India is amongst the first few countries to realise the potential of space technology and its applications. The pioneer of the Indian space programme, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, under whose chairmanship, the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was formed in 1962, had cherished a dream that India should be second to none in the application of advanced technologies like space to solve the real problems of man and society. In 1972, the Indian Space Programme was formally organised with the setting up of the Space Commission and government funding through the Department of Space. Indian Space Technology forwarded our country into the new era of technical development, and achieved a respected place among the more technologically developed countries.
India is performing an active role in space since 18th July, 1980, when it became the eighth to demonstrate it could send a satellite to orbit above Earth. India launched the satellite Rohini 1 on an Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) rocket from the Sriharikota Island launch site. Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai founded India’s space program after envisioning Indian satellites that could provide communications, meteorology, remote sensing, and direct-to-home television broadcasting. He founded the Physical Research Laboratory, the Space Science Research Institute, the Department of Space, and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). In 1962, Sarabhai organized space research as chairman of Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR). He set up of the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station and began manufacturing sounding rockets in India. He drew up plans to transmit education to remote villages across India with the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE).
India performed an outstanding performance in the world of space technology ::
1963 – The first sounding rocket was launched Nov. 21 from TERLS.
1965 -Space Science & Technology Centre (SSTC) was established in Thumba.
1967 – Satellite Telecommunication Earth Station was erected at Ahmedabad.
1969 – Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was created August 15 in the Department of Atomic Energy. Since then, ISRO has managed India’s space research and the uses of space for peaceful puroposes.
1972 – The government established the Space Commission and the Department of Space (DOS) in June. DOS conducts the nation’s space activities for ISRO at four space centres across the country. DOS reports directly to the Prime Minister.
1972 – ISRO placed under DOS on June 1.
1975 – ISRO made a Government Organisation on April 1.
1975 – Aryabhata, the first Indian space satellite, was launched for India on April 19.
1979 – Bhaskara-I, an experimental satellite for earth observations, launched on June 7.
1979 – The first experimental launch of an SLV-3 rocket on August 10 did not place its Rohini Technology Payload satellite in orbit.
1980 – India successfully launched its own Rohini-1 satellite on July 18 on a Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) rocket from the Sriharikota Island launch site.
1983 – The Rohini-3 communications satellite, launched in August, had by the end of 1985 extended nationwide television coverage from 20 percent to 70 percent of the population. Today it is about 90 percent.
1984 – The first Indian cosmonaut became the 138th man in space when he spent eight days aboard the USSR’s space station Salyut 7. Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma, a 35 year old Indian Air Force pilot, was launched to space along with two Soviet cosmonauts aboard Soyuz T-11 on April 2. While in space, Sharma conducted multispectral photography of the northern region of India in preparation for construction of hydroelectric power stations in the Himalayas. Sharma and his backup, Wing Commander Ravish Malhotra, had prepared in advance an elaborate series of zero-gravity Yoga exercises that Sharma carried out while aboard Salyut 7. Indian Space Research Organisation’s manned space program has depended for the most part on the Soviet Union.
1987 – The first developmental launch of a larger Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) rocket on March 24 did not place its SROSS-1 satellite in orbit. It could lift a 300-lb. satellite to an orbit 250 miles above Earth.
1988 – The second developmental launch of an ASLV in July also failed. Later, the third and fourth attempts would be successful.
1992 – The Indian-built INSAT-2 geostationary communications and meteorological satellite superseded an American-built INSAT-1.
1993 – The even larger Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) debuted in September, but failed to attain orbit. Its individual elements were successful. PSLV can lift a one-ton satellite to a Sun-synchronous polar orbit.
2001 — The first launch of a still larger Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) rocket was successful on April 18. GSLV can boost a 2.5-ton satellite. In addition to placing large communications and weather satellites in high stationary orbits, India plans to use GSLV rockets to send probes away from Earth to explore the planets. Missions to Mercury, Venus and Mars are under consideration.
In recent years, India has concentrated much of its space development work on complex applications satellites and more powerful rockets. The nation’s two main interests are satellites for remote sensing and communications — used for weather pictures, disaster warnings and feeds to 552 television and 164 radio stations on the ground.
The potential of space technology for mass education, especially in terms of immediacy, omnipotence, visual power and outreach was recognised in the early 70’s. Keeping in view the larger aspects of education, especially rural education, India undertook in 1975-76, the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) to telecast a series of educational TV programmes on health, family planning, agriculture, adult education etc., to cover 2,500 Indian villages via the US satellite, ATS-6. It was the largest sociological experiment ever carried out in the world. The Satellite Telecommunication Experiment Project (STEP), conducted using Franco-German SYMPHONIE satellite during 1977-79, was another major demonstration of long distance satellite telecommunication application of space. India also launched its own APPLE (Ariane Passenger Payload Experiment), an experimental communication satellite, in June, 1981 using the opportunity offered by the European Space Agency (ESA) to launch this satellite on board the third developmental flight of ARIANE.
A major development took place during 1980’s, through establishment of the operational Indian National Satellite (INSAT) system, for providing indigenous services in telecommunications, TV broadcasting, meteorology and disaster warning. INSAT series, commissioned in 1983, has today become one of the largest domestic satellite systems in the world, comprising five satellites. The last satellite of the second generation INSAT-2 series, INSAT-2E, was launched from Kourou, French Guyana on April 3,1999.
Work on INSAT-3 series of satellites has already begun. Five satellites in the INSAT-3 series have been planned and the first atellite, INSAT-3B has already been launched in March, 2000.
INSAT system has a unique design combining telecommunication, television/radio broadcasting and meteorological services into a single platform. The involvement of various users like Department of Telecommunication, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India Meteorological Department enabled proper tuning of INSAT system towards identified national developmental needs.
The demonstrated space applications in SITE and STEP of the 70’s were transformed to practical and operational systems through INSAT. Today, INSAT links about 450 earth stations set up in the country, including those located in inaccessible regions and off-shore islands. Besides, there are about 8,500 Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs), including those installed by the National Informatics Centre and private networks catering to corporate houses.
Television in India now reaches about 85 percent of its population through over 1000 TV transmitters linked via INSAT. Educational programmes for over100 hours are telecast every week. INSAT system has become a powerful tool for training and developmental education and is used by various agencies to provide continuing education, conduct in-situ training for industrial employees, social welfare personnel and training of Panchayat Raj (village governance) workers, etc.
India continues to emphasise the use of INSAT for rural upliftment. A pilot project that started in November, 1996 in a tribal district of Madhya Pradesh in Central India is now in progress to educate the tribal community on various aspects of health, hygiene, family planning, women’s rights, etc. This project is being expanded to cover more villages and is expected to lead to a unique space based system that will be dedicated to the development of rural society. Similar projects are being initiated in several other states.
Aryabhata, the first Indian space satellite, was launched for India on April 19, 1975. Later, Bhaskara-I, an Earth observation satellite, launched for India on June 7, 1979. India launched its own satellite for the first time on July 18, 1980. It was the Rohini-1 satellite carried aloft on a Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) rocket from the Sriharikota Island launch site. Since then, India has invested a great deal of its space development work in complex applications satellites. The nation’s two main interests are satellites for remote sensing and communications — used for weather pictures, disaster warnings and feeds to 552 television and 164 radio stations on the ground. Space organizations. A Space Science & Technology Centre (SSTC) was established in 1965 in Thumba. A Satellite Telecommunication Earth Station was erected in 1967 at Ahmedabad. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was created August 15, 1969, in the Department of Atomic Energy. Since then, ISRO has managed India’s space research and the uses of space for peaceful puroposes. The government established the Space Commission and the Department of Space (DOS) in June 1972. DOS conducts the nation’s space activities for ISRO at four space centres across the country. DOS reports directly to the Prime Minister. ISRO was placed under DOS on June 1, 1972, and made a government organisation on April 1, 1975. The first experimental launch from the Sriharikota Island launch site of a Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) rocket on August 10, 1979, did not place its Rohini Technology Payload satellite in orbit. However, the next year India successfully launched the Rohini-1 satellite on July 18, 1980, on a Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) rocket. TV satellite. By the end of 1985, the Rohini-3 communications satellite launched in August 1983 had extended nationwide television coverage from 20 percent to 70 percent of the population. Today it is about 90 percent. India’s SROSS-1 satellite failed to achieve orbit when it rode the first developmental launch of an Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) rocket on March 24, 1987. The second developmental launch of an ASLV in July 1988 also failed. Later, the third and fourth attempts were successful.
In 1992, the Indian-built INSAT-2 geostationary communications and meteorological satellite superseded an American-built INSAT-1. Geosynchronous satellites. One of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) rockets was blasted off on April 18, 2001, from the Sriharikota Island launch site in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh on the east coast of the nation near the Bay of Bengal. It placed a 1.5-ton experimental communications satellite called GSAT-1 into geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above Earth. GSAT-1 was a communications satellite with digital audio, data and video broadcasting using two S-band, one high power C-band and two indigenous C-band transponders. A GSLV rocket, similar in power to an American Delta rocket, can boost a large communications or weather satellite to a stationary orbit. India also plans to use GSLV rockets to send probes away from Earth to explore the planets. Missions to Mercury, Venus and Mars are under consideration. India would like to use the GSLV launcher to tap into the global commercial launcher market. PSLV launches TES. India’s Technology Experiment Satellite (TES) was launched on October 22, 2001, aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C3) from Sriharikota to a 350-mi.-high orbit. he 2,440-lb. satellite tested new payload technologies, ranging from communications to remote sensing. It carried a panchromatic camera for Earth-imaging. The satellite was monitored by ISRO’s Spacecraft Control Centre (SCC) Telemetry Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Bangalore along with its small network of tracking stations at Lucknow, Mauritius, and Bearslake, Russia. INSAT lofted by Ariane. The Indian National Satellite, INSAT-3C, designed and built by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was airlifted from Bangalore, India, to Cayenne Airport near Kourou, French Guyana in December 2001 in preparation for a launch on a European Space Agency Ariane-4 rocket on January 24, 2002. INSAT-3C added much communications capacity to the INSAT fleet in orbit, including 24 C-band transponders, six extended C-band transponders, two S-band broadcast satellite service transponders and mobile satellite service transponders. The satellite beams commercial television signals to customers in India. INSAT-3A launched in 2003. An Ariane 5 rocket carried the Indian-built satellite INSAT-3A to space from Kourou on April 9, 2003. Insat 3A was built by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and carried a communications, weather imaging, and search-and-rescue payload.
( For a detailed description of Indian Space Technology, please visit to “www.isro.org” and “www.spacetoday.org”, from where the material and references for this article has been taken. )