• Written by Wendy Whitman Cobb, Professor of Strategy and Security Studies, US Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies

On Sept. 7, India’s Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission deployed its Vikram lander for an attempted landing at the Moon’s south pole. Communications with the lander were lost[1] just minutes prior to the scheduled landing. Recent imaging suggests that Vikram may have survived the landing intact, but it might be unable to communicate. No matter the outcome, the mission has already proved successful as Chandrayaan-2 continues to orbit the Moon.

Chandrayaan-2 adds to the list of India’s recent accomplishments in space. This probe was sent on a scientific mission, but India’s achievements in space include other military developments[2], all of which reflect a challenge to China. Though some are warning of a space race between the U.S. and China[3], I suggest the real space race is happening in Asia.

This year alone, both China and India have landed, or attempted to land, probes on the Moon. These types of missions are one way to achieve international prestige. But they also peacefully demonstrate capabilities that could be used in conflict. From my perspective as a space policy analyst[4], India’s space activities, combined with its escalating tensions with Pakistan[5], contribute to increasing regional tension.

Indian Moon probe's failure won't stop an Asian space race that threatens regional security Employees of India’s space agency react with disappointment as they learn that engineers lost touch with its Vikram lunar lander. AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi[6]

Indian space achievements and capabilities

Most international observers have focused, with good reason, on India’s nuclear ambitions. Like its nuclear program, India’s space program traces its origins to the 1950s[7], though the Indian Space Research Organization was not formed until 1969. Early on, the Indian Space Research Organization focused on design and fabrication of satellites. Later, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it concentrated on the development of its own rockets. Since then, India has developed several reliable and powerful rockets[8] including its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle.

India has used its expertise to foster a growing commercial space sector. It sells extra space on its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle[9] to commercial companies, which has generated significant income for the Indian Space Research Organization. India recently approved the creation[10] of a private institution, NewSpace India Limited[11], to facilitate technology transfers and market space-centric industries.

India’s first Moon mission, the orbiter Chandrayaan-1[12], launched in 2008, contributed to the discovery of water on the Moon[13]. In 2014, the Mars Orbiter Mission[14] made India the fourth entity to send a mission to the Red Planet after the U.S., Russia and the European Space Agency. The ultimate goal of the current Chandrayann-2 mission was to deploy a lander and rover on the Moon’s south pole to further explore potential water deposits. India also strives to launch its own astronauts[15] into space by 2022.

These efforts have been primarily civilian and peaceful in nature. India’s turn toward the military uses of space[16] began only in the 1990s. With greater frequency India is developing its own military satellites providing services such as remote sensing, tracking and communications. India’s missiles are benefitted[17] by technology developed at ISRO and their increasing capabilities reflects their concerns with not just Pakistan, but China.

Since the establishment of the Chinese communist state, conflict between the two states has come on several fronts[18]. There have been several clashes over disputed territorial boundaries and, as rising economic powers governed by different ideologies, India and China continue to battle for regional and international preeminence.

China’s own accomplishments have served as motivation for Indian developments. For instance, China’s nuclear tests in 1964 encouraged[19] the Indian nuclear program, which conducted its own nuclear tests in 1974. In space, China has expanded its scientific, civilian and military activities with an active human spaceflight program and its own program of lunar missions. In January of 2019, Chang'e-4 successfully landed on the far side of the Moon and just recently discovered[20] an unknown “gel-like” substance.

Asian power balance

India continues to feel pressure from its Chinese neighbor. Following China’s anti-satellite test in 2008[21], India began development of its own space weapons. In March 2019, India successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon[22]: a missile, launched from the ground, that destroyed one of its own satellites in low Earth orbit. Like previous anti-satellite tests performed by the U.S., Russia and China, there were immediate concerns about debris[23]. Despite this, India clearly intended to send a message to China[24] and others, signaling their ability to not only protect their own satellites but destroy threatening Chinese ones as well.

These more aggressive moves fit in with other recent Indian actions. In August, India withdrew the special status of Kashmir[25] that largely allowed the region to set its own laws. India then deployed troops to the region[26], arrested several hundred Kashmiri politicians and moved to sever communication links between Kashmir and the rest of the region.

These actions, along with India’s space activities, do not go unnoticed by Pakistan. As analysts Mian Zahid Hussain and Raja Qaiser Ahmed write[27], “Pakistan feels more insecure under India’s low earth orbit satellites and dominant surveillance and espionage capabilities.” This insecurity, combined with India’s behavior toward Kashmir, could prompt Pakistan to develop anti-satellite weapons and other space technologies. If this starts an arms race, it would introduce more instability in an already delicate region.

In a speech following the loss of communication with the Vikram lander, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said[28], “We are proud of our space program and scientists, their hard work and determination. (They) ensure a better life, not only for our citizens, but also for other nations.” Like other space powers, India is seeking to improve its technology and way of life, but advances can also bring greater security concerns.


  1. ^ Communications with the lander were lost (
  2. ^ other military developments (
  3. ^ space race between the U.S. and China (
  4. ^ my perspective as a space policy analyst (
  5. ^ escalating tensions with Pakistan (
  6. ^ AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi (
  7. ^ traces its origins to the 1950s (
  8. ^ reliable and powerful rockets (
  9. ^ It sells extra space on its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (
  10. ^ India recently approved the creation (
  11. ^ NewSpace India Limited (
  12. ^ Chandrayaan-1 (
  13. ^ contributed to the discovery of water on the Moon (
  14. ^ Mars Orbiter Mission (
  15. ^ launch its own astronauts (
  16. ^ military uses of space (
  17. ^ India’s missiles are benefitted (
  18. ^ conflict between the two states has come on several fronts (
  19. ^ China’s nuclear tests in 1964 encouraged (
  20. ^ just recently discovered (
  21. ^ China’s anti-satellite test in 2008 (
  22. ^ India successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon (
  23. ^ immediate concerns about debris (
  24. ^ to send a message to China (
  25. ^ India withdrew the special status of Kashmir (
  26. ^ deployed troops to the region (
  27. ^ Mian Zahid Hussain and Raja Qaiser Ahmed write (
  28. ^ Narendra Modi said (

Authors: Wendy Whitman Cobb, Professor of Strategy and Security Studies, US Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies

Read more

Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

Visit The Conversation to see more

Entertainment News

Musik Radio Promotions - Opening the World For Indie Artists Music

Industry without inspiration never leaves a lasting impact. Hard work and discipline often produce a reliable product but, without the spark of love behind its creation, posterity will take a dim view of its ultimate worth. Ten years ago, worldwi...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Musical Journey of Lamont Dozier, Jr.

I was quite young when music entered my life. Music always had a role in my household, being that my mother, Elizabeth Ann Dozier, was a musician and the choir director for the church that I and my sisters grew up in. My mother also taught clas...

Lamont Dozier, Jr. - avatar Lamont Dozier, Jr.

Actor Thorn Castillo is the “New Face of Schick”

Last year, just after my acting and modeling career had started taking off, I heard some interesting advice from Robert Downey Jr. during an interview on Sam Jones’ series “Off Camera.” Talking about his own early experiences, he said something l...

Thorn Castillo - avatar Thorn Castillo

SHERYL LEE RALPH 2020 Creative and Political Projects

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on our day to day lives – but Tony nominated and Spirit Award winning actress/activist Sheryl Lee Ralph is booked and busy with her ongoing slate of dynamic TV, literary, political and entrepreneurial projects, revealin...

News Company - avatar News Company


Greye’s explosive new single “So Far So Good” is the perfect intro to the band’s new, harder-edged direction, an amped up way to experience all the dynamic elements Greye is known for.This explosive new single “So Far So Good” is the perfect intr...

News Company - avatar News Company


GLORIA LORING The Best of Me   There is something beautiful about artists whose insight into the human condition allows them to create works that, even beyond their original intention, emotionally and intuitively meet the moment and help us ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Metropolitan Business News


In 2019, just as his multi-faceted career was taking off, Thorn Castillo heard Robert Downey Jr. offer a sage bit of advice during an interview on photographer/director Sam Jones’ acclaimed multi-...

News Company - avatar News Company

New Research Highlights Opportunities for Sports Betting

Revenue Stream for Sports’ Post-COVID-19 Recovery Strategies New Rochelle, NY, June 1, 2020— Twenty-four states have now legalized sports betting, with more states considering legalization la...

Len Stein - avatar Len Stein

How to make overseas transfers easier?

Mainstream banks can charge as much as $20 just to process a basic international money transfer. Fortunately, today people are not doomed to handling personal finances only through mainstream gl...

News Company - avatar News Company

The flourishing international market of fragrance and perfume

There is something special and unique about the art of fragrance. This is a big world and there are quite literally a lot of smells around at any given time. In fact, as one of the five human senses i...

News Company - avatar News Company

Impact of good marketing on sales

Sales and marketing are brothers as they go hand and in hand. The job of both of these departments is to generate revenue so that an organization can make money. A company that does not generate rev...

News Company - avatar News Company

7 effective tips for increasing sales in retail

It seems that retailers have drawn a difficult lot in the 21st century: competition from online retail is growing steadily. After all, Internet retailers can sell your products at significantly lowe...

News Company - avatar News Company

Writers Wanted

News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion