Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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05-06-2007 : New Delhi
World Space Vision

Science is Borderless


I am delighted to address this eminent and illustrious audience at the International Conference on "Space -A Conceptual Challenge to Defence" organized by Centre of Aerospace Strategic Studies (CESA) and National Centre for Space Studies (CNES). My Greetings to all the participants of this conference. Let me recall, how India's space cooperation with France commenced nearly four decades ago.


My personal experience with CNES

I would like to start with a personal experience. I was given the responsibility for the design of 4th stage of SLV-3. This upper stage of the four stage rocket was to give final velocity to put Rohini satellite into orbit. It was in early 1969, I remember, I received a call from Prof Sarabhai, the then Chairman, ISRO from Ahmedabad stating that he will be visiting Trivandrum along with Prof. Herbert Curien, President of French Space organization, CNES. I was asked to give a presentation about the 4th stage to Prof Curien's team. When the presentation by my team was over, we realized that SLV-3 4th stage was also being considered as upper stage for the French four-stage launch vehicle 'Diamant' BC. A decision was taken in the same meeting that SLV's fourth stage should be reconfigured to match and suit both French and Indian satellite launch vehicles. We were just in the design stage and here was a visionary whose dream was that Indian scientists could build an upper stage rocket system compatible with both Indian and French satellite launch vehicle systems. Later, I studied with my team the possibility of an Indian upper stage for Diamant BC Programme of France, which resulted in an interesting partnership when European Space Agency's Ariane launched Indian APPLE satellite that used the 4th stage of SLV-3 as apogee boost motor.

Similarly, India has had fruitful cooperation with USA, Russia and many other countries since early 1960's. For example, India carried out the world's largest sociological experiment called, Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE), in 1975-76, using NASA's Application Technology Satellite (ATS6) with direct broadcast of educational programmes to 2400 selected villages covering nearly 200,000 people. This experiment was the forerunner of Indian satellite communication revolution.

While I am with you, I would like to discuss the topic "World Space Vision". This Vision would include five areas which are important for the future of space science, technology and applications. They are: (a) Interplanetary exploration and Space industrialization (b) Low cost access to space and large scale societal missions (c) Space satellite service station (d) Necessity for keeping peace in space (e) Management structure for international collaboration. Let me now give a brief review of the importance of space research followed by India's space programme.


Space Research as a Technology Generator

Space research is highly inter-disciplinary and has enabled true innovations at the intersection of multiple areas of science and engineering. It has been consistently aiming at the "impossible" and the "incredible", every time moving the frontiers of our knowledge forward. Space research has had as its major focus, on making things work and bringing the dreams of mankind to fruition through technologies that the mankind can be proud of. It is almost a "Green Technology". Its greatest asset is that in many cases what is perfected as a space technology becomes a technology that enhances the quality of human life on the earth. Space technology, in many space faring nations, has been used as a step function for the technological growth of the nation. Some examples are - the revolution in communication, tele-presence, infotainment, and an integrated picture of earth and its resources. Besides direct contributions, the fruits of space research have also resulted in designing innovative products such as cardiac stent and heart pacemaker for healthcare. Now, I would like to talk to you briefly on the Indian Space Programme.


The Indian Space Programme

Prof. Vikram Sarabhai, who pioneered India's space programme, unfurled the socio-economic application-oriented space mission for India in 1970, which in the last four decades has been touching the lives of many among the billion people of India in several ways. Today, India with her 14,000 scientific, technological and support staff in multiple space research centers, supported by about 500 industries and academic institutions, has the capability to build any type of satellite launch vehicle to place remote sensing, communication and meteorology satellites in different orbits and space application has become part of our daily life. India has today a constellation of six remote sensing and ten communication satellites serving applications like natural resource survey, communication, disaster management support, meteorology, tele-education (10,000 class rooms) and tele-medicine (200 hospitals). Our country is in the process of establishing 100,000 Common Service Centres (CSC's) across the country through public-private partnership model for providing real time knowledge input to rural citizens using space technology.

On 10th January 2007, ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C7) successfully launched four satellites -- India's CARTOSAT-2 and Space capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-1), Indonesia's LAPAN-TUBSAT and Argentina's PEHUENSAT-1 into a 635 km high polar orbit. On 22nd January 2007, SRE-1 was brought back from space in a controlled and safe manner to a designated point on Earth. This is a major technological milestone and an important step towards reusable launch vehicle and manned space missions. On 23rd April 2007, the Indian PSLV-C8 placed the Italian Scientific Satellite Agile into a precise circular orbit of 550 km.

India is now working on its second space vision. I foresee that an important contribution by India for the future would be expansion of our societal missions with emphasis on low cost access to space and missions to Moon and Mars founded on space industrialization with international cooperation. Let us now discuss the world space scenario.


The World Space Scenario

When we study the space programme of the countries of the world, few important observations emerge.

Space Capabilities: Mankind has acquired the capabilities to design, develop and deploy any type of launch vehicle, any type of spacecraft, any type of instrumentation and any type of launch complex for societal and exploration missions.

This has given rise to creation and expansion of space markets, bilateral and international space co-operation, evolution of space policies with multilateral negotiation. Mankind has also progressed challenging inter-planetary missions and also orbited space stations. I visualize in another 50 to 75 years, an industrial complex on the Moon and a beginning of human habitat at Mars emerging.

Economics of Space Applications: With time, the awe and prestige associated with space is also seen with economic reality. The overweighing risk factors and cost considerations have come to the fore with their impact on national space programmes and the global space business. I believe that the future technological advances in areas like reusable launch vehicles and complex interplanetary missions would require the integrated efforts of different nations.

Satellite Population: Geosynchronous orbit is almost completely full with 240 satellites from many nations. There are more than 800 active satellites currently in various orbits. The satellite population includes a number of military satellites for communication and reconnaissance. The value and indispensability of mankind's technological assets are so high, that protecting these assets and ensuring continuity of services without any impediment and interference, is now of paramount importance. Now, I would like to discuss Space industrialization and interplanetary exploration.


Space industrialization and interplanetary exploration

The vision of various space faring nations as well as discussion in various international forums by space experts suggest that space missions beyond earth are vital for sustaining the spirit of deep space exploration and for build up of space infrastructure leading to space industrialization. Such missions would include bringing minerals and other special materials from Moon, Asteroids and Mars. Such missions would also enable building of infrastructure for solar power generation, building industrial complexes on the Moon and initiating human habitat on Mars. These missions would call for large mass flow into space, would greatly enhance the space market by expanded utilization of the core competencies built in many nations in launch vehicles, spacecraft and ground systems. Since such space exploration missions would be extremely capital intensive, they can be optimally realized by the full utilization of the proven reliable cost effective space systems and technologies, thus minimizing the new investments. International cooperation would also maximize the availability of highly skilled space scientists and technologists worldwide. Now, I would like to discuss low cost access to space which is one of the important enabling factors for future space missions.


Low cost access to space

The payload fraction of current generation expendable launch vehicles in the world does not exceed 1 or 2% of the launch weight. Thus to put one or two tonnes in space requires more than one hundred tonnes of launch weight, most of which-nearly 70% - is oxygen. Such gigantic rocket based space transportation systems, with marginal payload fractions, are wholly uneconomical for carrying out mass missions and to carry freight and men to and from the Moon.

Studies in India have shown that the greatest economy through the highest payload fractions are obtained when fully reusable space transportation systems are designed which carry no oxidizer at launch, but gathers air and separates into liquid oxygen for onboard storage while the spacecraft ascends directly from earth to orbit in a single stage. These studies in India suggest that an "aerobic" space transportation vehicle can indeed have a 15% payload fraction for a launch weight of 270 tonnes. This type of space plane has the potential to increase the payload fraction to 30% for higher take off weight. For such heavy lift space planes, with 10 times the payload fraction and 100 times reuse, the cost of payload in orbit can be reduced dramatically from $20,000 per kg to about $200 per kg.

While space industrialization and space exploration will expand initially using the current generation launch vehicles, the real value of space exploration for human advancement will occur only when mankind builds fully reusable space transportation systems with very high payload efficiencies. This will become available when the technology of oxygen liquefaction in high-speed flight in earth's atmosphere is mastered. This technology will also be useful for collection of atmospheric constituents of other planets at a later stage in space exploration. Now, I would like to discuss Space Satellite Service Stations.


Space Satellite Service Stations

Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) is a well utilized resource. The spacecraft orbiting in GEO are very high value resources. However, the life of these spacecraft is determined by component failure, capacity of fuel, internal energy systems and space environment. While new design practices and technologies are constantly increasing the life of satellite, there is a requirement for extending the life of satellite through in-orbit maintenance such as diagnosis, replacement, recharging, powering, refueling or de-boosting after use. This calls for creation of Space Satellite Service Stations for all the spacecraft in the GEO as a permanent international facility. Future satellites and payloads have also to be designed with self healing capability and midlife maintenance. Now, I would like to discuss a perspective of comprehensive space security.


Comprehensive Space Security

While defence is a matter of guarding and protecting, security is a matter of averting dangers and fears that are yet to arise. Space security now encompasses both these concepts of defence as well as security. Over the past few years, the evolution of the concepts of human security and human development has led to a more comprehensive consideration of security. It is recognized that instability in the economic, social, humanitarian and ecological fields have also become threats to peace and security. The world can never be at peace unless people have security in their daily lives. This perspective enables a broadening of our notion of space security from its traditional conception in military terms, to encompass other threats including those emanating from poverty, lack of education, health hazards, global energy and water crises, environmental degradation and natural disasters. Let me now discuss necessity for keeping peace in space.

International Space Force (ISF): When enormous societal and economic commitments have been made by nations with space infrastructure, the main security concern is that outer space should be free of weapons. We must recognize the necessity for the world space community to avoid terrestrial geo-political conflict to be drawn into outer space thus threatening the space assets belonging to all mankind. Allowing space to become a battlefield could cause serious harm to society. There exist strong international norms and deep-seated public opinion around the world against space weaponization. Any unilateral action, which upsets the stability of space is against the interest of the entire mankind. Multilateral approaches are required to ensure that the use of outer space is in conformity with international law and in the interest of maintaining peace and security and promoting international co-operation. Hence, I suggest creation of an International Space Force (ISF) made up of all nations wishing to participate and contribute to protect world space assets in a manner, which will enable peaceful exploitation of space on a global cooperative basis. The ISF will safeguard the Global Space Assets, protect against militarization of space, engage in space rescue, space debris management and monitoring and defence against asteroids.


Planetary Challenges

Technology has made us aware and empowered us to understand many space-borne natural disasters and the dangers of planetary environmental pollution. There are potential dangers of impact by asteroids on this planet. Even our living star, the Sun, has definite life. Added to this, there is now the ever-present danger of nuclear conflict between nations. Space era has brought in new technologies and missions which have revolutionized the quality of life of human beings. The problems faced by increasing world population and associated problems in resources will call for out of box and path breaking solutions. Don't we have to look at an alternate habitat for human beings? Is it not the responsibility of, we the living human beings of the planet earth to look at alternate habitat? A focused goal for the entire globe will unite all the nations and find solutions for the benefit of entire mankind and will be a prime mover for peace and prosperity in the world.


Conclusion: Space Vision 2050

Friends, the time has arrived now for the world space community to evolve a space vision that will enable mankind to meet the challenges of 21st century. Based on the discussion so far, let me propose the "World Space Vision 2050" that forms into three components.

1. Space exploration and current application missions

2. Comprehensive space security

3. Large Scale Societal missions and Low cost access to space

Thus World Space Vision would enhance the quality of human life, inspire the spirit of space exploration, expand the horizons of knowledge, and ensure space security for all nations of the world.

In this context, I suggest this Paris Conference may consider evolving a World Space Council to formulate and implement World Space Vision as proposed. The World Space Council with global participation could oversee the planning and implementation of exploration, space security and societal missions. Such a unified approach will enable the world to see a quantum jump in the progress in space science and technology for the benefit of all the nations of the world.

All of you represent countries that have brought about the incredible space revolution in the last 50 years. What we need today is a step function as a global space initiative to implement a World Space Vision and missions for an enhanced quality of life in a peaceful and safe world. I can assure you that India will be a partner in this effort. I wish all success in your deliberations and would be glad to receive the recommendations of your conference.

May God bless you.

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam




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