Shenzhou spacecraft uses Russian Soyuz technology to support its manned spaceflight program.

China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) and United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have selected nine broad areas in which 20 experiments will be conducted

BANGALORE: It may take India at least a decade to build its own space station if the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is able to stick to its planned timelines but two Indian institutes will conduct experiments from a space station being hosted by China. 

The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have selected nine broad areas in which 20 experiments will be conducted on the proposed Chinese Space Station (CSS), which is funded by China and the UN. 

Experiments proposed by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bangalore, and by IIT (BHU), Varanasi, are among the international experiments CMSA and UNOOSA officially announced late on June 13 at Vienna, on the sidelines of the 62nd session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. 

While the IIA experiment will study the area between stars, the one from IIT will study the behaviour of partially visible fluids in micro-gravity. The 20 experiments will be by institutes from 17 countries including China.

There are two institutes each from India, China and Belgium, while 14 other countries—Switzerland, Poland, Germany, Russia, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Norway, France, The Netherlands, Peru and Spain—will have experiments from one institute each. 

Prof Jayant Murthy, IIA director, said, “We will look at the interstellar medium (the stuff between stars) and study what kind of elements are present there, what the temperatures are, what pressure and what kind of conditions are there.” 

He said that their experiment will look at the Nebula—gas stuffed clouds—and try to understand what they are made of. “This was an UN-sponsored initiative and they opened it up to countries around the world, which is how we got in. We will build an instrument that will be put on the CSS that’s expected to come up by 2022. All of the data that comes from there will be public. We will be spending about Rs 30 lakh to build the instrument,” Murthy said. 

The instrument being built by IIA will be an ultraviolet photon counting detector. “We will detect every time there’s a photon, record its position and time. Since our instrument will be fixed to the CSS and scan the sky along with it, we can build it with a small budget. We won’t have any moving parts,” he explained. 

The IIT experiment will see two instruments being put on CSS, and the cost is being worked out, Prof Pradyumna Ghosh, who is leading the project said. The cost of sending them to the CSS will be borne by the hosts, he said, adding that their experiment went through the UN and European Union route. 

IIT (BHU) acting director Prof Rajiv Prakash, said, “We want to study the properties of fluids flowing in micro-gravity. Fluid flow anywhere—in plants or engineering or in biological systems—is very important. So when fluid is flowing under gravity on earth, the behaviour is different from when it is in low gravity.” 

Ghosh said, “While Nasa has conducted some studies on visible fluids, there has been no study on partially visible fluids done in space. The learning from this will be very important in multiple fields. At present, we do not know the exact behaviour of fluids like Urea or ammonia for instance, but we will be able to learn quite a bit.” 

He said that he has already written to ISRO about future experiments to learn more about fluids and that the space agency has been encouraging. “While we cannot send anything as part of experiments for Ganganyaan given its short duration, we are planning things for when we have our own space station,” Ghosh said.