In view of ever-growing population of space objects and the recent trend towards mega-constellations, Space Situational Awareness (SSA) has become an integral and indispensable part of safe and sustainable space operations.
For the last few decades, ISRO has been carrying out SSA activities, mainly focused on safeguarding India’s space assets. Recognising the need for dedicated efforts to tackle the emerging challenges of operating in an exceedingly crowded and contested space domain, Directorate of Space Situational Awareness and Management (DSSAM) has been established at ISRO. The Directorate engages in evolving improved operational mechanisms to protect Indian space assets through effective coordination amongst ISRO/DOS Centres, other space agencies and international bodies, and establishment of necessary supporting infrastructures, such as additional observation facilities for space object monitoring, and a control centre for centralized SSA activities. NEtwork for space object TRacking and Analysis (NETRA) project is initiated as a first step towards meeting this goal, its main elements being a radar, an optical telescope facility, and a control centre. ISRO SSA Control Centre, “NETRA”, is now set up within the ISTRAC campus at Peenya, Bangalore.
On 14 December, 2020, the ISRO SSA Control Centre,was formally inaugurated by Dr. K. Sivan, Chairman, ISRO/Secretary, DOS, re-iterating the need for setting up a state-of-the art facility dedicated to SSA activities on par with international agencies. Other dignitaries present and felicitated on the occasion were Shri. P. Kunhikrishnan, Director, URSC, Shri. R. Umamaheswaran, Scientific Secretary, and Dr. A. K. Anilkumar, Director, DSSAM.
The control centre is envisaged to function as a hub of all SSA activities within India. Concurrent processing of data from the upcoming observational facilities for space objects’ orbit determination, correlation and catalogue generation will take place here. There will be provision to schedule and remotely operate the observational facilities from the control centre. Other core SSA activities will comprise close approach analysis between ISRO’s satellite and launch vehicles, timely dissemination of advance alerts on upcoming critical conjunctions for collision avoidance of operational assets, prediction of atmospheric re-entry of derelict satellites and rocket bodies. In addition, dedicated labs will also be set up in this control centre for Space Debris mitigation and remediation, compliance verification of UN/IADC guidelines and various R&D activities. The R&D activities will encompass space object fragmentation and break up modelling, space debris population and micro meteoroid environment modeling, Space Weather studies, Near Earth Objects and planetary defence studies etc. The establishment of ISRO SSA Control Centre marks an important milestone towards enhancement and augmentation of ISRO’s SSA capabilities, paving the way for greater self-reliance under the ambit of “Atmanirbhar” Bharat.