The POEM initiative represents a novel and cost-effective means for repurposing spent rocket stages, transforming what was once considered space debris into a valuable resource for conducting scientific research and experiments in space.
India’s space odyssey is set for a groundbreaking leap as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) plans to send a pioneering mission, ‘POEM’ (PSLV Orbital Experimental Module), into space alongside the launch of a specialized observatory aimed at exploring neutron stars and black holes on New Year’s Day.
The ‘PSLV Orbital Experimental Module’ (POEM), constituting the fourth stage of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, will mark its 60th flight while carrying the XPoSAT (X-ray Polarimeter Satellite) as its primary payload. Comprising 10 experiments, the POEM’s standout feature includes the ‘Women Engineered Satellite’ (WESAT), crafted by an institute in Thiruvananthapuram.
Unique Endeavors and Resourceful Innovation
Described as a cost-effective, non-human Indian space station, the POEM embodies a transformative approach in space exploration. “The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is creating wealth from waste in space,” stated S Somanath, ISRO’s chairman, underscoring the agency’s innovative utilization of the spent fourth stage.
POEM stands for “PSLV Orbital Experimental Module.” It refers to the spent fourth stage of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which is repurposed and used as an orbital platform for carrying out scientific experiments through non-separating payloads.
Traditionally, in a four-stage rocket like the PSLV, the first three stages are jettisoned and disposed of into the ocean after propelling the satellite to its intended orbit. However, the fourth stage remains in orbit, typically becoming space debris.
ISRO’s innovative approach with the POEM involves utilizing this spent fourth stage as an experimental module, allowing it to carry out various scientific experiments and investigations in space. This platform enables the testing and validation of space technologies, conducting in-orbit scientific experiments for an extended duration, ranging from one to six months.
Diverse Experiments and Collaborative Initiatives
Among the ten experiments, the ‘Women Engineered Satellite’ (WESAT) crafted by the LBS Institute of Technology for Women, Thiruvananthapuram, signifies a historic moment, being India’s maiden women-led and women-only satellite, emphasizing the inclusivity and pioneering spirit of the mission.
Moreover, Bellatrix Aerospace Limited, an established space startup, is spearheading experiments focused on a green monopropellant thruster, aligning with global efforts for less toxic rocket fuels, thus ensuring a more environmentally sustainable space exploration approach.
ISRO’s Vision: Collaborative Growth and Ambitious Goals
Dr Pawan Goenka, Chairman of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), emphasized ISRO’s widening doors for private-sector participation, fostering a self-reliant space economy and contributing to a resurgent India.
ISRO’s vision encompasses expanding India’s space economy, valued at around $8 billion, with immense potential to reach $44 billion by 2033, offering a significant share in the global space economy.
Future Prospects: Indian Space Station and Pioneering Initiatives
India’s larger vision includes establishing the Bhartiya Antariksha Station (BAS) by 2035, envisaged as a gateway for interplanetary missions, micro-gravity studies, and space biology experiments. The BAS aims to solidify India’s prolonged presence in space through self-sufficiency and innovation.
Journey Into the Cosmos: A Transformative Leap
The ISRO-led ‘POEM’ mission symbolizes a leap into the unknown, a venture driven by innovation, collaboration, and a resolute commitment to exploring new frontiers in space, fostering a burgeoning space economy, and creating a sustainable legacy for India’s ambitious space program.