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NASA Administrator in India; seeks plan to send India’s first astronaut aboard NASA rocket to ISS expedited

During a meeting in New Delhi, discussions also included the historic Chandrayaan-3 landing, India's first astronaut program with NASA, and collaborations in human spaceflight, space health, and medicine. The collaboration involves joint working groups, discussions with US industries, and testing facilities for space mission.

NASA administrator in India; seeks plan to send India's first astronaut aboard NASA rocket to ISS expedited
First Published Nov 28, 2023, 6:00 PM IST

In a significant development, India and the United States are set to launch the joint NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite for Earth observation in the first quarter of 2024. Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh made the announcement during a meeting with a high-level delegation from NASA, led by Administrator Bill Nelson, in New Delhi. The NISAR satellite, targeted for launch aboard India's GSLV, will play a crucial role in observing land ecosystems, monitoring solid earth deformation, studying mountain and polar cryosphere, examining sea ice, and observing coastal oceans on a regional to global scale.

It was revealed that the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) S-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) has been integrated with NASA's L-band SAR at JPL/NASA. The integrated L & S band SAR is currently undergoing testing at URSC, Bangalore, with the participation of NASA/JPL officials.

During the meeting, Nelson congratulated Dr Jitendra Singh on the historic Chandrayaan-3 landing on the Moon's South Polar region and urged the expediting of India's first astronaut program aboard a NASA rocket to the International Space Station (ISS). Both sides had agreed to launch a two-week joint India-US space flight next year during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US earlier this year. NASA is identifying opportunities for Indian astronauts in the Private Astronaut Mission in 2024.

ISRO and NASA, through their Joint Working Group (JWG) on Human Spaceflight cooperation, are exploring collaboration in radiation impact studies, micro meteorite and orbital debris shield studies, and space health and medicine aspects. The 8th meeting of the India-US Joint Working Group on Civil Space Cooperation (CSJWG) took place in Washington DC in January 2023.

ISRO/DoS is also in discussions with prominent US industries such as Boeing, Blue Origin, and Voyager, exploring specific areas of cooperation and potential joint collaborations with Indian commercial entities.

The Indian side revealed that a concept paper on the Implementing Arrangement (IA) is under consideration between ISRO and NASA. After several iterations, both sides have arrived at a mutually agreed draft, currently awaiting intra-governmental approvals.

ISRO is further exploring the feasibility of utilizing NASA's Hypervelocity Impact Test (HVIT) facility for testing Gaganyaan module Micrometeoroid and Orbital Debris (MMOD) protection shields.

Dr Jitendra Singh highlighted the booming space sector startups in India, with over 150 startups emerging within a short span of four years since Prime Minister Modi initiated reforms in the space sector.

Nelson, an astronaut himself, commended ISRO for launching 231 satellites from the US onboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and expressed anticipation for meeting India's cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma in Bengaluru on Wednesday.

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