Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been at the forefront of space technology and exploration since its inception.
Over the years, leveraging its key resources, the organisation has made several strides in space technologies, making India a major player in the global space arena.
In ISRO, the evolution of space technology and innovation had taken place in various technological frontiers.
Space transportation system:
The 1970s marked the beginning of the space transportation system with the development of solid-propulsion-based Sounding Rockets, which are capable of putting 30 kg of payload in 120 km of altitude.
It was followed by the subsequent development of first generation launch vehicles, i.e., Satellite Launch Vehicles (SLV) and Augmented SLV (ASLV) with the induction of liquid-propulsion technology.
The integration of solid and liquid propulsion and the development of various key technologies have resulted in the development of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), with the capability of placing a 1700 kg payload into polar orbit.
The indigenous development of a Cryogenic propulsive engine was the major technology leap in the development of third generation rockets i.e., GSLV launch vehicles, which have the capability of placing a 2000 kg payload in Geo-Synchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).
Launching of high-throughput communication satellites necessitated the development of a further advanced launch vehicle, i.e Launch Vehicle MK3 (LVM3).
Powered by the world’s 3rd largest solid boosters, high-capacity liquid and cryogenic engines, LVM3 has the capability of putting 4000 kg payload in GTO.
ISRO recently introduced the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV).
In the early years, ISRO focused on developing satellite launch vehicles like SLV-3 and ASLV, which were used to launch small satellites into low earth orbit.
In the late 1990s, ISRO began work on the GSLV, a more powerful rocket capable of launching heavier payloads into geosynchronous transfer orbit.
The first successful launch of the GSLV took place in 2001, and since then, it has been used to launch a number of important satellites.
In the 2000s, ISRO began focusing on deep space exploration with the launch of Chandrayaan-1, India’s first lunar mission, in 2008.
This was followed by the Mars Orbiter Mission in 2013, which made India the first country to successfully launch a spacecraft to Mars on its first attempt.
In 2016, ISRO launched the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), a satellite-based navigation system similar to GPS.
This system, now known as NavIC, provides accurate position information to users in India and surrounding regions.
In recent years, ISRO has been working on developing the infrastructure for human spaceflight.
This includes the development of a crew module for carrying astronauts and the testing of a crew escape system. ISRO also plans to launch its first crewed mission, Gaganyaan, in 2024.
Earth Observation (EO) applications by ISRO are institutionalised across many user Ministries/Departments, towards National security, Agriculture, Agroforestry, Disaster management, Fishery, Land Use Land Cover (LULC), Resource Mapping, Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation and decision support for major flagship programmes of the government.
In order to meet above requirements for remote sensing/PO applications, a great deal of development had taken place in ground infrastructure and imaging technologies.
Ground technologies for tracking multiple objects in space, including the establishment of multi-object tracking radar, an integrated multi-mission ground segment for earth observation satellites, Polarimetric Doppler Weather Radar, state-of-the-art advanced ground station for Earth Observation satellites at Bharti station, Antarctica have facilitated the uninterrupted usage of satellite services.
Strides in space technology innovation continue in the thrust areas of Reusable Launch Vehicles, Stage Recovery and Reuse, Vertical Take-off Vertical landing (VTVL), LOX-Methane engine, Air breathing/ Hybrid Propulsion, Space Robotics, Humanoid robots, Advanced Inertial systems, Low Cost Spacecrafts, Quantum Communication, advanced Scientific Payloads, Space Based Surveillance and Atomic Clock.
In an effort to develop technologies for low-cost access to space and space travel, ISRO is working on a Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) programme.
ISRO is also working on Air breathing propulsion with reusable capability for a cost-effective futuristic space transportation system.
The ISRO’s current focus is on the development of critical technologies towards the realisation of a vehicle-integrated scramjet engine called the Hypersonic Air Breathing Vehicle with Airframe integrated system (HAVA).
For the first time in India, ISRO achieved a breakthrough demonstration of free-space Quantum Communication over a distance of 300 m using the Prepare & Measure Protocol and Quantum Entanglement protocols.
ISRO has been actively pursuing several R&D programmes related to Space Robotics Vyom Mitra (Humanoid robot), Lander and Rover for Chandrayaan-3 mission, On-orbit Satellite refuelling, Planetary Rock Sampler, Space-based robotic manipulator, Robotic arm-based umbilical systems, 3D printing in Space among others.