ISRO, which is preparing for three major missions in 2022, will receive ground support from the European Space Agency under a deal signed in June 2021

In a key development, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which is preparing for three major missions in 2022, will receive ground support from the European Space Agency (ESA). The assistance will be provided under a special agreement that was signed in June 2021 between ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher and ISRO's former Chairman K Sivan. The European agency announced that it would use its global deep-space communication antennas for ISRO to track Indian spacecraft, pinpointing their locations at crucial stages, transmitting commands and receiving valuable data.

The agency stated that its 35-metre deep-space Estrack antennas, ranging from Australia to Argentina would guide ISRO at every step. The 15-metre antenna at Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana's Kourou and the commercial 32-metre deep-space antenna at Goonhilly station in the UK would also be used for additional support.

ISRO's Gears Up For Chandrayaan-3 And Aditya L-1

While ISRO's pipeline is filled with three biggest missions this year- Gaganyaan, Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya L-1 solar mission, the last two are what would test ESA's commitment first. The Chandrayaan-3, which is targeted for launch in August this year, would mark India's first-ever successful landing on another celestial body. Under this mission, ISRO would launch a lander and a rover, to scan the Moon's south pole for two weeks.

Ramesh Chellathurai, ESA Service Manager and Liaison Officer for ISRO, said as per the European agency, "Deep space communication is an essential part of any space mission. Ground stations keep spacecraft safely connected to Earth as they venture into the unknowns and risks of space. Without ground station support, it’s impossible to get any data from a spacecraft, to know how it’s doing, to know if it is safe or even to know where it is".

Another mission to be benefitted from the agreement would be the Aditya-L1 mission, wherein ISRO will launch a spacecraft to the first Lagrange point- about 15 lakh kilometres from Earth. The spacecraft is being launched deep into space in order to study a number of solar properties, such as the dynamics and origins of coronal mass ejections. Explaining the importance of a global network of antennae for this mission, Chellathurai explained, "The (Aditya) spacecraft will always be in the same direction from Earth as the Sun. So, as Earth rotates, no single ground station will always be in view of Aditya-L1. Using a global station network like ESA’s is the best way to exchange data and commands with this spacecraft as often as possible".