(The Gist of Science Reporter) Indian Space Programme Past
Pride & Future Challenges
Indian Space Programme Past Pride & Future Challenges
Recognizing the potential of space as a catalyst for development, the Indian
Space Research Organisation (ISRO) devised its space programme with the
objective of “Harnessing space technology for national development, while
pursuing space science research and planetary exploration ” since its inception
and this has remained the fundamental tenet around which the Indian Space
Programme has evolved. The ISRO Satellite Centre has rolled out 100 satellites
capable of providing services in various application domains like communication,
meteorology, remote sensing, navigation and space science explorations. These
satellites are continuing to serve the key sectors of the Indian economy such as
socio-economic security, sustainable development, disaster risk reduction, and
governance at large.
Satellite links are the primary means of connectivity to remote and far-flung
regions of the country they are the backup links for terrestrial connectivity in
the mainland too. Communication satellites play a vital role in today’s digital
era focusing on the utilisation of satellite communication throughout the
country. The technology has matured substantially over the past three decades
and is being used on commercial basis for a large number of applications. Today,
we have 15 operational communication satellites in orbit supporting 285
transponders in C, Ext C, Ku, Ka/ Ku and S-band for diverse applications like
Television, DTH Broadcasting, Radio Networking, and Mobile Satellite Services to
exploit the unique capabilities in terms of coverage and outreach. The prominent
users of the transponders are BSNL, Doordarshan, DTH and TV operators, All India
Radio, Government users, Public Sector units, Private VSAT operators, banking
and financial institutions.
Communication satellites have been a major catalyst for the expansion of
television coverage in India. Satellite television now covers 100% area and 100%
population. All of the Satellite TV channels are digitalised. DTH services are
becoming popular with the introduction of premium services like HDTV services,
On-demand movie services, etc. High power Ku-band transponders are used to
support DTH television service with the smallest dish antenna all over India.
The free-to-air DTH service “DD Free Dish of Doordarshan offers 59 TV channels.
More than 1404 Satellite Earth Stations of different size are operating in the
satellite network of BSNL, government users, closed user group, commercial users
and broadcasters and are being utilised for telecommunications/broadcasting
applications. About 2,74,000 VSATs are being used in star/mesh connectivity of
various sizes and capabilities. The ISRO Telemedicine programme has also been
connecting remote/rural/medical college hospitals and Mobile Units through the
Indian satellites to major specialty hospitals in cities and towns. The ISRO
Telemedicine network covers various states/regions across the length and breadth
of our country. Presently, around 130 Telemedicine nodes are Operational across
Tele Education projects through EDUSAT were exclusively meant for educational
services to cater to a wide range of interactive educational delivery modes like
one-way TV broadcast, video conferencing, computer conferencing, web-based
instructions, etc. EDUSAT had manifold objectives -to supplement the
curriculum-based teaching, imparting effective teacher training, providing
access to quality resource persons and new technologies, thus taking education
to every nook and corner of India.
It also provided connectivity to schools, colleges and higher levels of
education and also supported non-formal education including development
communication. About 15 million studen ;ot benefited through the EDUSAT
Mobile Satellite Services with voice communication provide communication
links especially during disasters when other means of communication are broken
down. It can be used from any location in India for emergency communication.
Transmit and receive frequencies of the terminal in S-Band could be made between
any satellite and local phones. Radio networking through satellites provides
reliable high fidelity programme channels for national as well as regional
networking. At present, 419 All India Radio (AIR) stations and about 607 radio
transmitters have been equipped with receive terminals, and 21 radio channels of
AIR are broadcast through DTH platform of Doordarshan.
Navigation – NAVIC and GAGAN Applications
ISRO has also entered into satellite-based navigation applications through
GAGAN & IRNSS. GAGAN will redefine navigation over the Indian airspace; IRNSS
will provide independent and self-reliant satellite-based navigation services
over the Indian region. ISRO and Airports Authority of India have implemented
the GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) project as a Satellite Based
Augmentation System (SBAS) for the Indian airspace. The objective of GAGAN to
establish, deploy and certify satellite-based augmentation system for
safety-of-life civil aviation applications in India has been successfully
completed. The system is inter-operable with other international SBAS systems
and has expansion capability for seamless navigation services across the region.
GAGAN provides the additional accuracy, availability, and integrity necessary
for all phases of flight, from en route through approach for all qualified
airports within the GAGAN service volume. Besides these, they will also provide
benefits beyond aviation to many other user segments such as intelligent
transportation, maritime, highways, railways, surveying, geodesy, security
agencies, telecom industry personal users of position location applications,
Remote Sensing Applications
Earth observation satellites are application-oriented focusing towards
providing continuity of services in areas like land and water resource
observation, ocean and atmosphere, cartography & large-scale mapping, and
microwave imaging. Today 15 satellites are in the orbit catering to a wide
variety of applications like flood mapping, landslide inventory mapping,
agriculture assessment, underground water assessment, urban planning, forest
India is one of the most flood-prone countries in the world. Floods occur in
almost all river basins in India. Both optical and microwave satellite data are
being used and information is disseminated to the concerned Central/ State
agencies. Satellite based imageries due to their synoptic coverage are the best
tools for assessment of the extent of hood-affected areas and the damage to the
infrastructure facilitating the decision makers to plan for relief Operations.
The operational methodology developed by ISRO over the years is now
institutionalized by setting up a Forecasting Centre under the Ministry of
Agriculture. Currently, [SRO is concentrating on upgrading the methodology for
monitoring the drought and efforts are on to develop early warning systems for
agricultural drought. Similarly, active forest fires are detected from the
satellite images and the information is uploaded daily to the Indian Forest Fire
Response and Assessment System website.
Remote sensing data have been proved to be useful for landslide inventory
mapping both at local and regional level. 1 These maps can be combined with
other terrain maps like slope, slope aspect, slope morphology, rock weathering
and slope-bedding dip relationship in GIS environment to map the vulnerable
areas for landslides. ISRO has prepared Landslide Hazard Zonation maps (LHZ)
along tourist and pilgrim routes of Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh Himalayas
and in Shillong-Silchar-Aizawl sector.
Remote Sensing data has also been of-significant help in understanding the
loss of forest cover, resource depletion, assessment of trees outside forest and
planning for sustainable use of forests. Significant information on glaciers
(retreat/ advance) in the sub basins of Himalaya has been generated using
satellite images at the behest of the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate
High resolution satellite data and aerial data have been used to generate urban
maps containing information such as land use, geology, soil, settlement
locations for 152 cities/ towns in the country. The data helps in preparation of
Master Plan/Development Plan, Transportation Plan, Urban Site Suitability
Analysis, Urban Environmental Flaming, etc.
The prediction of weather in tropical regions, like India, is a major
challenge due to the complex 1 and dynamic nature of the weather system. The day
to day changes of weather elements such as rainfall, temperature, wind speed and
humidity are important meteorological parameters to be monitored on a continuous
basis. The meteorological satellites provide a synoptic measurement of weather
parameters at frequent intervals. The satellite images on cloud cover and
various parameters such as winds, rainfall, sea surface temperature, etc. , have
become an integral part of weather forecasting.
Remote sensing satellite images also play a vital role in crop assessment, fibre
crop information system, Antarctic ice studies, hydrological studies, snow and
glacier studies, air quality monitoring from space, monitoring of integrated
watershed management programme, National Land use/Land cover mapping, Empowering
Panchayat Raj Institutions Spatially, etc.
Space Science and Planetary Research
Besides the operational satellite missions catering to varied applications,
ISRO has also been pursuing space science missions. Chandrayaan-l, Mars Orbiter
Mission and Astros at missions were realised and launched successfully with
various scientific objectives.
Chandrayaan-l Mission was India’s first mission to moon that provide
significant scientific data about the Moon and pioneered in the discovery of
water molecules on the lunar surface and water ice at the lunar poles. Space
science research activities at par with international scenario are continuously
being pursued at premier research laboratories of ISRO/DOS, namely, Physical
Research Laboratory (PRL), National Atmospheric Research Laboratory (NARL),
Space Physics Laboratory (SPL) at VSSC, and Space Astronomy Group at ISAC.
The landmark Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) has completed three years in the Mars
orbit and is still providing appreciable data. Based on the scientific analysis
of data received from the Mars Orbiter spacecraft, 25 scientific papers have
been published so far in peer-reviewed journals.
Looking towards the future, ISRO is poised to build and launch 18-20
satellites every year to meet the burgeoning demands of space-based services in
the country. In doing so, the Centre has evoked greater private sector
participation in satellite building activities to enhance its throughput.
Capacity building in the private sector is the need of the hour to enable
private players to deliver “launch on demand” satellites.
ISRO is also focusing on building advanced satellite technologies catering to
newer applications that would aid development of the nation. In the
Communication sector, the focus is towards packaging 80-100 transponders in a
satellite that will meet the requirements of various users from private and
Government sectors. In future, satellite transponders with high bandwidth
specifically in Ka, Q, V and even optical bands will primarily be used in
governance function. The future advanced technology communication satellite
missions shall provide the required space infrastructure platform for high-speed
internet connectivity, bandwidth on demand, broadband connectivity using
multiple spot beams, and broadband VSAT connectivity with higher data rates.
Similarly, in the navigation sector the focus is more towards providing
enhanced accurate navigation services across all the modes of transportation
like Railways, Roadways, Maritime, Surveys besides the aviation sector.
Navigation services are also planned to facilitate fishermen with timely
information and alerts near International border crossing in the Ocean/sea. Once
our indigenously developed Navigation Chipset is ready, it will enable IRNSS
based services to be used by each and every citizen of this country. In the
Earth observation front, the major focus is on building high-resolution
satellites with sub-meter resolution imaging, hyper spectral imaging, all
weather condition microwave imaging capability, 3D Modeling imaging, Geo imaging
capabilities for natural resource management and meteorological applications. In
the meteorological domain, the focus is more towards providing timely and
accurate weather predictions with advanced onboard instruments to avoid damages
and losses occurring due to natural calamities in the country.
Courtesy: Science Reporter