(USGovernment-News.Com, August 31, 2023 ) The Success of Chandrayaan-3: On August 23, India achieved a historic milestone by successfully landing its lunar lander near the South Pole of the Moon. This landmark achievement has drawn global attention to the advancements being made in deep space exploration. Various government space agencies and private enterprises are collaborating on multiple deep space missions, with goals ranging from studying the atmosphere and surface characteristics to securing surface and sub-surface materials for future mining operations on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Given the early stage of deep space missions, the focus is on developing reliable space logistics that can be deployed for future missions to farther planets and asteroids. Achieving a soft and precise landing on the Moon, as demonstrated by Chandrayaan-3, is a crucial validation of such capabilities. However, landing on the Moon’s far side—not visible from the Earth—presents unique challenges, as platforms could lose contact with mission control depending on their level of autonomy. This could be further complicated if the mission targets unexplored locations, such as the Moon’s South Pole, without prior knowledge of environmental conditions and terrain.
The Art of Soft Pinpoint Landing
With no prior knowledge of the conditions of the target location (South Pole), Chandrayaan-3 was a difficult mission to begin with. The lack of external enablers – such as navigation systems using GPS satellites – also made for an extremely risky landing. . The lander would further need to enter an unexplored environment, learn from the conditions, and execute mission objectives accordingly. The guidance, navigation, and control systems of the lunar lander were the most stressed – being responsible for a safe and controlled descent.
According to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the Chandrayaan-3 lander used a propulsion system comprising 12 (4 800N and 8 58N) bipropellant thrusters and weighed over 2,148 kilograms. It accounted for more than 55% of the total spacecraft weight, indicating the importance of space propulsion capability, which was critical for the mission’s essential functions.
While the 12 thrusters provided precise control for the lander, the electronics executed mission functions with great precision while simultaneously learning from the conditions sensed by the lander during its descent. ISRO designated a 4 km by 2.4 km site for the lander, which landed successfully without damaging itself and its primary payload, the rover. Chandrayaan-3’s feat is a display of reliable space propulsion capability across applications as the primary spacecraft’s propulsion took it to the intended lunar orbit, and the lander’s propulsion capability successfully executed a safe, soft pinpoint landing without any damage to itself and the rover.
The Growing Demand for Space Propulsion
With over 30 lunar missions underway or planned and more than 90 deep space missions expected over the next two decades, the demand for reliable space technology is increasing. This growth is particularly evident in the space manufacturing domain, where the need for advanced technologies capable of meeting the complex requirements of deep space missions is becoming more pressing. In addition, the proliferation of New Space capabilities and the growing small-satellite market are contributing to the expansion of Earth’s orbit missions. Both the Earth orbit and deep space segments require innovative technologies, with propulsion being the most crucial. However, few missions involve operators developing their propulsion capabilities, making it the industry’s most frequently outsourced space technology.
“MarketsandMarkets, in its recently published report ‘, estimated the global space propulsion market to be USD 10.6 billion in 2023 and forecast it to reach USD 18.08 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 11.3%. The deep space portion of this demand, categorized as ‘Beyond Geosynchronous Orbit’ (BGEO), is estimated to be USD 554.4 million in 2023 and is expected to reach USD 898.7 million by 2028, at a CAGR of 8.4%. “
The Future of Space
With commercial LEO (Low Earth Orbit) missions dominating the growth of the space industry, government-backed deep space missions are also increasing. This indicates that the space industry is witnessing the deep space segment enter its growth phase. The surge in demand for space capabilities is fueled by the growing number of industry operators seeking enhanced capacities. While the production of satellites and subsystems is evolving to meet the growing demand from Earth orbit missions, customized manufacturing for complex deep space missions is also rising to enable missions to the moon, Mars, and beyond.
Once considered insignificant, asteroid mining use cases are gaining prominence as multiple missions to bring back surface/sub-surface materials are underway. In-situ manufacturing and construction objectives are emerging as lunar missions are nearing the lunar base phases, and utilizing lunar regolith will be an obvious consequence. Identifying minerals capable of replacing or adding to the production on Earth will drive the next wave of deep space missions focusing on bringing large volumes of processed resources from the moon and beyond. For all these to materialize, missions like Chnadrayaan-3 will keep proliferating and creating demand for enhanced next-gen space capabilities. This emerging demand will not only be accessible to space market participants but also to non-space market participants as many non-space capabilities will be required to enable deep space missions in the future.
Chandrayaan-3 has demonstrated an interesting phase of a long-term vision of not just the Indian Space Program but also that of mankind when it comes to space exploration. The journey has just begun, and the space industry has crossed critical checkpoints. The future of the space industry will include much more than space industry participants.
MarketsandMarkets will continue to observe, study, and report in this regard.
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