategic realities of the region indicate that India would continue to face threat from Pakistan (both overt and covert). China and India have fought a war just four decades back, and Japan is concerned about the activities of North Korea which has also tactic support of China in some respect. Also, Japan-China relationship is less than cordial. Naturally, the security apprehensions with South Asia and East Asia will keep these states involved towards continuously upgrading their defence infrastructure (may not be true in real sense in respect of Japan). Moon mission could allow them to enhance their overall power status.

The resources on Earth are insufficient, and Moon could become a source for their accumulation in future. Today, these states are investing in the Moon with full understanding that the Moon has merits beyond scientific realm. They understand that the development of frontier technologies for their Moon missions will lead to huge developments in science, and these developments would have signifi­cant strategic utility. The world is gaining considerably through its multinational internationalf space station project. These states understand the value of such joint collaborations but at least for now are going ‘solo’. Probably, they are attempting to evaluate the exact strategic relevance of such missions and think that international collaborations can always wait.

Conversely, these states cannot remain divorced from the effects of global events. In this era of global economic recession, it may be difficult for them to sustain funding for such high-value projects. But, looking at the long-term benefits of such missions and the status associated, it looks unlikely that the rulers from these states would meddle with such missions. They would attempt to develop various mechanisms for fund raising. Prevailing economic conditions could delay few projects but in totality the political support from the projects is not expected to diminish. Presently, the USA is developing an agenda of leaving the Moon mission completely to the privet industry. President Obama is not keen to continue to support the US Mars mission. As per his plans revealed during Feb 2012, his government is expected to reduce the funding to NASA. This in turn could hamper the deal between the USA and ESA to cooperate on Mars robotic rover missions in 2016 and 2018. Asian states could sense an opportunity over here and may decide to cooperate with the ESA to carry forward their Mars agenda.

Overall, the debate on Mars appears to be bit ambiguous. In somewhat contrast to the Moon, the approach towards conquering Mars appears to be somewhat diffused at present, both in global context and to certain extend in Asian context with probably the exception of China. Both technological challenges and financial challenges could be the key impediment towards this. Also, there is less amount of clarity about exactly what the expectations from Mars should be. In general, apart from scientific achievements, the states understand the importance of Mars mission for the development of space industrial base and capabilities. Also, various new technologies developed for the purposes of Mars mission could become part of revolution in military affairs (RMA) architecture. Based on the current trend, there is a general global perception about manned missions to Mars becoming a reality by 2030/2040. In Asia, the current trends denote that China could achieve such feet provided various other related issues working in its favour. It is expected that the geopolitical discourse of tomorrow would involve ‘mission to Mars’ as major component to judge the national prestige as well as a paradigm for international collaboration.

The investments made by Japan, China and India towards Moon programme have also raised global interests in the Moon. It is likely that in future, the Americans and the European Union could also make significant investments towards exploring Moon and Mars, and already some of their plans have started taking shape. In short, Asia would compel the West to revive the deep space agenda.

International Cooperation

International collaboration has been the key for the initial success in space field for Asian states, and even today, it plays an important role. During initial years, Japan was helped by the USA, and China was helped by USSR/Russia towards development of their space programmes. For India, the help came from different quarters—France, USA to erstwhile USSR. Other countries in the region are being helped by countries within and outside the region. Presently, all major space players in Asia are having collaborations with Russia, USA and the EU.

China and EU have developed significant cooperation. On May 24, 2007, both sides signed China-EU Space Cooperation Actuality and Cooperative Plan Protocol, which stipulates distinctly the fields and direction of cooperation. They have established four work groups, that is, Science and Exploration Work Group, Microgravity Work Group, Education Work Group and Earth Observation Work Group. They have various other arrangements too.[330] However, it is also important to note that some of the very important collaborative ventures like the China’s collaboration with EU’s global navigational project Galileo have not worked in spite of the bests of efforts and commitments. With the success of Indo-US nuclear deal, collaborations between India and USA are expected to increase multifold in space arena. Human space flights, deep space missions and asteroid studies are expected to be the future areas of collaborations. During October 2011, India has launched a satellite called Megha-Tropiques in collaboration with France.

Russia is already collaborating with India and China for the Moon and Mars missions. Success of such missions and the importance of information gathered could decide the nature of further collaborations. The case in point is that the success achieved by Indian Chandrayaan-1 mission in finding water on the Moon’s surface in collaboration with NASA. Initially, NASA was not interested in India’s second Moon mission, but now, they are keen to get associated to further their research in this arena.

Other Asian states which have started late are keen to get outside assistance to develop their own space programmes. Iran is receiving tactic support from China and Russia. Pakistan is relatively a weak player in space arena and is dependent on support mainly from China. In SE Asia, aggressive investments are being made by the USA and China. As per industry estimates, by 2011-2012, over US$2 billion worth of new satellites may be launched over Asian region. SE Asia is expected to offer a major portion of this business. The USA has already launched satellites for Vietnam and has sealed deals with Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines backed by loan guarantees. China has promised to build and launch a communications satellite for Laos. In 2009, it signed an agreement with Pakistan, granting a $200 million loan for satellite construction. It would also be establishing ground control segments for them at Lahore and Karachi.[331] During August 2011, China has launched the Pakistan’s first communications satellite.

Appreciating the requirement of multilateral engagement, few Asian states have joined together to form Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO). This organisation has started its operations in Beijing during December 2008, 16 years after the idea was put forward. It has seven member states, China, Bangladesh, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru and Thailand. Indonesia and Turkey have also signed the APSCO convention. Representatives from Argentina, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia and Sri Lanka also attended the founding ceremony. The organisation aims to promote the multilateral cooperation in space science and technology. Its members will work together in development and research, space technology application and training of space experts.11 Such multilateral cooperation could help the members from SE Asian region in getting a greater access to technology allowing them to exploit natural resources and help in disaster reduction. Such grouping has a potential to develop into a major pressure group. States like India and Japan are having few collaborative projects with states in the region but are still far away from using satellite technology as a tool for increasing their regional influence. A state like India appears to be a slow starter in regard to using their space expertise for the purposes of political engagement. A case in point could be the case of Sri Lanka. This India’s neighbour is taking the help of a private company in UK to design and build its first satellite. This agreement was signed during November 2009 [3]. The current trend indicates that the USA and China could play a major

role in the region at least for next few decades and would garner both economic and geopolitical benefits.

In contrast, the development of space technology in Asia during the 1970s to the 1990s remained restricted because of the policies of the USA. It had used economic and technological disability of Asian states to its advantage. As mentioned earlier, states like India faced technological apartheid because of sanctions regime. Japan also received a raw deal from its ally, the USA [4]. Japan’s dream of indigenous satellite development programme did not materialise initially because of the US policies. There was a dispute between the US administration and Japan regarding the so-called unfair trade practices followed by Japan which in turn was bringing difficulties for the US industry to penetrate Japanese market [5]. The USA was not keen to allow Japan to develop their indigenous capabilities at the cost of the US industry interests.

However, in the twenty-first century, it is unlikely that major space powers would hold themselves back from cooperating with Asian countries anymore. There could be various reasons for it. First, financial constraints, with the decline in the economy of the West, for NASA or ESA, it may not be possible to fund major independent space projects. Hence, they could engage states like India and Japan for collaborative ventures. In fact, the abrupt end of US space shuttle programme without an alternative has made analysts to suggest that they could take help from China in future for space visits of their astronauts [6]. This could allow them to reduce the dependence on Russia in regard to ISS programme. However, the real challenge in this case would be of geopolitical arithmetic. Second, access to key global natural resources and commodities on other planets is likely to be the one of the important future space agendas. Apart from having requisite ‘hardware’ in place to do so, a need could arise to have some global consciences on this issue, and having ‘dependent’ space powers could become an advantage. Third, for economic reasons, Asian market offers good business opportunities.

The uncertainty factor in the likely engagements of Asian states could emerge from scenarios like Iran or Japan conducting nuclear tests or India undertaking an ASAT creating huge space debris.