When scientists at the Indian space agency began designing the Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission, they knew they had another chance to make history after a failed attempt four years ago by landing on the lunar south pole.

They also had to do it within a limited budget and it ended up costing only Rs. $6.15 billion mission.

From managing rocket costs to developing India’s built-in supply base, the success of the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) lunar landing on Chandrayaan-3 has shown officials, suppliers and analysts how it can hone a set of missions for less. resources to do more with the system said.

ISRO’s frugal innovation record will be tested by upcoming missions, including a solar research project and plans to send astronauts into orbit, due to launch next month.

While the Indian government allocated the equivalent of $1.66 billion (nearly 137 billion rupees) to the space sector in the fiscal year ended March, spending fell by about 25%. The budget for this fiscal year is $1.52 billion (nearly Rs. 125.6 billion).

This compares with NASA’s budget of $25 billion (nearly Rs 206,585 crore) this year. In other words, the annual increase in NASA’s budget — $1.3 billion (nearly Rs. 107.5 billion) — is greater than ISRO’s total spending.

“There is no one in the world who can do this like us,” ISRO chairman and senior aerospace engineer S Somanath said Wednesday while celebrating the successful landing of the lunar spacecraft.

“I’m not going to reveal all the secrets, otherwise everyone else can become cost-effective,” he told a news conference.

An example of how ISRO is keeping Chandrayaan-3’s costs in check: It chose to take a longer route to the moon, allowing it to use a less powerful but cheaper propulsion system. Chandrayaan-3 took more than 40 days to reach the moon, looping around an ever-expanding orbit, using Earth’s gravity as a slingshot.

In contrast, Russia’s Luna-25 mission, which was on a more direct lunar route, crashed before attempting to land on the moon’s south pole. Russia has not disclosed how much the failed mission cost.

“Taking the direct route requires more power, more fuel and is more expensive,” said Somak Raychaudhury, an astrophysicist and vice-chancellor of Ashoka University.

ISRO also developed some lander components in-house, including cameras, altimeters and hazard avoidance sensors. It uses Indian suppliers for vehicle assembly, transportation and electronics to keep costs down. It also limits the number of design prototypes to save time and money.

“By sourcing equipment and design elements locally, we were able to reduce prices significantly. International suppliers would cost four to five times as much to set up similar equipment,” said Amit Sharma, chief executive of Tata Consulting Engineers. , the company is ISRO’s supplier for the Chandrayaan-3 project, told Reuters.

Get the most out of every rupee

Many ISRO scientists who were involved in the failed attempt of Chandrayaan-2 to land on the south pole of the moon in 2019 are still on the current mission.

ISRO is preparing to launch the Aditya-L1 spacecraft, a space-based solar observatory, in September. ISRO’s Somanath said the company plans to send astronauts into space by 2025.

ISRO’s success is also expected to provide a boost to the country’s private sector space start-ups, suppliers said, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government seeks to open the industry to foreign investment.

Ankit Patel, founder and director of Ankit Fasteners, which has been supplying ISRO with nuts, bolts and other fasteners since 1994, said parts sometimes had to be hand-delivered to the launch pad to meet deadlines.

“The unsung heroes of ISRO are the engineers who push the suppliers every day to meet the set timelines,” Patel told Reuters.

“ISRO has been very frugal in spending. ISRO needs to break the mold and make the most of every rupee,” he added.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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