The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is working on nearly 50 futuristic, innovative technologies that will meet the country’s technological needs over the coming decades.
Some of the technologies include quantum communications, space debris mitigation technologies, robotic arms, interplanetary rovers, etc. Senior space agency officials enlisted these technologies at the opening session of ISRO’s Directorate of Technology Development and Innovation (DTDI) conclave.
At the event, Dr. K. Sivan, Chairman of ISRO, that DTDI was established as a special directorate at ISRO headquarters to sow the seeds of futuristic and disruptive technologies for the space sector.
He added that the technologies would be developed based on global trends and SWOT analysis of their possible applications. ISRO, Indian industry and science would work together and invest their resources to make these technologies a reality, said Dr. Sivan, who also acts as secretary for the space division.
“In the last three years, ISRO has initiated 46 technological projects, including quantum communication, technologies to contain space debris such as self-eating rockets, self-disappearing satellites and robotic arms for collecting space debris,” said Dr. Sivan. He explained that quantum communication and satellite-based quantum communication as well as quantum cryptography could offer unconditional data security in secure communication.
Given that space debris from destroyed satellites, space overpopulation from failed and active satellites, and spent rocket stages are a major concern, there is a growing need to alleviate this challenge.
Worldwide efforts are being made to maximize the operation of reusable missiles, enable space refueling, satellite maintenance, the minimization, collection and removal of space debris, and the development of materials that do not pose a long threat to other space resources in this context must be seen that ISRO’s plan for self-eating missiles and self-disappearing satellites, robotic arms, must be seen.
Quantum mechanics is a physical theory that describes the physical properties of nature at the level of atoms and subatomic particles. This differs from classical physics, which describes many aspects of nature on an ordinary (macroscopic) scale.
Traditionally, sensitive data is sent over cables or other means along with the digital keys needed to decrypt the information. This is sent via a stream of electrical or optical pulses that represent 0s and 1s (bits). However, this is susceptible to being hacked without the knowledge of the sender and recipient.
In quantum communication, particles (light photons) are transferred in qubits (quantum bits), which have the value 0 and 1 at the same time. So if a hacker tries to eavesdrop on him, he has to measure these qubits, which leaves a detectable trail and alerts the sender and receiver. This is based on the principle that a quantum state cannot be measured without perturbing it. If qubits are disturbed, both parties know and can abandon the exchange.
Regarding disruptive technologies that ISRO was working on, R. Umamaheswaran, ISRO’s scientific secretary, mentioned quantum radars, low-temperature lithium-ion cells that can power subsystems at sub-zero temperatures, and space-based solar energy.
He added that ISRO had created a “Vision 2030” based on the ideas of its scientists and engineers.
It included “general purpose humanoid robots, in situ fuel production for interplanetary exploration, planetary rock sampling, intelligent spacecraft, robotic arm in space, spider rovers, AI-enabled spacecraft, and lattice structure”.
Regarding the status of these technologies, he said that few of them are in the feasibility study phase, while development of a few others has been initiated at the laboratory level.
ISRO will also use artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data analysis to make better use of data from satellites to do justice to the understanding of the earth’s resources.
“We check the preparation for dealing with celestial and anthropogenic challenges, develop AI-based models for on-board anomaly detection in spacecraft, spatio-temporal weather forecast, groundwater level forecast, creation of land cover maps, AI-controlled quality testing and AI-controlled agriculture” , added Dr. Umamaheshwaran added.
Through initiatives such as DTDI connect and DTDI Extend, ISRO wants to unite technology developers from all over the country with potential users in order to enable tailor-made, ready-to-launch products.
The spin-offs from such technology products and services are also expected to be of great benefit to the country and its rapidly growing advanced needs.