Indian Space Research Organization
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is India’s primary space agency. It was established in the year 1969 under the leadership of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai. It was started with the aim achieving self-reliance and developing capability to build and launch communication satellites for television broadcast, telecommunications and meteorological applications as well as remote sensing satellites for management of natural resources. ISRO has not only achieved that objective, but has also expanded its horizons and now includes missions to moon and Mars as well as Human Spaceflight Programme.
This article provides a brief overview of ISRO’s Launch Vehicle capability, its constellation of satellites as well as all other major missions in the near future.
Launch Vehicles lift and carry satellites and other modules through the earth’s atmosphere and place them into their defined orbits.
The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is ISRO’s most reliable launch vehicle, having 23 successful flights till date. The reliability and versatility of the PSLV is proven by the fact that it has launched 55 satellites / spacecraft (26 Indian and 29 Foreign Satellites) into a variety of orbits so far. In April 2008, it successfully launched 10 satellites at once, breaking a world record held by Russia.
The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) at present, is ISRO’s heaviest satellite launch vehicle and is capable of putting a total payload of up to 5 tons to Low Earth Orbit. The vehicle is built by India with the cryogenic engine purchased from Russia while the ISRO develops its own engine programme.
3. GSLV Mark-III
The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III is the next generation launch vehicle currently under development by the Indian Space Research Organization. The design and development of the Mark-III mission is the biggest challenge faced by ISRO at the moment. It is intended to launch heavy satellites into geostationary orbit, and will allow India to become less dependent on foreign rockets for heavy lifting. According to latest information available, its maiden flight is scheduled to take place in April 2014.
1. The INSAT series
INSAT (Indian National Satellite System) is a series of multipurpose geostationary satellites launched by ISRO to satisfy the telecommunications, broadcasting, meteorology and search-and-rescue needs of India. Commissioned in 1983, INSAT is the largest domestic communication system in the Asia-Pacific Region. It is a joint venture of the Department of Space, Department of Telecommunications, India Meteorological Department, All India Radio and Doordarshan. These satellites are launched by GSLV.
2. The IRS series
Indian Remote Sensing satellites (IRS) are a series of earth observation satellites, built, launched and maintained by ISRO. The IRS series provides remote sensing services to the country. The Indian Remote Sensing Satellite system is the largest constellation of remote sensing satellites for civilian use in operation today in the world. All the satellites are placed in polar sun-synchronous orbit and provide data in a variety of spatial, spectral and temporal resolutions to enable several programmes to be undertaken relevant to national development. The initial versions are composed of the 1 (A, B, C, D) nomenclature. The later versions are named based on their area of application including OceanSat, CartoSat, ResourceSat. These satellites are launched by PSLV.
3. Radar Imaging Satellites
ISRO currently operates two Radar Imaging Satellites.RISAT-1 was launched from Sriharikota Spaceport on 26 April 2012 on board a PSLV. India also operates RISAT-2 which was launched in 2009 and acquired from Israel at a cost $110 million.
4. The IRNSS series
ISRO on 1 July 2013, launched from Sriharikota the First Indian Navigation Satellite the IRNSS-1A aboard PSLV-C22. The constellation would be comprising 7 satellites each weighing around 1450 Kilograms, with three satellites in the Geostationary Earth Orbit (GSO) and 4 in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO). The constellation would be completed around 2015.
5. Other satellites
ISRO has also launched a set of experimental geostationary satellites known as the GSAT series. Kalpana-1, ISRO’s first dedicated meteorological satellite, was launched by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on 12 September 2002. The satellite was originally known as MetSat-1. In February 2003 it was renamed to Kalpana-1 in memory of Kalpana Chawla – a NASA astronaut of Indian origin who perished in Space Shuttle Columbia.
1. Human Spaceflight Programme
The Indian Space Research Organization has proposed a budget of 12400 crore (US$1.9 billion) for its human spaceflight programme. According to the Space Commission which recommended the budget, an unmanned flight will be launched after 7 years of final approval and a manned mission will be launch after 7 years of funding. If realized in the stated time-frame, India will become the fourth nation, after the USSR, USA and China, to successfully carry out manned missions indigenously.
2. Chandrayaan 1 & 2
Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to Moon, was launched successfully on October 22, 2008 from SDSC SHAR, Sriharikota. The spacecraft was orbiting around the Moon at a height of 100 km from the lunar surface for chemical, mineralogical and photo-geologic mapping of the Moon. The spacecraft carries 11 scientific instruments built in India, USA, UK, Germany, Sweden and Bulgaria. It successfully confirmed the presence of water on the lunar surface.
Chandrayaan-2 is expected to conduct a soft landing on the moon and the rover is to roam the lunar surface gathering scientific data. It will be the first soft landing for ISRO.
3. Mars Orbiter Mission
The Indian Space Research Organisation has launched its first Mars orbital mission Mangalyaan successfully on 5 November 2013. It is the first orbiter by ISRO which has left the earth’s gravitational pull. It is expected to reach the Martian orbit by August 2014. Mangalyaan carries a 15-kilogram suite of five science instruments to study the martian upper atmosphere, surface features and mineralogy.
Other than these, mission to Venus, Sun and near earth objects such as asteroids and comets are also underway.
Indian Space Research Organization