India: A time when Pakistan’s disagreement led it to opt out of the proposed SAARC satellite, India this time has managed to gain China’s trust, in proposing a satellite constellation on behalf of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Wu YanHua, Deputy Administrator for the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) who was in India this week to participate in a space summit hosted in New Delhi, said, “we have been in dialogue with India on the BRICS Constellation for disaster risk reduction.”
Though details of the proposed BRICS satellite constellation are still sketchy but Kiran Kumar, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) hinted that “a virtual remote sensing satellite constellation for the BRICS nations” was on the anvil.
And therefore, it is interesting that the two regional space powers India and China who are as some observers believe locked in a 21st century Asian space race, are now hoping to join hands to combat the threat of climate change. Both India and China have cooperated extensively in trying to negotiate an amenable Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Now it seems the threat of a warming globe is getting the two space powers to warm up to each other.
Both China and India have end to end capabilities in space, yet China has a huge edge as it launched its first astronaut way back in 2003 and has heavier lift rockets in its arsenal. India was beaten to the moon orbit by China when it sent its Chang’e-1 satellite to the moon in 2007. India did outpace China in reaching the orbit of Mars in 2014 with Mangalyaan. Nevertheless, now the threat of climate change is making the two Asian giants, which among them house 2.5 billion people, to come together and collaborate.
It seems the first steps for a BRICS constellation was initiated at a meeting held in the Austrian capital Vienna earlier this year. According to the CNSA, its deputy administrator participated in the meeting, which was held under the auspices of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and was attended by more than two dozen participants.
Sources from CNSA report that “at the meeting, the BRICS countries confirm their willingness to participate in the construction of the virtual constellation.”
The motivation from CNSA it seems is that “the successful implementation of remote sensing satellite constellation BRICS countries, will further enrich the content of cooperation BRICS countries to strengthen national cohesion”. Most importantly the CNSA believes the BRICS Constellation would “enhance China’s international voice and influence in the field of aerospace”.
It is interesting that India space scientists who understand the deep capabilities of the Chinese have not rebuffed this proposal, since both neighbours have a lot to learn from each other. Both Indian and Chinese space programs are largely indigenously developed as homegrown efforts as both the neighbours have independently suffered under long drawn out technology denial and sanctions regimes especially from the US.
After having unsuccessfully scuttled the space programs of both India and China for long, now the US is trying to embrace the same international partners, hoping that the emerging giants would dole out resources as NASA’s own budget stagnates and ambitions soar to putting ‘boots on Mars by 2030’.
Speaking in New Delhi at the space summit, General Charles Bolden, the head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Washington DC, said “Our planet is a fragile oasis in the blackness of space… the partnerships are getting stronger and I have no doubt that the coming decades will find us with new capabilities to explore, human beings at new and farther destinations, a greater understanding of our home planet and greater unity among humanity.”
Source: Economic Times