ISRO’s Shukrayaan: India’s proposed Venus mission gets international proposals

The Indian Space Research organisation (ISRO) has said it has short-listed 20 space-based experiment proposals for its proposed Venus orbiter mission ‘Shukrayaan’. ISRO’s Shukrayaan mission aims to study Venus for more than four years.

Sources in the Bengaluru-headquartered space agency said that the proposals include “collaborative contributions” from Russia, France, Sweden and Germany.

Earlier, ISRO had plans to launch India’s first mission to Venus in June 2023. “But we are currently reviewing this mission timeline due to delays arising from the pandemic situation”, an ISRO official said.

“Future launch opportunity is either in 2024 or 2026”. The scientists noted that the optimal launch window (when Venus is closest to the Earth) comes about every 19 months.

Out of the Indian and international payload proposals it received for the mission, ISRO has short-listed 20.

“These 20 payload (scientific instruments) proposals, including collaborative contributions from Russia, France, Sweden and Germany, are currently under review”, the ISRO official said.

French space agency CNES said that the one already selected is France’s VIRAL instrument (Venus Infrared Atmospheric Gas Linker) co-developed with the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and the LATMOS atmospheres, environments and space observations laboratory attached to the French national scientific research centre CNRS.

“Swedish Institute of Space Physics is engaged with India’s mission to Venus”, sources said.

ISRO said that Venus mission’s scientific objectives will be to investigate the surface processes and shallow subsurface stratigraphy. It will also study solar wind interaction with Venusian Ionosphere, and the structure, composition and dynamics of the atmosphere.

Venus and Earth have similarities in size, mass, density, bulk composition and gravity because of which the former is often described as the latter’s “twin sister”.

ISRO had noted in its announcement of opportunity that it is believed that both planets share a common origin. Around 4.5 billion years ago, both formed at the same time out of a condensing nebulosity.

There is a higher solar flux on Venus as compared to Earth because Venus is around 30 per cent closer to the Sun.

Venus’ exploration began in the early 1960s. Flyby, orbiter, a few lander missions and atmospheric probes are exploring Venus.

“In spite of great progress made in exploring Venus, there still exist gaps in our basic understanding about surface/sub-surface features and processes, super rotation of Venusian atmosphere and its evolution and interaction with solar radiation/solar wind”, ISRO had said.