Exploring orbits and beyond: ISRO

3 Years agoWith the recent launch of 104 satellites in a single mission, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) set a world record on February 15, 2017.

With the recent launch of 104 satellites in a single mission, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) set a world record on February 15, 2017. It was ISRO’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which in its 39th flight, placed these satellites into orbit within a time span of a mere 12 minutes. Of these 104, 101 were foreign satellites: 96 from USA and one each from Switzerland, Israel, Kazakhstan and UAE.1

ISRO’s glorious journey began on August 15, 1969, with an objective to develop space technology and its applications to various national needs.2 ISRO has so far completed 87 spacecraft and 60 launch missions. The organisation has launched 180 satellites from 23 countries.3 It also successfully conducted the ambitious lunar mission (Chandrayaan-I), the first Indian-built object to reach the surface of the Moon and an impressive interplanetary Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan), which made India the first country to reach Mars in its first attempt and most economically.4

Apart from design and development of launch vehicles to provide access to space, ISRO has made tremendous progress in using space-based applications for socio-economic development as a part of its mission. Space-based applications are being used in disaster management, navigation, weather prediction, governance and education in India.5

Following are the significant feats of ISRO:

  1. Launch of three navigation satellites for the NavIC system

    ISRO launched the final 3 (out of 7) satellites required to complete the IRNSS constellation in April 2016. IRNSS is an independent regional navigation satellite system designed to provide position information in the Indian region and 1500 km around the Indian mainland. IRNSS provides two services named Standard Positioning System (SPS) and Restricted Service (RS). Both services are aimed at reducing the dependence on the United States-based Global Positioning System (GPS) by Indian civilian and strategic establishments.6 7

  2. Disaster Management Support (DMS) by ISRO


    ISRO’s technologies and applications have always proved useful during natural calamities.8 In 2016, ISRO’s support on this front was significant during the Uttarakhand Forest Fires and floods in the north-eastern states of Manipur and Assam.

    • Uttarakhand Forest Fires:

      The satellite data based temperature anomalies were used to detect 1,600 active fire locations. All the data was shared with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Forest Survey of India and state forest departments. SMS alerts were sent by the space agency to forest officials on the ground.9 Further, the burnt area was assessed using satellite data.

    • Floods occurred in Assam and Manipur in 2016:

      When heavy monsoon showers hit the two north-eastern states, ISRO stepped in to distribute flood and water flow data to the central and state government departments along with disaster management authorities.10

  3. Two years of Mars Orbiter Mission

    India’s first interplanetary mission completed two years in 2016. All five payloads on the spacecraft continue to transmit important data and images to ISRO stations. The Mars Colour Camera has produced more than 530 images so far, one of which appeared on the cover page of the November 2016 issue of the National Geographic Magazine. All useful data gathered by the orbiter has been made available in public domain through a website. Within two weeks of its launch, the website received more than 172,000 views and around 40GB of data was downloaded. Through the launch of MOM Announcement of Opportunity (AO) programmes by ISRO, India’s student and research community is being encouraged to use this data for Research and Development.11

  4. Space technology for governance and development

    ISRO has been playing a pivotal role in enabling the use of space technology in governance and development. It is working with various ministries and government departments to extend the use of space technology in such areas as education and health, connectivity, e-governance and disaster and early warning.12

    The space-based tools are being used by Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), National Mission for Clean Ganga, Digital India and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY).13 ISRO has constantly demonstrated that the pace of socio-economic development can significantly increase by converging earth observation, communication & navigation satellites and ground observations.

  5. Reusable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD)

    RLV-TD was successfully flight-tested on May 23, 2016. Critical technologies such as reusable thermal protection system, re-entry mission management, guidance & control along with autonomous navigation were tested during the flight at the speed of Mach 5 (five times higher than the speed of sound). RLV-TD has been configured to act as a flying test bed to evaluate various technologies, namely, hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion.With this, India inched a step closer to developing its fully functioning Reusable Launch Vehicle– a unanimous solution to achieve low cost, reliable and on-demand space access.14

  6. Launch of Cartosat series

    On June 22, 2016, ISRO put into orbit, India’s Cartosat (Cartosat-2C) earth observation satellite along with 19 other satellites using Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C34) in a single mission. Cartosat series of the satellites will be used for various strategic and civilian applications. It includes Geographical Information System (GIS), Land Information System (LIS), utility management and precision studies. The satellite which has been called as ‘India’s eyes in the sky’ by experts due to its high surveillance and monitoring capabilities will assist the other military satellites in the Cartosat series.15 16

  7. GSLV-F05/ INSAT-3DR Mission

    On September 08, 2016, India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) launched the weather satellite INSAT-3DR.1718 INSAT-3DR is an advanced weather satellite, weighing 2211 kg. It will provide meteorological services to India using a 6-channel imager and a 19-channel sounder, as well as search and rescue information and message relay for terrestrial data collection platforms.

  8. Towards Scramjet Engine Technology

    On August 28, 2016, ISRO successfully conducted its first experimental mission of the Scramjet Engine at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. The flight testing of the Scramjet Engine made India the fourth country to demonstrate such capabilities. The technology is expected to radically change the future space transportation systems by ISRO.19 A fully functional Scramjet Engine is expected to reduce the launch costs by half and minimise the chance of engine failure.20

    In 2016, ISRO made its presence and impact felt globally through MOUs with NASA, US Geological Survey, Russia, Japan, Afghanistan, UAE’s Space agency and Vietnam. It also hosted international events such as UN- India workshop on “Use of earth observation data in disaster management and risk reduction: sharing the Asian experience” & 10th SPIE-Asia Pacific Remote Sensing Symposium (APRS). ISRO also participated in and organised workshops and meetings in countries such as France, Germany, Japan and Russia.21

    Taking its commitment to use space-technology for socio-economic development one step ahead, ISRO will also launch ‘the South Asian satellite’ in March 2017.22 The satellite will be providing services such as telemedicine, tele-education, disaster management support, television and Direct-to- Home (DTH) to countries in South Asia, as a part of the Prime Minister’s ‘Neighbourhood first policy’.23 24

1 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=158472
2 http://www.isro.gov.in/frequently-asked-questions
3 http://www.isro.gov.in/missions-0
4 https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/india-is-the-first-asian-nation-to-touch-mars-orbit-joins-elite-global-space-club/2014/09/23/b6bc6992-a432-4f1e-87ad-5d6fc4da3460_story.html?utm_term=.716b28b0be8d
5 http://www.isro.gov.in/about-isro/vision-and-mission-statements
8 http://www.isro.gov.in/applications/disaster-management-support-programme
9 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=155958
10 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=155958
11 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=155958
12 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=155958
13 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=155958
14 http://www.isro.gov.in/update/23-may-2016/india%E2%80%99s-reusable-launch-vehicle-technology-demonstrator-rlv-td-successfully
15 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=155958
16 http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/cartosat-2c-to-boost-military-surveillance-capabilities/
17 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=155410
18 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=155958
19 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/printrelease.aspx?relid=149536
20 http://indianexpress.com/article/technology/science/isros-scramjet-technology-why-is-it-important-for-the-space-agency-3000387/
21 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=155958
22 https://thewire.in/78874/saarc-satellite-launched-march-next-year-isro/
23 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=123592
24 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=123592