Let me begin by thanking Air Marshal Vivek Chaudhari, Vice Chief of the Air Staff, Indian Air Force for that absolutely brilliant speech which set the tone of the discussions in this seminar. Very clearly as the VCAS brought out, Space, as an extended battle space, is a new reality and we need to adapt to this reality rapidly. Space situational awareness is the need of the hour.
Our panel of luminiaries and experts from AFRL, Alen space, Airbus, Earthdaily, Endurosat, Esper, ICEYE, Orbital EoS, SSTL, Thales, Spectronn, Spire Gobal, Unseenlabs,VegaMx, for their fascinating and outstanding presentations.
The research to establish the science behind satellites is several centuries old. Essentially satellites in space are derived from Kepler’s first law which states that orbital systems cover equal areas in equal time and third law which states that the cube of the period is equal to the square of the distance. These are as valid today as they were 4 centuries ago.
Newtons laws of motions is a principle of science which has stood the test of time in the context in which it was formulated. The laws of conservation of energy provides the scientific basis for deriving the escape velocity of 11.2km/sec.
It took us several centuries to develop the engineering that would convert these fundamental principles of science into an engineering solution depicted on the drawing board to enable design and manufacture of satellites and their launch systems. Subsequently the challenge lay in converting engineering drawings into manufacturing the parts components and assemblies that would go into the solution.
This is where technology stepped in and adaptation of technology from various other industrial sectors took place. As we saw advances in material science led to better propulsion systems, tougher launch casings and dense power packs. Similarly advances in computing technology enabled us to bring in large processing capacity into small processors. Better design of control systems took advantage of advances in robotics, automation and miniaturisation. Telemetric systems provided us with real time positional data of the satellites and so on.
This in turn created the system of supply chains and system integration technologies. Development resulted by imbibing modern concepts such as digital twins, artificial intelligence specialised design software, computer simulations for the aerodynamics and thermodynamics of launch vehicles which all conributed to improve product performance improved.
So the distinction between research which established the governing science of satellites in the 16th century to development of higher performance satellites which is ongoing must be recognised which many scientists and academic do not distinguish.
After establishing the sound engineering practices we were able to launch the first satellite almost 65 years ago and only after 350 years after research had established the enabling principles of science.
Technology has now facilitated the huge transition from having bulky launch vehicles such as the PSLV, GSLV etc designed to launch heavy payloads to long distances and being able to stay in orbit for long durations but at huge cost and long interval between launches.
Because of the complexity and the cost of these launches and the ever expanding use cases for satellite based EOS and Comms etc, a new space era of a mix of high performance, low cost, batch production with quick integration, compressed testing procedures and validation we now have satellites with exceptional capabilities delivered at unbelievably low prices and launched in a fraction of the time that larger satellites required. This has now captured the imagination of various customer bases and business is seeing trillions of dollars of opportunity ahead.
Amongst them is the Military. These newspace satellites will go a long way in clearing the fog of war, make many fortifications earlier opaque transparent, make planning data driven, communications resilient and reliable, execution agile and operational tempo to close the OODA loop quick.
The Revolution in Space Affairs is upon us. Militaries better prepare well as the next war will not be like the last one. Many of the earlier concepts centered around operational art optimising Force, Space and Time – sequencing and simultaneous operations, logistics, mutual defence and defence in depth may have reached their shelf life. But just as the principles of science are valid so are the principles of war – only its development and refinement is continuous.
As the presentations today have shown the satellite orbital space is now becoming highly fragmented, specialised and driven on demand and purpose to achieve customer specified bespoke objectives.
This is a huge transition from the generic omnibus payload to new satellites of the future with better SWaP-C optimised satellites but at the same time with low life since obsolescence may make a satellite worthless in a few years from its launch. Rockets and launch vehicles are being 3D printed and may not require the sophisticated infra now required for space launches.
Therefore one would expect to see space being crowded with tens of thousands of small satellites in orbit with short time lives sensitive to technology and supplemented with larger satellites agnostic to the advances in technology.
There are more than 3000 dead satellites and about 900,000 objects in space. This will become messier and messier and we may soon see Space Slums as we see urban slums in our cities. So on similar lines as Marine Spatial Planning of areas beyond national jurisdiction Space Spatial Planning must now become an agenda for sustainable space development.
An international initiative can be incubated at SAMDeS and we will be privileged to form a consortia with industry and academics to draft a Global Space Accord for the sustainable and equitable utilisation of our final frontier – space – for the better future of mankind and the generations to come.