Category Asian Space Race: Rhetoric or Reality?

Foretelling the Future

Prognostication of the future is normally done based on the knowledge of the present. This does not mean that the future will always evolve based on present events. Foretelling the future is an intricate activity even for creative thinkers, and in the past, many of them have gone wrong. Mr. Andrew W. Marshall is one who has few correct predictions to his credit. He is Pentagon’s futurist-in-chief who has been the Director of the Office of Net Assessment since the time of the Nixon Administration and had successfully predicted the end of the Cold War. Mr. Andrew Marshall has once articulated that ‘when it comes to predicting the future, it is better to err on the side of being unimaginative’.[322] [323]

The biggest obstacle for any predictive exercise is to avoid getting trapped into individual biases. Many a times it has been observed that the prevailing circumstances could render the judgment irrelevant. This mostly depends on the choice of variables for the analysis. At times, slight changes in input parameters make the predictive analysis look totally different. This particularly happens in case of statistical analysis because it relies heavily on arresting the connections between the explanatory variables and the predicted variables from past events. Predictions based on regression techniques also take into account relationships between dependent and independent variables. Such techniques play a major role towards finding solutions to scientific or economic problems. There are certain mathematical models and statistical techniques available even for finding solutions to complex problems in social science sphere. However, such techniques have limitations particularly in respect of quantifying certain variables mainly influenced by human behaviour. Hence, forecasting events related to geopolitics wars, political power shifts, community behaviour, failing states, poverty, social unrest, etc. are difficult, if not impossible, to predict entirely based on mathematical formulation. In order to make some sense of such a complex reality, the method of scenario building is perhaps one of the best research techniques available to us to enable the crafting of plausible futures in the realm of policy-making.

As a research technique, scenario building was pioneered by Herman Kahn in the 1950s while working at RAND, the renowned US-based research institution (think tank) on policy matters. This work was followed by Ted Newland, Pierre Wack and also by Jay Ogilvy, Paul Hawken and Peter Schwartz [1]. From a purely definitional point of view, Kahn and Weiner defined scenarios ‘as hypothetical sequences of events constructed for the purpose of focusing attention on causal processes and decision points’ [2]. Scenarios are not so much about predicting the future based on a short-term analysis. Rather, they are about ‘perceiving’ the future based on long-term analyses of an issue with a particular purpose/goal in mind. According to Peter Schwartz, ‘Scenarios provide a context for thinking clearly about the otherwise complex array of factors that affect any decision; give a common language to decision makers for talking about these factors, and encourage them to think about a series of “what if” stories; help lift the “blinkers” that limit creativity and resourcefulness; and lead to organizations thinking strategically and continuously learning about key decisions and priorities’.2

The method of scenario building is one of the most accepted techniques of making some sense of an ever dynamic and complex future. It helps to grasp a whole range of forces, factors and possibilities that are important while planning for the future. It is important to note that scenarios do have a high degree of uncertainty tagged to them. Therefore, studying the future based on the scenario­building method is at times viewed as an activity based on conjectures.

India’s Space Programme

In 1963, India’s entry into the space field made a nascent beginning from a small church in Thumba village in the southern parts of India. It started with launching of sounding rockets in 1963. At that time, the purpose behind investing in space technologies was for scientific investigations of the upper atmospheric and ionospheric phenomenon above the geomagnetic equator. In India, the geomagnetic equator passes through Thumba village (Kerala state in India). During 1960s, the only suitable building to start this job was a church in this village [1]. From this village, India launched its first sounding rocket on November 21, 1963.1 Over last four to five decades, India’s space programme has made significant progress and is today globally reorganised as one of the most successful programmes in recent times. India’s initial progress in the space arena was slow in comparison with the progress made by in the later days. Limited technological expertise and being an underdeveloped economy lack of financial resources were probably the key reasons for this slow growth.

Initial journey of India in this field was founded restricted to sounding rocket experimentation. Such experiments continued almost for a decade. Subsequently, India placed its first satellite in orbit with the help of the erstwhile USSR on Apr 19, 1975. Aryabhatta was India’s first satellite, named after an ancient Indian mathematician of the fifth century AD. It was launched[72] [73] from Kapustin Yar, a rocket launch and development site close to Volgograd in the then USSR. Further, India became a spacefaring nation on July 18, 1980, when it demonstrated that it could send a satellite to orbit by using its own rocket launching system. This was the launch of satellite Rohini 1 with the help of Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) rocket from its own launch site located at Sriharikota in South India.

Initially, India’s space programme started under the aegis of Department of Atomic Energy[74] in 1962 with creation of Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR). The mandate to the committee was to oversee all aspects of space research in the country. Work began on the establishment of the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in 1962.[75] The first sounding rocket was launched with the help form National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which provided Nike-Apache rocket along with other hardware and training aids.

India’s former Prime Minister Ms. Indira Gandhi dedicated TERLS to the United Nations on Feb 2, 1968. On that occasion, INCOSPAR Chairman Dr. Vikram Sarabhai articulated India’s aspirations in space programme. He stated that India’s programme is civilian in nature, with focus on the application of space technology as a tool for socioeconomic development of the country. The basic aim of India’s space programme was described as a programme capable of using space technologies in the vital areas of development such as communications, meteorology and natural resource management [2]. It is important to make a mention over here that Dr. Vikram Sarabhai gave the initial vision to the Indian space programme, and it was Prof Satish Dhawan (1972-1984) who made this dream a reality.

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was formed under the Department of Atomic Energy in 1969 and was subsequently brought under the Department of Space in 1972. A Space Commission was also setup in the same year which reports directly to the prime minister. The Department of Space along with ISRO operates four independent projects: the Indian National Satellite Space Segment Project, the National Natural Resource Management System (NNRMS), the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) and the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL). The depart­ment also sponsors research in various academic and research institutions.5

Presently, the ISRO has various operating divisions all over the country. These divisions deal with space systems, propulsion, communications, telemetry and tracking, research, launches and other facets of the space programme. The major achievements of the space programme have been in the area of the domestic design, production and launching of remote sensing and communications satellites. Over the years, ISRO has established a strong infrastructure for remote sensing and communications satellite systems with launcher autonomy. In 1992, the ISRO established its commercial outlet called the Antrix Corporation (this word is from

ancient Indian language ‘Sanskrit’—meaning space). This organisation markets space and telecommunications products of ISRO.[76]

Initially, the Indian Space Programme had focused on mainly experimental, low-capability projects that allowed Indian scientists to gain experience in the construction and operation of satellites and launch vehicles. ISRO built (with some foreign assistance) the Bhaskara Earth observation satellites, a communication satellite (the APPLE satellite), and conducted four flight tests on its SLV-3 satellite launch vehicle between 1979 and 1983 [3].

Subsequently, from mid-1980s, India focused on more capable, mission-specific systems. During this period, ISRO started designing and developing the PSLV (polar orbiting satellite launch vehicle) and its successor the geostationary satellite launch vehicle (GSLV). These vehicles were required to launch the indigenously developed Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellite and a meteorology and telecommunications ‘Indian National Satellite’ (INSAT). PSLV commenced its operational launches in 1997 and since then has gained an image of most dependable workhorse with ten consecutive flights till April 2007.[77] On September 2, 2007, India successfully launched its INSAT-4CR geostationary satellite with GSLV F04 vehicle. This launch proved India’s capabilities to put satellites weighing around 2,500 kg into the geostationary orbit. First two stages of these GSLV vehicles are derived from PSLV.

Further, ISRO has plans of designing and developing the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle mark III (GSLV Mk-III) vehicle which is an entirely new launch vehicle and is not derived from PSLV or GSLV Mk-I/II. In April 2002, Indian government approved Rs. 2,498 crores (US$ 520M) for development of GSLV Mk-83 III, a rocket system capable of launching 4,400 kg satellite to GTO with a designed growth potential towards a 6,000 kg payload capability through minor improvements.[78] It may take another 2-3 years to make this vehicle operational.

India has one of the most robust remote sensing satellite programmes. In the area of satellite-based remote sensing, first-generation satellites called Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites, respectively, named as IRS-1A and 1B were designed, developed and launched successfully during 1988 and 1991 with multispectral cameras which had spatial resolution of 72.5 and 36 m, respectively. Second – generation IRS-1C and 1D were launched during 1995-1997. These satellites had improved spatial resolutions of 70 m in multispectral and 5.8 m in panchromatic bands. These satellites have become main components of National Natural Resource Management System, and the data is being used for agriculture, forestry and water resources management.

Another type of remote sensing satellite called RESOURCESAT-1 was launched into polar orbit in 2003 with sensors useful for land use and resource studies. The system provides 5-m resolution of terrain features. India’s cartographic series of satellites, namely, CARTOSAT 1, 2, 2A and 2B, are satellites with one of the

finest resolution in the world. They offer stereoscopic imagery and make terrain mapping easier. CARTOSAT-1 was launched in May 2005 into polar orbit with two panchromatic imaging cameras, each with 2.5-m resolution. The stereoscopic imaging by the two cameras facilitates the construction of three-dimensional terrain maps. These systems are meeting the demands of terrain visualisation, updating of topographic maps, generation of national topographic database and other utility planning.[79] The resolution of recently launched satellites (2A and 2B launched during 2008 and 2010, respectively) matches the best in the world and offer sub­metric resolution (the American satellite QuickBird is the world’s highest-resolution commercial satellite and offers a resolution of 60 cm).[80] [81] Such satellites have significant defence utilities too.

Satellite communication is one arena where India has made significant invest­ments since the beginning of its space programme. It is difficult to delineate the exact investments made by India in the satellite communication sector since inception of its space programme because India started with the doctrine of developing multipurpose satellites. While most satellites fulfil a single, well – defined mission, INSAT series satellites were initially developed as multipurpose geostationary satellites. Its peculiar design arose partly from very unusual design constraints placed on it by India’s insistence that the satellite carries at least four different payloads.

The most significant of the payloads on INSAT was a package that could receive television programmes. Its importance arose from its special ability to transmit educational television programmes. The second package was designed to provide telephone, facsimile, data, telegraph, videotext and other communication services amongst metropolitan areas. The third was a remote sensing package built to survey the nation’s resources and thus help in its development planning. The last payload was a meteorological system capable of transmitting pictures of cloud-cover imageries and collecting weather information from several thousand unmanned data collection points on the ground; it served to trigger selected disaster­warning sirens in isolated coastal villages under the imminent threat of cyclones (hurricanes) [4].

INSAT-1 series (four satellites) constituted of mixed payloads (communication and meteorology). First two satellites of INSAT-2 series are multipurpose satellites, while 2C and 2D had only communication payloads. The same was the case with the INSAT-3 series in which 3B and 3C were dedicated communication satellites.11 INSAT-4 series of satellites has been initiated. It is proposed to have seven satellites in the series. INSAT-4A, 4B and 4CR satellites of this series are already operational.

These satellites are essentially meant for communication purposes with C and Ku band transponders.12 India has also launched a satellite called EDUSAT in 2004 in geostationary orbit. This is the first Indian satellite built exclusively for serving the educational sector. Over the years, the multipurpose INSAT satellite series are found carrying instruments for meteorological observation and data relay purposes too. However, in 2002 for the first time, an exclusive meteorological satellite called KALPANA-1 was launched. India has opened a new chapter in its weather forecasting and atmospheric research capabilities by positioning satellite called Megha-Tropiques in an orbit of 867 km during Oct 2011. It is India’s first major joint space project with France. This satellite has been launched to fill the void in regard to the atmospheric data in the equatorial region. This mission is also expected to provide boost for aerospace research in Indian universities.

Mini-satellites are more in demand in twenty-first century. Modern-day satellites are coming in various shapes and sizes like micro, nano and pico satellites. ISRO has sensed that investments in this arena have greater commercial viability. With increasing global demand for such satellite systems, ISRO is concentrating on nano­satellite market and has already launched few small satellites for various other countries. On their own, ISRO has launched two small satellites called IMS-1 (previously referred to as TWSat-Third World Satellite weighing around 83 kg) and IMS 1A also known as YouthSat. ISRO is encouraging and helping the educational institutions within and outside the country to design and develop small satellites. Some of the future Indian investments are expected to revolve around development of small satellites and clusters of nano-satellites.

India’s space programme has grown significantly mainly during last one or two decades. Presently, after reaching a certain level of proficiency in various areas of space technologies, Indian scientists are looking for fresh challenges. In November 2006, India’s space scientists and technologists held a brainstorming session at Bangalore to explore the viability of undertaking a manned mission to the Moon by the end of the next decade (2020) and were ‘unanimous in suggesting that the time is appropriate for India to undertake a manned mission’.

Over the years, India has followed the path envisaged by Prof. Vikram Sarabhai in 1970s of the socioeconomic application-oriented space vision for the country. For all these years, countries’ investments have mainly revolved around remote sensing and multipurpose application satellites and related launcher technologies. However, now the state is looking beyond Prof. Sarabhai’s vision of harnessing ‘space’ for the economic and social development. India’s ‘moon dream-a manned space mission’ is a case in point. During 1970s, Prof. Sarabhai had argued that India does not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the Moon or the planets or manned spaceflight. This change in India’s policy should be viewed as a midcourse correction. It also demonstrates India’s increasing ambitions in this field.

On Apr 28, 2008, with the success of the PSLV-C9 mission, ISRO succeeded in placing in space ten satellites in the space in single mission. Some of India’s other missions also constituted of multiple satellite launching in a single launch. This indirectly demonstrates the possibility of India’s progress towards to developing multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) technology.13 Such technology when fully developed could add teeth to India’s nuclear deterrence. This technology has the potential of making any missile defence configuration employed against the incoming nuclear threat meaningless.

The year 2008 demonstrated India’s reach into deep space by undertaking its first Moon mission. On Oct 22, 2008, India successfully launched its first satellite probe towards the Moon, named Chandrayaan-1. India’s lunar probe succeeded in finding the presence of water molecules on the surface of the Moon. Even though the mission was able to fulfil all its operational objectives, still it is important to note that this mission could stay on its course only approximately half of its designed lifetime. India is expected to launch its second Moon mission in collaboration with Russia by 2014 when a rover (robotic instrument) is expected to land on the Moon. India also has plans for developing its own regional navigational system by launching satellites in to the geostationary orbit in near future.

Apart from deep space missions like the Moon mission, India also has also invested into few other interesting programmes. On Jan 10, 2007, India had successfully launched a recoverable spacecraft into the orbit (mission was known as SRE). This mission was of far greater importance to India because it was for the first time India had tested the reusable launch vehicle technology. The capsule was placed in orbit at an altitude of 625 km and was successfully recovered after 11 days. The last phase of the mission was critical, and the indigenously developed re-entry technology proved its worth. This mission provided precious knowledge about navigation, guidance and control for the re-entry phase (from the outer space to Earth’s atmosphere). Also, this capsule had an indigenously developed thermal protection system essentially in form of silica tiles which proved its worth by withstanding extremely high temperatures during re-entry. This mission could be viewed as a first step towards fulfilling the dream of human space programme. However, India’s plan for a human space flight programme still remains in very early stages of development. Surprisingly, after the success of SRE mission, no other attempts have been made by ISRO to validate this technology by undertaking few more missions. All this clearly demonstrates that human space mission is not on the agenda of the India’s space programme, at least in near future.

India plans to launch its first dedicated astronomy satellite called ASTROSAT in near future. This would be a multiwavelength astronomy mission on an IRS-class satellite into a near-Earth, equatorial orbit by the PSLV. This nearly 2-ton satellite will sport three X-ray instruments that can collect hard and soft X-rays. A fourth instrument will be able to catch X-ray bursts coming from incredibly powerful

eruptions, such as those from giant stars. It is expected that the ASTROSAT’s twin ultraviolet (UV) telescopes will be the best instruments available to astronomers for viewing such objects as young galaxies glowing hot with the light of bright new stars.14 Primary emphasis of ASTROSAT would be to conduct studies of X-ray- emitting objects. This would be India’s first observatory wherein X-ray observations can be taken. However, this Indian programme appears to be running much behind the schedule (the planned launch was in 2008).

The basic limitation for the Indian space programme comes from the fact that the country is still devoid of cryogenic technology. For launches of heavier satellites, a third stage called the cryogenic stage is required. India has yet to mature this technology. In 1992, the then Russian President Boris Yeltsin was to transfer this technology to India but was pressured by the then US administration not do so, fearing that India could divert this technology for its missile programme. Subsequently, Russia had sold six cryogenic engines to India.

It is this cryogenic engine technology required for the GSLV launches that is giving ISRO a few nightmares. The year 2010 witnessed two unfortunate failures for ISRO. On Dec 25, 2010, ISRO’s GSLV-F06 mission with the GSAT-5P satellite onboard failed. The vehicle broke up 53.8 s from liftoff. Surprisingly, the launch failed in the ‘first stage’ of the launch process itself. Earlier on Apr 15, 2010, its first attempt to use an indigenously made cryogenic engine with its GSLV-D3 to launch the GAST-4 satellite had failed. It may take ISRO some more time to test this technology again. Unfortunately, almost for last two decades, India is working towards the development of this technology indigenously; however, the success has still eluded them.

Because of these two major failures in 2010 with GSLV system, India’s capacity of having operational satellites in space and also the transponder capability has reduced significantly. Along with this, two of India’s operational satellites in space are found not able to perform to the fullest of their potential. INSAT-4CR (launched on Sep 2, 2007) is facing problems because of the launching glitches. During the launch, the third stage of the carrier rocket had underperformed, resulting in the satellite being placed into a lower than planned orbit. To put the satellite back in the designed (actual) orbit, much of the fuel onboard of the satellite was consumed, and this in turn had probably reduced the designed 10-year life of satellite to almost the half. Also, INSAT 4B which was launched during March 2007 is being reported to have facing problems since July 7, 2010. There appears to be a power – related problem in one of the solar panels resulting into switching off 50% of the transponders onboard the satellite.

The positive aspect of ISRO’s space programme is their proficiency in launching satellites in the 1- to 2-ton category. PSLV has launched more than 40 satellites

(more than half of them are for other countries) into a variety of orbits to date. Last 21 consecutive missions by this vehicle have been successful.

One important reason behind the significant achievements by the Indian space community is the reasonable budgetary support provided by the government for all these years. ISRO has not faced problems in getting resources and has tended to receive steady governmental support. This is one field where generally bottom-up approach has been found in regard to the growth of overall space programme. It is ISRO which normally decides what projects to undertake and how to proceed. The governmenthas so far been supportive of most of ISRO’s plans. The value of ISRO’s overall assets today is approximately Rs. 100,000 crores ($25 billion) [5]. Since independence, India’s science and technology policies have more or less remained unchanged irrespective of the government in power. India’s space programme is placed directly under the prime minister and hence could be said to be relatively free of major bureaucratic delays.

ISRO has immediate plans for the upgradation of various technologies from propulsion to power systems. Like any other spacefaring nation, India is keen to induct lightweight composites and fibre structures into their platform systems which are expected to bring in major revolution towards weight-carrying capacity of the satellites. ISRO has interest in the ongoing research in this field. By 2025-2030, India proposes to reach the level of technology that they would be in a position to send a spacecraft to the outer space and recover it like an aircraft (on the same lines like the US sends its ISS missions like Atlantis, Discovery, etc.).

The narrative of Indian space programme mostly carried out by developed states (read Western) could be viewed as case of ‘asymmetric ignorance’. Their evalua­tions (particularly during early years of development of India’s space programme) have reflexively been grounded in assumptions about why a poor nation should have a space programme at all. Because the mission of space exploration has been a normatively Western idea, Indian space programme (other Asian programmes too) is understood in relation to aspirations for a Western modernity. Interestingly, the manifestation of Indian space programme does not represent a modernity that is completely Western nor fully postcolonial. It could be viewed as a modernity that is decentred, globalised, constantly transforming and at times even conflicting. India’s scientific and political community links the space programme with the alleviation of poverty, help in education and the requirement for reforms in social sector. Hence, by overcoming any disagreement within the state, India has succeeded in changing the perception from ‘why poor India should not have a space programme?’ to ‘India should have a space programme precisely because it is poor’.[82] By the beginning of twenty-first century with the ‘rise of India’ becoming imminent and the significant progress witnessed by India’s space programme, the perceptions are showing change. Also, the West has started realising the broader commercial relevance of space market in Asia context.

The thrust given by India towards expanding its space programme indicates that the state has major exceptions from its space agenda. It appears to be addressing issues related to space by giving due cognizance to geopolitical, technological and economic realities. From geopolitical viewpoint, India’s success with its space programme has boosted its ‘soft power’ status. In near future, dependence of devel­oping nations interested in space activities is going to fall more on India because of its space infrastructure and economical commercial launching facilities. In the imminent future, India is expected to play an important role towards the formulation of a global space regime which would involve not only the disarmament agenda but also formulation of a policy towards international technological collaboration over areas of mutual concern.

Asian Moon Missions China

In China, scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences are looked upon as the nation’s pre-eminent scientific community and are also respected in society. They play a major role in deciding country’s strategic investments. They have influenced the Chinese leadership thinking towards development of its nuclear and space programme. In recent past, a core group of scientists have played a major role towards convening the military and political leadership in the country to make significant investments in satellite navigation system (Compass) and Moon programme [2]. China has successfully completed its first lunar mission and has launched its second robotic mission, Chang’e-2 on October 1, 2010, to celebrate 61 years of communist rule.

China has devised its lunar exploration project—known as Project Chang’e as three-stage project [3]. These states are:

Stage One—The work began on March 1,2003. This stage was aimed at building and launch of Moon probe satellite. This satellite was launched on Oct 24, 2007 (Chang’e-1), and the mission was scheduled to continue for a year. The mission was extended for some more time.

Stage Two—Here, China is expected to launch a Moon car and make a successful soft landing, patrol and explore the Moon and lay the groundwork for further Moon research. Chang’e-2 is scheduled to be launched in 2011 (actually the launch was done 1 year in advance).

Stage Three—China would be launching a small module and Moon robot to collect necessary samples, return safely, research the samples, provide data for a manned Moon landing and choose a location for China’s Moon base.

The Chinese conceptualisation regarding the Moon mission has the following broad objectives3:

• Three-dimensional survey of the Moon’s surface and analysis of the distribution of elements on lunar surface: This would be done by undertaking detection and analyses of the content and distribution of useful elements and types of materials on the lunar surface.

• Investigation of the characteristics of lunar regolith and calculation of the depth of lunar soil on the surface.

• Exploration of the circumstance between the Earth and the Moon: Aim is to explore the space environment between the Earth and the Moon and to record initial solar wind data and study the effect of solar activities on Earth-Moon space environment.

China has successfully completed the stage one of its Moon mission. Cheng’e-1 fully completed its mission on March 1, 2009. This spacecraft was de-orbited, and it impacted the Moon.

Innovative Experiments

Asian states are working on various areas of technology from astronomical satellites to heavy lift launchers to space food and space clothing (for Moon travel) to asteroid mining. Any significant developments in fields like smart materials, robotics, communication systems and power and energy devices are expected to bring in

revolution in various aspects of space research. Japan is working on ambitious projects like space solar power with an intention of collecting solar power in space and zapping it down to Earth, using laser beams or microwaves. They propose to achieve this within the next two decades but will need a strong economical and tech­nological support. Japanese scientists are working on innovative concepts like space elevator. Significant breakthroughs in carbon nanotech technology are expected to boost this project. India has a major interest in reusable launch technologies. During the next two to three decades, states in the region are expected to enhance their expertise in such fields by using ‘step by step’ approach. Development of the technology leading to ‘launch on demand’ has significant strategic relevance, and various developed Asian states also would have interest in that arena.


As the above discussion underlines, there are various drivers which could decide the future of space programmes of Asian states. Each driver could have different connotation towards shaping the trajectory of individual state’s space programme. Also, relative importance of these drivers vis-a-vis each other will play a role towards determining the future direction of each country’s space programme.

Scientific Experiments and Interplanetary Missions

Japan is one state which has been involved in undertaking interplanetary missions for many years. These missions involve robotic trips to other planets. So far they have not attempted any manned 3 interplanetary missions.[126] Japan entered into the arena of deep space missions in mid-1980s. This was the period after the beginning of space age when for the first time spacefaring nations had an opportunity to study the characteristics of a comet of significant importance which was to make its presence felt in the inner solar system. It was the most famous Halley’s Comet.[127] Japan used this opportunity to organise its deep space mission by launching two probes for studying this comet: a path finder and a main probe (MS-T5 and Planet A). Very useful information was provided by this mission; however, these probes received very less publicity at global level.

Japan has focused on studying the characteristics of the Sun for the deeper understanding and also that of our planetary system. Studying Sun is technologically challenging and scientifically important endeavour. It is the only fixed star available for any study. The knowledge about its evolution and other properties is essential to know more about the mechanisms of various processes taking place in the universe. Japan puts a major emphasis on solar studies. Till date, they have launched two satellites to unravel some of the mysteries and mechanisms of the activities taking place in the solar corona. The first satellite was launched during end August 1991, and this was followed by second satellite during 2006. The second satellite is approximately at an altitude of 680 km. Countries like the US and UK have also contributed in these missions.[128]

Japan was the first country to launch a spacecraft towards the Moon since the erstwhile USSR (Luna 24—Aug 1976). Japan’s first Moon probe Muses A[129] (the mother craft was called Hiten) was launched on January 24, 1990. This experiment

had a major learning value for the Japanese scientists. The basic purpose behind launching this dual satellite was to practise for future interplanetary spaceflights (probes to mars and asteroids). Hiten was the Earth-Moon-orbiting spacecraft and had released a small orbiter called Hagoromo into lunar orbit. Hiten was not programmed for entering lunar orbit and was to act as a relay for Hagoromo. Both the crafts were not programmed for Moon landing. Unfortunately, Hagoromo developed a technical snag (probably radio failed), and its entry into Moon’s orbit was verified only based on the observations from the optical telescope.

Because of this failure, the Japanese scientists along with NASA scientists decided to salvage this mission. It was not possible to change the Hiten’s position form the Earth’s orbit to Moon’s orbit due to fuel shortages. Hence, the route to reach the moon’s orbit was changed, and low-energy lunar transfer was carried out (it took many months). To do this, first ever aerobraking manoeuvre in deep space was carried out. Finally, Hiten was made to hit the moon. The Muses-A[130] mission gave Japan precious experience in targeting orbits and in the use of swingbys[131] to guide future spacecraft travelling to distant planets. Japan’s Kaguya space mission (2007) has been discussed in detail in another chapter of this book.

Japan also had devised an ambitious deep space mission Akatsuki (Dawn/Venus Climate Orbiter) to Venus with the aim to analyse the planet’s atmosphere. This was the first interplanetary weather satellite with a lifetime of 2 years. This 1,058- lb robotic probe was launched aboard an H-2A rocket on May 21, 2010. It was expected to reach Venus by December 2010. It was to enter an equatorial orbit around Venus stretching from just above the planet’s blanketing atmosphere to an altitude of nearly 50,000 miles. Six experiments were planned to peer deep into the planet’s atmosphere and even study surface activity [16].

Unfortunately, this mission failed to reach Venus on December 7, 2010. It was to enter orbit around the planet (an elliptical orbit ranging from 300 to 80,000 km from Venus) but the planned attempt to initiate orbit insertion operations by igniting the orbital manoeuvring engine failed (the engines fired for 3 min only when they were required to fire for 12 min period). Now, JAXA is developing plans to attempt another orbital insertion burn when the probe returns to Venus in 6 years by keeping the probe into hibernation for the time in-between [17, 18].

This was Japan’s second interplanetary mission after the Nozomi spacecraft that twice missed entering orbit around Mars after launching in 1998. Nozomi was launched during 1998 to understand more about the atmosphere around the Mars; however, the mission failed because it could not gain sufficient velocity and achieve the required orbit.

Japan also has a significant interest in asteroid mining. They had launched Hayabusa (MUSES-C) capsule on May 9, 2003 which rendezvoused with a near­Earth asteroid[132] called 25143 Itokawa in mid-September 2005. Hayabusa surveyed the asteroid surface from a distance of about 20 km. Afterwards this spacecraft moved closer to the asteroid surface and further approached it for a series of soft landings and for the purposes of collection of samples. The capsule re-entered to the Earth’s atmosphere on June 13, 2010. By October 7, 2010, it was announced by JAXA that approximately 100 particles with a size smaller than 0.001 mm were collected by the sample canister, and some of them could even be cosmic materials.[133] Presently, scientists are researching on them and have also come out with some of initial findings.

Asia’s Security Milieu

Today, the contemporary Asia’s security environment is essentially different from that of the Cold War era when Asia was considered basically a mediocre security region dominated by the influence of either the US or the erstwhile Soviet Union. In twenty-first century Asia has emerged as a hub for various global activities. The dynamics of security in Asia is more dependent on the interaction of interests and priorities of states in the region than getting dominated by the interests of major powers [3]. Asia is encountering various security challenges which fall in realm of both military and non-military threats. The direction of any regional conflict and the process of conflict resolution are having their moorings largely in regional and local dynamics. Simultaneously, most extra-regional actors are found attempting to influence the conflicts in Asia. In various cases such powers are found unable to manage the conflict but at the same time are found continuing with their efforts and not ready to surrender their interests. Because of their bilateral and multilateral relationships with some Asian states, their position to influence the conflict and dependence of few Asian states on their military strengths is not allowing their influence to wither. Also, their interests in Asian affairs to support the sustenance and growth of defence industry back home should not be disregarded. However, over last few years with overall economic growth witnessed by Asia and with the rising power status of few states in Asia their relevance in conflict resolution is getting limited. Also, in certain cases their manipulative behavior to suit their interests is becoming too obvious, making Asian states to distance themselves.

The impact of globalisation on Asia’s security calculus has been noteworthy. The nature of this impact is complex. Few parts in the region have acquired immense benefits from this process and economic development has lessened the reasons for conflict. It has been observed that the interdependence enforced by globalisation compels states to cooperate with each other. Hence, globalisation has potential to bring in the shift in the balance of power. However, it is important to note that the conflicts in the region are for varying reasons from territory to governance. Also, there are certain interstate and intrastate conflicts. Communal violence and terrorism are the major threats the region is encountering for the last few years. The region also suffers widespread environmental degradation and resource scarcity. Other security challenges from human security, food security to energy security are dominating the existing security concerns. Hence, only economic prosperity is not the solution for conflict resolution in Asia.

Security dynamics of the region is significantly influenced by the nuclear realities. Existing nuclear powers like China, Israel, India, and Pakistan; a dwarf nuclear power like North Korea; a prospective nuclear power like Iran; and a state hinted to be interested to become a nuclear power like Myanmar (Burma) reside in Asia. Also, Japan is one country in the region probably with a ‘wild card’ credentials in nuclear weapons arena. Nuclear deterrence dictates the security scenario of certain parts in the region. Also, presence or likely presence of nuclear weapons with certain states in the region is dominating the global security discourse.

Asia has witnessed some of the significant revolutions of the twenty-first century. Such revolutions have occurred, owing to various reasons—autocratic leadership, military regimes, corruption, patronage, nepotism, etc. The Jasmine Revolution during 2010-2011 started outside Asia in Tunisia but ended up playing a ‘motivating’ role in altering the political landscape of West Asia (Middle East). A major upheaval beginning in Egypt on January 25, 2011 successfully uprooted the government in power for more than 30 years. The cries for democracy become dominant in the region after the uprising in Egypt. Presently, the entire region is witnessing the agitations against mostly the autocratic regimes in the power. Part of the region is witnessing leadership vacuum, and the lack of alternative political structures is a major cause of concern. Few military leaderships of the region had shown considerable amount of restrain during the phase of uprising. However, it cannot be guaranteed that few states in the near future would not witness the re­emergence of military rule.

The major security worry of Asia attracting global attention is the Israel – Palestine conflict. This conflict could be traced back to many years in the history. This essentially a Zionist versus Arab conflict is about the claims to the area called Palestine by two parties, the Palestinians and Israel. This is more of a unique conflict which could be viewed through the prisms of interstate or intrastate conflict. There are non-state actors involved in the conflict, and various acts carried out during the conflict have been viewed as acts of terrorism.

Part of Asia has been under intense global scrutiny post the September 11, 2001 attack on the might of the sole superpower in the world. Parts of West Asia and South Asia have been at the centre of the US global war on terror. Osama bin Laden, the

most wanted fugitive of the century, was found and killed in South Asia. Asia has witnessed/is witnessing one of the major military campaigns in the recent history. The 2001 and 2003 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are (were) being fought by the extra-regional powers, mainly by invading these countries. Almost one decade has gone by since the beginning of these military campaigns, but the security situation of this region has only shown only marginal improvements. The rise of the Taliban has not remained restricted to Afghanistan alone, and Pakistan also has a Taliban operative from their soil. These forces are found fighting intense and bloody battles.

India has fought four wars since its independence in 1947. The most recent war fought by India was the Kargil conflict (May to July 1999)—it was a full – scale war. Actually, it was the battle fought to stall the infiltration of militants and Pakistani soldiers acting as militias on the Indian side of the line of control (LOC-a de facto border in India and Pakistan in the Jammu and Kashmir region). Unresolved border disputes have been the main reason for the continuation of tension between India-Pakistan and India-China. There are few other issues of differences involved amongst these states like unresolved water dispute, etc. It is important to remember that all these three powers are nuclear powers. Both India and Pakistan are found to be the victims of terrorism. However, unfortunately, Pakistan itself is using terrorism as a covert state policy to wedge a war against India.

Korean peninsula is another region of active conflict volcano. One of the major conflicts fought during the early years of the Cold War was the 1950-1953 war which divided North and South Korea near the 38th parallel. This war actually ended with an armistice rather than any official formal peace treaty agreement. For many years, a number of skirmishes are happening; however, in recent past, acts of provocation against South Korea have increased significantly. Both the Koreas were and are supported by external powers. Unfortunately, while helping the process of conflict management and conflict resolution, these powers are found using this opportunity to gain geostrategic advantage for themselves too. No solution to the problem appears to be in site.

In parts of East Asia, Southeast Asia and South China Sea region, certain old disputes are continuing. A century-old border dispute between the Cambodian – Thai people has resurfaced again since June 2008. Indonesia is fighting terrorism while the US forces are involved in assisting Philippines to tackle insurgency and terrorism. China, Vietnam and few other states are yet to resolve their disputes over a number of small islets and reefs in the South China Sea. China is witnessing unrest in the region dominated by the Uighur Muslims and also in part of Tibet Autonomous Region. The major flashpoint in the region could be the issue of Taiwan. Currently, this issue is in the semi-dormant state. This one issue has potential to affect the Sino-US security dynamics totally.

Asian states are also facing various nontraditional security challenges. Cyber warfare is one area making states in the region more responsive. Certain parts of Asia are facing ever-increasing threats from transnational crime, money laundering, fake currency business and drug trafficking. Natural disasters associated with the issues related to climate change, and public health epidemics have potential to challenge the security apparatus of the states.

For centuries many Asian states have followed a tradition of non-interventionist and non-interfering powers. The present threat matrix of Asia could alter its security environment over the next few decades. The possibility of any full-scale war amongst the powers within the region is unlikely. However, maintaining and increasing the status of military preparedness by states would remain an important instrument of policy. To maintain regional stability, militaries will play an important role, and hence, their growing importance is eminent. The dependence of these militaries on technologies is obvious.

The purpose behind analysing the security milieu over Asia over here is not to get into the micro details of Asia’s security challenges but just to undertake delineation in order to contextualise the relevance of militarisation and weaponisation of space. This becomes important mainly because the European discourse of security including space security at times takes a very idealistic position without appreciating the differences between the European and Asian security milieu. Any form of military expansion and participation in arms race by a state is essentially its response to the security environment and the same could be true in respect of space. Hence, it is essential to appreciate the security connotations of the region before contextualising space in the military realm.

The states in the region are probably looking at space at two levels: one, as an instrument for intelligence collection and an aid in communication and navigation and two, a tool for political bargain brinkmanship. The challenges for Asian states particularly in geopolitical and geo-economic theatres are different than many other regions of the world. The overall military investments made by states in Asia are based on their own threat perceptions. It is important to appreciate that space assets are viewed (also) as an instrument to enhance the military potential of a state. Space technology is all pervasive, and its dual-use nature makes it more attractive for the militaries. This technology has potential to challenge the existing notion of deterrence. Hence, investment in space for military should not be viewed with a narrow prism only as additional equipment for the armed forces, but it has a potential to bring in a modern security paradigm. Space weaponisation could also lead to the space arms race. Asian ‘military’ investments in space need to be looked at the backdrop of various above discussed realities.

Space Power

The notion of space power is a universal. However, there is no single definition of space power. Many analysts have attempted to typify, describe and predict the char­acter, connotation and functioning of space power. The term space power is found in writing as early as 1964, but there was no clear attempt to define it. Probably, one of the early attempts to define it was done as late as 1988. Lt Col David Lupton, in his book titled On Space Warfare, A Space Power Doctrine, published by Air University (U. S.) Press, presented the formal definition. Lupton has argued the requirement to derive the definition on the pattern of definitions of land, sea and air power offered by Mahan, Mitchell, Arnold and others. These definitions basically underscore three characteristics: (1) elements of national power, (2) purposes that are military and non-military, and (3) systems that are military and civilian. By contextualising these features, Lupton offered this definition: ‘Space power is the ability of a nation to exploit the space environment in pursuit of national goals and purposes and includes the entire astronautical capabilities of the nation.’ Alternatively, Space Power could also be viewed as an ability to exploit the civil, commercial and national security [8]

space systems (it includes space element, a terrestrial element and a link element) and associated infrastructure in support of national security strategy [16].

Another comprehensive description puts across space power as “the combination of technology, demographic, economic, industrial, military, national will, and other factors that contribute to the coercive and persuasive ability of a country to politically influence the actions of other states and other kinds of players or to otherwise achieve national goals through space activity” [17]. Since space power is viewed in context of national security strategy, it brings the dimension of security dilemma to the fore. The security dilemma spins around the paradox that the measures taken by a state to make it more secure will normally leads to making itself less secure. This is because the actions taken by the state leads to making their adversaries feel more insecure and hence attempts to measures to gain matching capabilities. The Asian region could be viewed as the place which presents the most widespread and exceptional security dilemma in the world. South Asia, Korean Peninsula, Taiwan tangle, Indo-China, Japan-China and Iran-Israel are all the cases of mutual misunderstandings where the concern for security dominates the geopolitical discourse presenting a picture of a region trapped in a security dilemma.

Alliteratively, a major criticism of the security dilemma concept emerges from the question of the validity of the offence-defence balance. Since weapons of offence and that of defence are the same, how can the distinction between the two be connected with a state’s intentions [18]? This is truer in case of space technologies which are inherently dual use in nature. However, particularity in the Asian context very less cooperative space activity is being witnessed. The real challenge in Asia would be whether the powers within the region can overcome the insecurity that drives the security dilemma.

The notion of space power becomes important particularly when space is being viewed as a medium to achieve strategic superiority. Philosophy of air power is found being extended to the idea of space power by some analysts. This has mainly directed the formulation of the concept of ‘high ground of space’. This notion was put into words way back in 1957 by General Thomas White. He had argued that

‘___ in the future it is likely that those who have the capability to control space

will likewise control the earth’s surface’ [19]. It has also been argued that ‘he who can secure control of space, deny an adversary access to space, and defeat weapons moving into or through space may cause an adversary to capitulate before forces act against each other on the earth’ [20].

The often quoted theory from the realm of International Relations, the theory of Balance of Power (BoP) could be used to appreciate the perspective of space security and space race. This is the most basic concept behind international politics and provides a structure for explaining some of the critical principles behind international relations [21]. BoP could be said to exit when there is parity amongst the competing forces. Successful space programmes of some of the Asian states contribute substantially to raise their stature as a dominant political power in Asia. States possessing such capabilities could use them for undertaking healthy interaction in this field and forging a stronger relationship. This could have a positive effect on the BoP.

For various Asian states, the key focus of investment in space arena has been for the purposes of using space applications for the betterment of the society. Asia is also a late starter in making investments into space field. The geopolitics of the region and the military capabilities of Asian states indicate that the development and influences of Asian space capabilities would have a more socioeconomic bias. The security challenges in the region could be viewed as more complex than rest of the world. But, at the same time, none of the Asian states are at the pinnacle of their space accomplishments; hence, it is unlikely that they would be preparing to achieve all out ‘space superiority’ from the warfare perspective. Hence, the notion of space power in Asian ‘wisdom’ appears to be more of a broad concept which includes projection of achievements in space technologies from a holistic sense inclusive of strategic dimension.


The predecessors for satellite navigation can be identified from the non-satellite era. Ground-based LORAN (LOng-RAnge Navigation) and Omega systems were used for terrestrial long-wave radio transmitters instead of satellites. The Russian system on lines of the LORAN is the Chayka. The LORAN system became operational in 1958 and was extensively used by the maritime community. The LORAN-C system came to be used for aerial navigation quite widely and during trials in 1963.1 It had its limitations in respect of some aviation requirements particularly with regard to precision approaches.[194] [195] This system also served as a backup for the US global positioning system (GPS). This system was ceased to be used from October 1,2010.

OMEGA was another navigation system developed by the USA with six partner nations for the purposes of military aviation. It was approved for development in 1968 and became operational in 1971 and had 6 km accuracy when fixing a position. With the success of GPS, its usage declined, and it was permanently terminated by September 30, 1997.[196]

The first satellite-based navigation system was Transit a naval navigation satellite system, deployed by the US military in the 1960s and was operational till December 31, 1996. The Transit’s operation was based on the Doppler effect in which the satellites passed through well-known paths and broadcast their signals on a well – known frequency. The frequency shifted between the received frequency and the broadcast frequency because of the movement of the satellite with respect to the receiver. By monitoring this frequency shift over a period of time, it was possible to identify the location. A minimum of four operational satellites were required for this job. The constellation consisted of six satellites in a polar orbit.[197] The first satellite – based radio navigation system developed by the erstwhile USSR was the Tsiklon.[198] Thirty-one satellites were launched for this purpose during 1967 to 1978. Its basic aim was to provide positioning facilities to the ballistic missile submarines.

The Tsiklon series was followed by the fully operational ‘Tsyklon-B’ or ‘Parus’ system. This system was formally inducted into service in 1976, but the full 22 satellite constellation did not become operational until 1980. Parus satellites

continue to be launched till April 2010, and it is believed that it is now exclusively used for military communications. The Parus was followed by the Tsikada—a simplified system for civilian use. In fact, the Parus is sometimes referred to as the ‘Tsikada Military’ or ‘Tsikada-M’. The Tsikada system was put into service in 1979 and acquired its full complement of satellites in 1986. The Tsikada was largely used by the Soviet merchant marine.[199]

Drivers of Space Programme

It is important to identify the key drivers that will influence space agendas of the states. In principle, various drivers would have sociopolitical, economical, technological and environmental influences on the issue under consideration. These drivers could vary from state to state. Broadly, they could be analysed at structural and domestic levels. At the structural level, they could relate to the changing global balance of power and growing competition and cooperation amongst spacefaring nations. While at the domestic level, the internal political dynamics, the economic factors as well as the technological development aspects would be more relevant. Following paragraphs discuss some of the key drivers in regard to developments and investments in space arena by Asia states.