Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Omid, the Chandrayaan and proliferation

On the 14th November, 2008, which happened to be Nehru's 119th birthday, India became the fourth country to place its flag on the surface of the moon. The other three are the USA, the erstwhile USSR and Japan. The satellite carried instruments for both the NASA and the ESA as well as the capability for carrying out its stated objectives of preparing a three dimensional atlas of both the near and far side of the moon and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface at high spatial resolution.

More than fifty nations have space programs currently but very few have the ability to plan and execute their own missions. India was hoping to join this elite space club just a couple of years back with the launch of the INSAT 4C on 10 July 2006. However the GSLV carrying this satellite veered from its projected path and had to be self-destroyed over the Bay of Bengal. Finally its replacement INSAT 4CR was successfully launched on the 2nd September 2007 and was placed in geo-synchronous orbit on the 15th September 2007. With this success, India became the sixth country after the USA, Russia China, Japan and the European Union to have the ability to plan and execute its own space missions.

Prior to this, India had to depend on other space powers to put its satellites into orbit. Our priority was to develop the technology for building remote sensing and communications satellites and not to focus solely on developing launch vehicle technology. What is to be noted here is the fact that our objectives were not military but for the peaceful use of space technology. And it took us more than 30 years to arrive at this stage.

Yesterday night the 'Omid' or 'Hope' was launched on a Safir-2 launch vehicle and placed in orbit according to the Iranian news agency. It is Iran's first domestically built satellite and its launch has been made to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution. This feat has been achieved while Iran has been under years of western sanctions over fears that it wants to develop nuclear capable missiles.

“Dear Iranian nation, your children have placed the first indigenous satellite into orbit,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a televised message. He is also reported to have said that the satellite was launched to spread "monotheism, peace and justice" in the world. The launch has caused alarm in the West as well as in the region because of fears the technology could be used to make long-range missiles, possibly with nuclear warheads.

A powerful Iran causes unease amongst its western and southern neighbors most of whom have unresolved issues with it.

In October 2005, a Russian rocket launched Iran's first satellite, the Sina-1, which carried photographic and telecommunications equipment. And in February 2007, Iran said it had launched a rocket capable of reaching space, before it made a parachute-assisted descent to earth. Last August, Iran said it had successfully launched a rocket capable of carrying its first domestically built satellite.

The blistering pace at which Iran has been able to develop its launch vehicle technology points to just one conclusion. There is no doubt that the proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies and the help provided by rogue regimes have enabled both Pakistan and Iran to acquire such technologies and helped make their regions more unstable.


manju said...

Sagarone- Re: Pakistan. I am no expert in this subject, but I was under the impression that not a rogue regime, but the U.S. quite openly until recently, was helping Pakistan with its military technologies.

How do we know said...

This is a great post, and yes, agree with everything u say, but esp like the way you put it Very well structured.

Vinod_Sharma said...

You are right. All this could not have happened without Pakistani, North Korean and, above all, Chinese help. China thinks it is powerful enough to quell Muslim uprising in the country, just like it has in Tibet. It is sleeping with Pakistan to keep India tied down and is probably trying the same stunt with Iran vis-a-vis the US.

India needs to wake up in a hurry. There was a news report that our missile program is actually years behind Pakistan's...

Sagarone said...

@Manju, yes the US turned a blind eye towards Pakistan acquiring nuclear technology. And only when it could no longer hide the mountain of evidence against Pakistan was the Pressler amendment enforced.

@How do we know, thanks for the encouragement.

@Vinod, You are right, China, like the US, is taking a short term view of the whole situation in the area and it will come back to haunt it when its own Muslim problems in Xinjiang erupt as they did earlier in 1997. And yes India needs to wake up and develop its own capabilities. So far we have kept ISRO fiercely independent of our missile program which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Defence. This was done to garner favorable international opinion.