After Chandrayaan 3, ISRO Uses AI in Gaganyaan Mission

After Chandrayaan 3, ISRO Uses AI in Gaganyaan Mission

In a groundbreaking move, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is poised to revolutionize its space exploration capabilities by incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) into its upcoming Gaganyaan mission. This strategic decision follows the recent success of Chandrayaan 3, where ISRO demonstrated its prowess in interplanetary missions and soft landings.

Vyommitra, a humanoid designed by ISRO, takes center stage in this ambitious endeavor. Currently undergoing meticulous pre-flight ground tests at the ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU), Vyommitra represents a significant leap forward in the integration of AI in space missions.

The director of IISU, Sam Dayala Dev, shared insights into Vyommitra’s progress, stating, “Over the past few months, IISU has successfully integrated it with a computer ‘brain’ which enables it to ‘read’ control panels aboard the unmanned test flights and communicate with the ISRO ground stations.”

Jitendra Singh, the Minister of State, emphasized the critical role of AI in ISRO’s achievements, citing its contributions to the Mars mission and the successful soft landing of Chandrayaan-3. In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, Singh outlined, “Artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions are being developed for launch vehicles, spacecraft operations, big data analytics, space robotics, space traffic management, among others.”

The scope of AI applications in ISRO is extensive, covering projects such as the Gaganyaan Program, Chandrayaan-3 mission, operational launch vehicles, spacecraft programs, and Earth observation data analysis.

Singh highlighted the diverse applications of AI in ongoing projects, stating, “Some of such major projects include ‘the Gaganyaan Program, recently accomplished Chandrayaan-3 mission, Operational Launch vehicle and Spacecraft programmes, Earth Observation data analysis, etc.”

Collaborative efforts between ISRO and esteemed institutions like IITs and IISc play a pivotal role in developing niche AI applications. Singh affirmed, “The Department of Space is undertaking projects and programmes in the domains of artificial intelligence, which are at different stages of feasibility studies and implementation.”

Vyommitra, the humanoid prototype designed for Gaganyaan missions, plays a unique role in ISRO’s quest for human space travel. K Sivan, ISRO Chairman, shed light on Vyommitra’s significance, stating, “The humanoid is almost ready. We want to make sure that this mission serves a purpose displaying our ability to send humans and bring them back safely. Our robot is going to be sort of a human, and be ready to do whatever a person can do, although not as extensively as humans.”

Describing Vyommitra’s characteristics, experts revealed that the humanoid is still undergoing development and is considered a half-humanoid. Its responsibilities include monitoring crew parameters, executing Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) functions, and mimicking crew activities.

Milind Kulshreshtha, a C4I expert, provided insights into Vyommitra’s functionalities, stating, “To carry out these functions like Facial Recognition, etc., Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools shall be used inside the humanoid. It shall be also trained to operate critical machines in the crew module, initially expected to do alone during the only humanoid flights and, later, as an associate of a crew member within the spacecraft cabin.”

The key role of Vyommitra lies in supporting the crew in the operations of Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS). Kulshreshtha explained, “The ECLSS is a system of regenerative life support mechanism which provides clean air and water to the crew through artificial means.”

As ISRO progresses towards integrating AI into various aspects of space exploration, Singh outlined the future prospects, stating, “AI embedded humanoid shall be handling the Navigation, pre-programmed experiments and regular tasks apart from assisting in various maneuvers.”

The collaborative efforts with institutions such as IITs and IISc contribute to the ongoing refinement of AI technologies for space exploration. These partnerships are crucial for developing and enhancing niche AI applications that align with the unique challenges posed by space missions.

Vyommitra’s role is expected to evolve with ongoing developmental cycles, aiming for improved electronics, actuators, and sensing capabilities. Kulshreshtha emphasized that every space traveling humanoid needs to have multiple Degrees-of-freedom in movement.

In a broader context, ISRO’s strategic integration of AI exemplifies a forward-thinking approach to space exploration. The successful union of AI and human space travel marks a significant milestone in India’s space odyssey, showcasing its ability to innovate and push the boundaries of space technology.

The design configuration for the Gaganyaan rocket GSLV Mk-III-D2 is currently under consideration, with a focus on making design changes suitable for human travel. ISRO continues to navigate the challenges of space exploration with precision, recognizing the evolving nature of technology and its pivotal role in shaping the future of space travel.

As ISRO’s journey unfolds, the integration of AI into the Gaganyaan mission stands as a testament to India’s commitment to advancing space exploration, pushing the limits of technology, and embracing the possibilities that AI brings to the forefront of human space travel.