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Simultaneous launch of 83 satellites and fast breeder reactor going critical are some of the targets set by the Departments of Atomic Energy and Space as they look forward to 2017 to put behind the lows of this year of missing out an NSG spot and losing Antrix Devas case. ISRO is aiming a major feat January with the launch of nearly 83 satellites, 80 of them being foreign, at one go.
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“We are also launching GSLV Mark III and five communication satellites next year, including the South Asian satellite,” ISRO chairman and Department of Space Secretary A S Kirankumar told PTI.
Launching of GSLV Mark III will be a crucial development in the country’s space history.
“Next year, we are hopeful that Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) goes critical,” said Sekhar Basu, Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission and DAE Secretary.
If India achieves success in the project, which has been on for over two and a half decades now, it will become the first country to successfully execute the project. It will also see India graduating to a second stage in its nuke energy programme.
2016 saw ISRO launching several satellites, with major one being completion of the constellation of regional satellites, a move that brings India’s regional navigation on par with US’ Global Positioning System (GPS). The year also recorded ISRO’s feat of launching 20 satellites at one go.
Apart from it, the space agency also launched GSAT-18, RESOURCESAT-2A, Cartosat-2 Series Satellites for communication, agriculture and weather-related works respectively.
The country’s space agency also experimented with projects that would have a long-term impact on its future missions.
For instance, the successful tests of Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLV), capable of launching satellites into orbit around earth and then re-enter the atmosphere, from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
India also joined a select club of nations by successfully test-firing its futuristic Scramjet Rocket Engine using oxygen from the atmosphere.
However, its achievements were marred by a few jolts. The space agency lost a major case in Antrix-Devas deal, second such litigation, where ISRO has been asked to cough up several million dollars by a Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) tribunal based in the Hague.
Prime Minister’s ambitious SAARC satellite project also suffered a setback after Pakistan backed out of the endeavour. The satellite, which was to be launched this month, has now been renamed as South Asian Satellite.
Basking in the glory of its past achievements, ISRO also signed several international cooperations with France, UAE, the US and Israel.
For the DAE, 2016 was a significant year as Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant unit 2 got operational. It also became an associate member of the prestigious organisation CERN, world’s largest nuclear and particle physics laboratory.
However, it also saw Kakrapar Nuclear Power Station (KAPS) unit 1 detecting a radioactive leak, raising concerns over the safety of atomic reactors in the country.
A major setback for India was not getting a berth in the 48-member NSG bloc. India has been trying hard to become a member of the coveted group, entry of which will give DAE the access to critical technologies in the atomic sector.
However, despite backing of France, the US, the UK, Russia, Australia Japan and several member countries, India’s bid was opposed by China.
China has been insisting that only NPT signatory nations should be a part of the group.
Another major feather in the cap was the signing of the Indo-Japan nuclear deal. After much negotiations stretching over the last few years, the two countries managed to crack the deal, without succumbing to the stringent norms laid down by Japan.
The advantage for India in this would be that the deal is expected to have far-reaching impact on the future nuclear projects as India can now import several equipment needed for the projects.
Manufacturing these equipment in India or procuring them from other parts of the globe other than Japan would have increased the cost. But officials in the Ministry of External Affairs and DAE are on with on their efforts.
In a significant move aimed at putting an end to the contentious nuclear liability issue and assuage suppliers’ concerns, India also ratified the Convention of Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, marking an important step in addressing matters related to civil nuclear liabilities.