Tension between India and China is causing concern among Indian scientists from Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics.


What is the issue?

The Indian astrophysicists are part of an ambitious United Nations-led project – Spectrographic Investigation of Nebular Gas (SING). SING aims to install a spectroscope aboard the developing Chinese space station – Tiangong.



  • The UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the China Manned Space Agency (Tiangong is managed by the CMSA) announced (in 2019) the winners of their collaborative opportunity to conduct experiments on board the Tiangong.
  • Six winning projects were selected (SING was one among them) and three were conditionally selected.
  • Scientists from the IIA were chosen in 2019 as part of an UN-led project that encourages research teams from around the world to compete for the opportunity to design payloads that would be shuttled to Tiangong.
  • As a result, a collaborative project between India and Russia – SING, was launched.


About the SING Project

  • This astronomy experiment will be implemented by two institutions from two countries – The Indian Institute of Astrophysics and the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
  • The SING project would be the first space-collaboration involving India and China, and primarily deals with sending and positioning a spectrograph.
    • A spectrograph is an instrument that splits light into constituent frequencies and wavelengths, to study ultraviolet radiation.
    • Earlier, both India and China have collaborated for the Giant Metre Wave Radio Telescope, a Pune-based observatory that is employed to observe and analyse stars and galaxies.
  • This will aid in the investigation of the sources of interstellar gas in the region swept by the space station as it orbits the Earth.
  • The spectrograph is scheduled to be delivered to the Chinese team in November 2022 and installed as a payload on the Chinese space station (CSS).


About the Tiangong Space Station

  • Tiangong (or Heavenly Palace) is a T-shaped space station being constructed by China in low Earth orbit between 340 and 450 km above the surface.
  • The construction of the station is based on the experience gained from its precursors, Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2.
  • Once completed, Tiangong will have a mass roughly one-fifth the mass of the International Space Station and about the size of the decommissioned Russian Mir space station.
  • It will be only the second such station after the International Space Station in orbit.


About the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA)

  • The IIA is a premier institute devoted to research in astronomy, astrophysics and related physics.
  • It traces its origins back to an observatory set up in 1786 at Madras, which was later moved to Kodaikanal in 1899.
  • In the year 1971, the Kodaikanal Observatory became an autonomous society – IIA, whose headquarters shifted to Bengaluru in 1975.
  • Today, it works under the Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and technology.
  • The institute has a network of laboratories and observatories in India, located at Kodaikanal, Kavalur, Gauribidanur and Hanle.
  • The institute contributed to Astrosat – India’s first dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory (launched in 2015) and led the development of Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UVIT).