A space program concerns itself with the discovery and exploration of the outer celestial bodies by means of continuously evolving space technology. Some countries like the USA and former USSR have also used their space programs for geo-political rivalries during the cold war by engaging in a ‘space race’ for the various firsts associated with outer space like the first human in space, first human on the moon, the first manned satellite mission and so on. The Indian space program aims at using space technology for human benefit in different areas like telecommunication, health, education (telemedicine and distance education), weather forecasting, disaster warning, cartography, geological mapping apart from space exploration and discovery.
Father of the Indian Space Program
Although there is no official designation of father of the Indian space program like father of the nation, however, Dr Vikram Sarabhai is widely regarded as the father of the Indian space program. in 1962, the Indian government realised the importance of a dedicated space program and set up the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) with Dr Sarabhai as its head. With Dr Vikram Sarabhai’s vision and expertise the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in Thiruvananthapuram was setup for conducting upper atmospheric research. In 1969 the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was created superseding the erstwhile INCOSPAR and Dr Vikram Sarabhai was its first Chairman and remained so until his demise in 1971. He was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan posthumously in 1972 and the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in Thiruvananthapuram was renamed in honour of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, often regarded as the father of the Indian space program.
Objectives of the Indian Space Program
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is the nodal agency and flag bearer of the Indian space program. ISRO performs a wide array of services apart from their main mission of building and launching space missions and their launch vehicles for a wide variety of objectives listed above. It has also contributed to science and science education in the country. Various dedicated research centres and autonomous institutions for remote sensing, astronomy and astrophysics, atmospheric sciences and space sciences in general function under the aegis of Department of Space. Therefore the objective of the Indian space program are twofold: one concerns with space discovery and exploration through space missions and the second is the promotion of research and education related to space science in the country.
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Important Milestones of the Indian Space Program
[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=”Timeline of Indian Space Program”]1962 – Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) formed by the Department of Atomic Energy and work on establishing Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) started.
1969 – Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) formed under Department of Atomic Energy.
1975 – ISRO First Indian Satellite, Aryabhata, launched.
1979 – Bhaskara-I, an experimental satellite for earth observations, launched.
1979 – First Experimental launch of SLV-3 with Rohini Technology Payload on board (August 10, 1979). Satellite could not be placed in orbit.
1980 – Second Experimental launch of SLV-3, Rohini satellite successfully placed in orbit.
1982 – INSAT-IA, India’s first geo-stationary satellite, launched. The satellite was abandoned in September 1983, less than 18 months into a seven-year mission.
1988- Launch of first operational Indian Remote Sensing Satellite, IRS-1A
2000 – INSAT-3B, the first satellite in the third generation INSAT-3 series, launched by Ariane from Kourou French Guyana.
2004 – The first operational flight of GSLV (GSLV-F01) successfully launched EDUSAT from SDSC SHAR, Sriharikota
2007 – Successful recovery of SRE-1 after manoeuvring it to reenter the earth’s atmosphere and descend over the Bay of Bengal about 140 km east of Sriharikota.
2008 – PSLV-C11 successfully launches CHANDRAYAAN-1 from Sriharikota
2013 – PSLV – C25 successfully launches Mars Orbiter Mission Spacecraft from Sriharikota.
2015 – PSLV-C30 launched 1513 kg ASTROSAT into the orbit. Along with ASTROSAT, six satellites from international customers
2016 – Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) Launch
2016 – ISRO’s Scramjet Engine Technology Demonstrator
2017 – CARTOSAT-2 launched on PSLV C-37 launching 104 satellites in one go. It was ISRO’s most complicated satellite launch till date.
Achievements of Indian Space Program
Achievements in Earth Observation
The Indian Remote sensing programme is driven by the user needs. These IRS satellites observe the planet Earth from space and provide us periodically synoptic and systematic information pertaining to land, ocean and atmosphere and several aspects of environment. This information is a key ingredient in the programmes of the government at the Centre and State towards ensuring food and water security, sustaining our environment and eco-system, understanding weather and climate, monitoring and management of natural resources, planning and monitoring of developmental activities, support to management and mitigation during disaster events, and information for better governance.
Achievements in Satellite Communication
Satellite Communication utilisation has become wide spread and ubiquitous throughout the country for such diverse applications like Television, DTH Broadcasting, DSNG and VSAT to exploit the unique capabilities in terms of coverage and outreach. The potential of the technology for societal applications has fascinated ISRO and it has made efforts to leverage the benefits of technology to the betterment of mankind. Important initiatives pursued by ISRO towards societal development include Tele-education, Tele-medicine, Village Resource Centre (VRC) and Disaster Management System (DMS) Programmes. The potential of the space technology for applications of national development is enormous.
Achievements in Disaster Managements
The Decision Support Centre established at National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) of ISRO is engaged in monitoring natural disasters such as flood, cyclone, agricultural drought, landslides, earthquakes and forest fires at operational level. The information generated from aero-space systems are disseminated to the concerned in near real time for aiding in decision making. The value added products generated using satellite imagery helps in addressing the information needs covering all the phases of disaster management such as, preparedness, early warning, response, relief, rehabilitation, recovery and mitigation.
Achievements in Satellite Navigation
To meet the Civil Aviation requirements, ISRO is working jointly with Airport Authority of India (AAI) in establishing the GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) system. To meet the user requirements of the positioning, navigation and timing services based on the indigenous system, ISRO is establishing a regional satellite navigation system called Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).
Achievements in Climate and Environment
Issues related to natural environment and climate change needs understanding of the interactive physical, chemical and biological processes that regulate the total Earth System, the changes that are occurring in the system, and the manner in which they are influenced by the natural forces and human activities.
The ISRO/ DOS Centres are engaged in various research studies and activities related to the Earth’s climate system, designing sensors and satellites, and established ground based observations systems for studying the climate and environmental parameters.