ISRO is not only a space agency or a government organization, but it is also the institution in which pride of 1.3 billion lives. ISRO has always proved when there is will, nothing can stop you from achieving it. But how in a third world country space research agency came into existence? We will look into that and also achievements and future plans on ISRO.
In the 1962 Jawaharlal Nehru set up the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) headed by Dr. Vikram Sarabhai. But India’s space story started in a church in Thumba, Kerala. The Thumba which was basically the fishing village was filled with Space Scientists and Experts from all over India.
When India launched its first sounding rocket on November 21, 1963, it marked the beginning of the Indian Space Programme. Dr. Sarabhai’s team was behind this achievement which also includes Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
|Young APJ Abdul Kalam (left) with Dr. Vikram Sarabhai
Initially, INCOSPAR had to send their engineers and scientists to learn and train under foreign agencies like NASA. Dr. Kalam had to train under NASA. But the world and few people here were skeptical they used to say
“There were food shortages in India and the US was giving us grain. How could a country which couldn’t even feed itself start building rockets and satellites?”
In 1969 ISRO was formed under Department of Atomic Energy.
Sarabhai initiated Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) Programs as well as the Satellite Division Systems. But after the death of Sarabhai in December 1971, it was Dr. Satish Dhawan who led the budding Space Institution.
|Aryabhata. India’s first satellite
In 1957 India launched its first satellite, Aryabhata aboard the Kosmos-3M launch vehicle from Russia. It was used to conduct experiments in X-ray astronomy, aeronomics, and Solar physics.
But Dhawan wanted to develop Indigenous SLV (Satellite Launch Vehicle). He took the radical step of including the private sector in activities of ISRO.
“I am certain that if we had started copying we would have done things all right, but not done something original. Once again, India’s remote sensing is one of the best in the world because of its coupling with the sociological elements,” Yash Pal (Indian Scientist).
SLV-3 was the first Satellite launch vehicle of India. It successfully put Rohini Satellite in orbit, making India the sixth member of an exclusive club of the space-faring nations.
The success of SLV-3 paved the way for the advanced launch vehicle projects as the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV), Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).
Chandrayaan-1, the first lunar mission of India
On the date Oct 22, 2008, ISRO launched India’s first moon mission onboard PSLV-11.
It put India in the elite club of six nations who reached the moon. It orbited moon at height of 100 km to study the chemical and mineralogical composition of the moon and also for photo-geologic mapping of the moon.
It detected the water present on the surface of the moon.
MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission)
ISRO begin its interplanetary venture by sending an Orbiter Mission to the Red Planet. It will explore and observe Mars surface and will study its atmosphere.
It was launched on 5 September 2013 and reached Mars on 24 September 2014, since then it is orbiting Mars.
It made ISRO fourth space agency to reach Mars. And India first Asian nation to do so. It also did it in the first attempt, which is also unique.
The main point of interest of this mission was its cost. It took only ₹450 Crore only which is 10 times less than similar mission launched by NASA.
IRNSS satellite navigation system
It is regional navigation system developed independently by ISRO. IRNSS stands for (Indian Regional Navigation System). The main reason for the development of Independent Navigation System is that GPS does not guarantee in hostile situations as happened to the Indian military in 1999.
Launching the Highest Number of Satellites in one go
ISRO launched 104 satellite in a single launch on Feb 15, 2017, aboard PSLV-C37. Making a record of launching the most number of satellites in a single launch.
It is first dedicated Indian Astronomy satellite mission launched on September 28, 2015. Its observational study includes active galactic nuclei, hot white dwarfs, pulsations of pulsars, binary star systems, supermassive black holes located at the center of the galaxies.
These are only a few among the achievements of ISRO. Now let’s look at what future plans ISRO has.
ISRO is planning to send another moon mission. This mission will include an orbiter and lander-rover module. It is scheduled to launch in first 4 months of 2019 aboard GSLV-MkIII.
It will be a probe weighing 400kg which will be First Indian-based Solar Coronagraph. It will study solar corona. It is scheduled to launch in the year 2019-20. It will help in the understanding formation of the velocity field and Coronal Mass Ejection.
It will be manned single-stage reusable spaceplane capable of horizontal takeoff and landing. Its main use is for low-cost military and commercial satellite space launches.
Its prototype was tested successfully in the year 2016 and first, manned flight is supposed to take in 2025.
It is a joint project between NASA and ISRO to co-develop and launch a dual frequency synthetic aperture radar satellite to be used for remote sensing. It will be first dual-band radar imaging satellite.
MOM-2 (Mars Orbiter Mission 2)
Mangalyaan 2 will be India’s second interplanetary mission planned to launch to Mars in 2021-2022. It consists of an orbiter and may include a lander and rover.
It is planned orbiter to Venus by ISRO to study the atmosphere of Venus and scheduled to launch after 2020.
ISRO is joining hands with JAXA (Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency) for a joint lunar mission to explore the polar regions of the moon for water.
ISRO is not a heavy funded Space Agency like NASA or ROSCOSMOS, but it has achieved remarkable status in space exploration.
It is a tradition space agency like NASA but it is as cost-conscious as private companies like SpaceX. It is ambitious as well as cost-effective.
It always comes with solving a problem with engineering methods rather than putting extra money.
As Dr. Vikram Sarabhai said:
“There are some who questions the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the Moon or the planets or manned space-flight. But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society.”
ISRO official website , wikipedia, homegrown article.