(GIST OF YOJANA) India as a Space Power

(GIST OF YOJANA) India as a Space Power


India as a Space Power


  • The beginnings of the Indian Space Programme initiated by Dr Vikram Sarabhai. 
  • Formation of the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) in 1962. Followed by the first sounding rocket launch from Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in 1963 that the space programme formally took off.

Evolution of India’s space program:

  • The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was formed in 1969, superseding INCOSPAR. 
  • The Space Commission and the Department of Space (DOS) established in 1972, ISRO was brought under DOS and the structured space programme was now poised to soar under the leadership of Dr Satish Dhawan.
  • The 70s were the learning phase during which several experimental satellites were built, including India’s first satellite Aryabhata, which was launched on 19 April 1975, from a launch centre in the former Soviet Union. 

Early phase of the Indian Satellite Programme:

  • Aryabhata laid a firm foundation for the later immensely successful Indian Satellite Programme. Bhaskara-I and II, the two experimental earth observation satellites, provided the rich experience and the confidence to build complex operational remote sensing satellites. Today, India is world leader in the satellite-based remote sensing area.
  • Additionally, APPLE- Ariane Passenger PayLoad Experiment, India’s first experimental communication satellite, although launched by the European Ariane rocket, reached its final geosynchronous orbital home in June 1981, with the help of a rocket motor developed in India. Aryabhata, the two Bhaskaras, as well as APPLE were launched free-of-cost, which reflects India’s successful international space cooperation policy. 
  • SITE–Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (1975-76) and STEP– Satellite Telecommunication Experimental Project (1977-79), comprehensively establishing the usage of satellites for communication and broadcasting and providing hands-on experience for the same, paving the way for INSAT (Indian National SATellite) series of satellites.
  • The Satellite Launch Vehicle-3 (SLV-3) project was the first indigenous experimental satellite launch vehicle, that served as the beginning of an enduring partnership between ISRO and Indian industries. An all solid, four-stage launch vehicle, the SLV-3 was designed for placing satellites weighing 40 kg in Low Earth Orbit. The SLV-3 had its successful launch on 18 July 1980.

The middle phase:

  • INSAT-1B, India’s first multipurpose operational satellite was launched in 1983, demonstrating its ability to bring about a rapid and major revolution in India’s telecommunications, television broadcasting, and weather-forecasting domains.
  • India’s ability to design, build, and maintain a complex remote sensing satellite was demonstrated in 1988 when IRS-1A, the first operational satellite built in India, started imaging the earth. The images sent by that satellite circling the Earth from its 900 km high polar orbit were utilised in various diverse fields such as agriculture, groundwater prospecting, mineral survey, forestry, etc.
  • During the 1990s, ISRO began building INSAT-2 series of multipurpose satellites indigenously. At the same time, systematic usage of imagery from our remote sensing
    satellites for tasks like crop yield estimation, groundwater and mineral prospecting, forest survey, urban sprawl monitoring, and wasteland classification and fisheries development began. 
  • The optimal usage of onboard capabilities of INSAT and remote sensing satellites was coordinated using inter-ministerial mechanisms such as INSAT Coordination Committee (ICC) and National Natural Resources Management System (NNRMS).
  • The space transportation domain, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in 1994, witnessed a quantum jump in the indigenous launch capabilities. The vehicle has proven to be a workhorse
    of ISRO, logging over 50 successful missions, launching national as well as foreign satellites. On 15 February 2017, PSLV created a world record by successfully placing 104 satellites in orbit during a single launch. 

Modern phase of the Indian Satellite Programme:

  • Launched by PSLV on 22 October 2008, the 1380 kg Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft was successfully navigated to the Moon in three weeks and was put into an orbit around the moon. On 14 November 2008, when a TV set sized ‘Moon Impact Probe’ separated from Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft and successfully impacted the surface of the moon, India became the fourth country to send a probe to the lunar surface after the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan. Later, when Chandrayaan-1 conclusively discovered water molecules on the lunar surface, it was widely hailed as a path-breaking discovery.
  • ISRO embarked on the Mars Orbiter Mission, for demonstrating India’s capability to build, launch, and navigate an unmanned spacecraft to Mars. Launched by PSLV on 5 November 2013, the 1340 kg Mars Orbiter Spacecraft encountered Mars on 24 September 2014. With this, ISRO has become the fourth space agency to successfully send a spacecraft to Mars orbit.
  • AstroSat, launched by PSLV in September 2015, is the first dedicated Indian astronomy mission aimed at studying celestial sources in X-ray, optical, and UV spectral bands simultaneously. AstroSat recently made a major breakthrough by discovering one of the earliest galaxies in extreme-Ultraviolet light.
  • The Chandrayaan-2 Mission- India’s second mission to the moon was successfully launched on 22 July 2019. Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter spacecraft was placed in its intended orbit. The eight instruments onboard the Orbiter are continuously providing useful science data which will enrich our understanding of the moon’s evolution and mapping of the minerals and water molecules in Polar regions.

Development and Gaganyaan Programme:

  • ISRO has also successfully established and operationalised Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC) which provides highly accurate Position, Navigation, and Time information to users in India and its surroundings. 
  • The Global Standards body– 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), which develops protocols for mobile telephony, has approved NavIC and major mobile chipset manufacturers have incorporated NavIC in their releases. Further, through GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation (GAGAN), ISRO is providing Satellite-based Navigation services with accuracy and integrity required for civil aviation applications and to provide better Air Traffic Management over Indian Airspace.
  • In the recent past, the “Gaganyaan Programme” approved by the Government of India in 2018 marks a point of inflexion in the Indian space journey, marking its entry into the new age of human space exploration. 
  • The Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) was constituted in ISRO in January 2019, for implementing the vision on the human space flight programme. HSFC is entrusted to implement the Gaganyaan Programme and to act as the lead centre for sustained and affordable human spaceflight activities.
  • The Gaganyaan project has the stated objective of demonstrating human space flight capability to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) for a defined duration and safe recovery after the mission.
  • Further, the present supply-based model was changed to a demand-driven model, where in NSIL shall act as an aggregator of user requirements and simultaneously obtain commitments.


  • With these structural adjustments, ISRO shall focus on advancing the R&D endeavours such as heavier and more efficient satellites, advanced space missions such as Chandrayaan-3, Aditya-L1, and Mission to Venus to further explore the solar system and of course, the Gaganyaan Programme.
  • The future of space activities in the country looks very promising indeed and shall cement India’s position as a 21st-century space power.



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Courtesy: Yojana