Indian Space Program September 14, 2014

ind-space-forum1For thousands of years, humans have curiously gazed at the night sky and dreamt of travelling to space and explore the distant heavenly bodies there. But, that long cherished dream became a reality only after they developed large rockets capable of carrying satellites and humans to space. After reaching space, those rockets were powerful enough to make satellites, robotic spacecraft or spacecraft carrying humans to either circle the earth or proceed towards other worlds of our solar system.

India is one of the few countries that has taken up the challenge of exploring space and utilizing space for the benefits of common roan. For this, the country has developed various technologies which few other countries have done. India’s achievements in space today are the result of the foresightedness of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, one of the greatest sons of India. Sarabhai was a great dreamer and showed the path to realise those dreams. He had firm belief in the power of space technology to bring about rapid and overall development of India.

Indian Space Research Organisation, which is widely known as ‘ISRO’, is the agency which manages the country’s space programme. It came into existence in 1969, the same year humans set foot on the moon for the first time. Various centres of ISRO are now spread all over India. They include Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), situated in Thiruvananthapuram, which designs huge rockets capable of launching large satellites. In the same city is the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) that develops liquid rocket engines and the more efficient and highly complex cryogenic rocket engines.

Bangalore can be called as the space city of India. It has got many space related facilities including the ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC) which builds Indian satellites. The famous Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft that conclusively discovered the water on the Moon, was built here. Besides, the ISRO headquarters and the Department of Space, which steer the Indian space programme, are in Bangalore.

In the 1970s, India took a giant leap into space with the launch of its first satellite Aryabhata. Named after the famous ancient Indian astronomer, the satellite weighed 360 kg at the time of its launch.

Aryabhata was designed and built in the Industrial sheds of Peenya (an industrial estate which was outside Bangalore in the 1970s!) makes us to warmly appreciate our scientists and engineers who built it.

Aryabhata looked like a large box with many faces (polyhedron). The satellite’s entire body was covered with solar cells that generated electricity when they were exposed to sunlight. Aryabhata was built to understand the challenges involved in building a sophisticated device like a satellite.

Success launch of Aryabhatta was the start to Indian Space program achievements.

India’s space programme has vibrant space science activities covering space and atmospheric sciences, planetary and geosciences and theoretical physics. Ground facilities like Mesosphere, Stratosphere, Troposphere Radar at Tirupati and Udaipur Solar Observatory have been established. A series of Rohini sounding rockets are available for atmospheric experiments. And, several scientific experiments have been flown on our satellites, especially to study celestial X-ray sources and gamma-ray bursts.

Chandrayaan- 1: But, the mission which has brought laurels to our achievements is Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to moon. The 1380 kg Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft as launched by ISRO’s workhorse PSLV on 22nd October, 2008 and started orbiting the moon about 17 days later. With that, India became the fifth individual country toorbit a spacecraft around the moon. And on 14th November, 2008, as the country celebrated the birthday of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, a TV set sized device called Moon Impact Probe (MIP), separated from Chandrayaan-1 mothercraft and reached the surface of the moon on that day at 8:31 pm carrying Indian tricolor with it and making India only the fourth individual country to reach the lunar surface. One of the finest examples of international cooperation in exploring space, Chandrayaan-1 carried eleven scientific instruments from India, Britain, Germany, Bulgaria, Sweden and the United States. Chandrayaan-1 mission’s glaring achievement was its unambiguous discovery of water molecules on the moon. Besides, it has sent tens of thousands of detailed picturesof the lunar surface and other scientific data as well.

Commercial Gains

India’s commercial forays into the international market, through Antrix Corporation, include lease of INSAT transponders, acquisition of data from our IRS satellites by 20 ground stations across the world, building and launch of satellites of other countries by our launch vehicles, providing telemetry and tracking support to space missions of other countries and supply of spacecraft components.

International Cooperation: There are formal agreements or Memoranda of Understanding with 25 countries. Chandrayaan-1 mission is a testimony to the importance accorded to international cooperation by the Indian space programme and the advantages of such a programme. Besides, India has set up Centre for Space. Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific at Dehra Dun under sponsorship by UN, which offers post graduate courses in remote sensing, space science and satellite communication. India also plays a major role in United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

In conclusion, India has made strong forays into the space arena, largely supported by the government. India’s presence in the international space market also provides promising avenues for the Indian industry to enlarge its role in the space activities. This can also help the industry to acquire technological muscle to enlarge its capability for increasing the value-added component in other areas and, eventually, competitively capture a part of the growing international market in high technology applications. Industry involvement in space will undoubtedly be a catalyst for indigenous high-tech industry in India. India’s multifarious achievements in the arena of space attest to its status as a major space faring nation.


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