The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is the space agency of the Government of India founded with a vision to “harness space technology for national development while pursuing space science research and planetary exploration”. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was formed in 1969. The headquarter of ISRO is located at Bengaluru, Karnataka. Since its inception, ISRO has accomplished 77 launch missions including Scramjet-TD and RLV-TD, 109 spacecraft missions including 3 nano-satellites, 1 micro-satellite and 2 Re-entry missions. ISRO has also launched 319 foreign satellites till date.
In a historic decision, the Union Government on 24th June, 2020 opened India’s space programmes for private players. The Cabinet approved the newly formed Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), which will act as an arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). IN-SPACe will be functional in six months and will provide level playing field to private companies in the country’s space programmes. IN-SPACe, in consultation with ISRO, will also guide and promote the private companies in their endeavour in space activities after assessing their needs and demands.
Genesis of ISRO
India started its journey to space with the formation of Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) in 1962 with Dr Vikram Sarabhai at its centre. INCOSPAR set up the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in Thiruvananthapuram for upper atmospheric research. Dr Vikram Sarabhai provided the necessary direction to ISRO in its nascent stage. ISRO then embarked on its mission to provide the Nation space based services and to develop the technologies to achieve the same independently.
Mission Statement of ISRO
ISRO has listed following in its mission statement
• Design and development of launch vehicles and related technologies for providing access to space.
• Design and development of satellites and related technologies for Earth observation, communication, navigation, meteorology and space science.
• Indian National Satellite (INSAT) programmes for meeting telecommunication, television broadcasting and developmental applications.
• Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) programme for management of natural resources and monitoring of environment using space based imagery. Space based applications for societal development.
• Research and development in space science and planetary exploration.
Successful Missions of ISRO
Throughout the years, ISRO has upheld its mission of bringing space to the service of the common man, to the service of the nation. In the process, it has become one of the six largest space agencies in the world. Brief timeline of some of the successful missions of ISRO are as follows
• The first Indian Satellite, Aryabhatta was launched in 1975. It provided the means of using space communications system for TV broadcasting. It led to creation of project Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE). It was a one-year programme covering Indian villages and districts. The main purpose of SITE was to experiment usage of satellite broadcasting to educate the masses.
• In 1977, Satellite Telecommunication Experiments Project (STEP) was launched using satellite technology to enhance domestic communication. SLV-3 placed Rohini satellite in orbit, thereby making India the sixth member of an exclusive club of space-faring nations.
• The first indigenously created satellite vehicle was launched from Sriharikota range in Andhra Pradesh in 1980.
• Indian National Satellite System (INSAT), the largest domestic communications system in the Asia Pacific was launched in 1983. INSAT was commissioned to work on broadcast, telecom, meteorology and rescue.
• The first Indo-Soviet manned space mission was launched in 1984. Rakesh Sharma flew in the Soviet rocket Soyuz T-11, as part of a three member Soviet-Indian crew.
• The Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) programme launched in 1987 which supported a large payload with four developmental flights.
• First lunar mission was launched by ISRO in 2008 using the spacecraft named Chandrayaan that discovered a large number of water molecules on Moon
• In 2014, Mangalyaan, India’s first interplanetary mission was launched. The successful accomplishment made the ISRO fourth space agency in the world to reach Mars. It was recognised as the least expensive Mars mission.
• In 2017, ISRO launched 104 satellites in a single rocket (PSLV-C37), thus, setting a world record. Further, ISRO also launched its heaviest rocket, Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III), placing communications satellite GSAT-19 in its orbit. With this launch, ISRO became capable of launching 4 tonne heavy satellites.
• In 2019, ISRO conducted its second lunar mission through Chandrayaan-2 mission with an aim to land on the lunar surface. Although, attempt to soft land on the lunar surface failed, the mission was mostly successful in achieving its objective.
So far, ISRO has undertaken 3 inter-planetary missions which are as follows
Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first mission to the Moon. The robotic lunar exploration mission included a lunar orbiter and an impactor called the Moon Impact Probe. Chandrayaan-I mission was successful. Moon Impact Probe was successful in discovering water on the Moon.
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or Mangalayaan was launched into Earth’s orbit on 5th November, 2013, by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It entered Mars orbit on 24th September, 2014. India became the first country to enter Mars orbit in its first attempt.
Chandrayaan-2 was the second mission to the Moon Chandrayaan-2 was launched on a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV-MkIII) on 22nd July, 2019. consisted of a lunar orbiter, the Vikram lander, and the Pragyan lunar rover which were indigenously developed in India. Chandrayaan-II mission was the first mission meant to explore the lunar South Pole region.
Another objective of the Chandrayaan-II mission was to demonstrate ISRO’s ability to soft-land on the lunar surface and operate a robotic rover on the surface. However, the soft landing of Vikram lander could not be accomplished. The lunar orbiter was efficiently positioned in an optimal lunar orbit, extending its expected service time from one year to seven years.
Future Missions of ISRO
Future plans of ISRO include the development of a Unified Launch Vehicle ULV), development of a reusable launch vehicle, human spaceflight, controlled soft lunar landing, interplanetary probes and a solar spacecraft mission. The core objective of a ULV is to design a modular architecture that could eventually replace the PSLV, GSLV Mk I/II and LVM3 with a single family of launchers.
(30) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLVs) and ten (10) Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicles (GSLV MK III) rockets are targeted to be in space by There will be another attempt for soft landing on moon by late 2021, but an orbiter in its mission named Chandrayaan 3.
plans to carry out a mission to the Sun by the year 2022. The probe is Aditya-L1 and will have a mass of about 400 kg. It is the first Indian -based solar coronagraph to study the corona of the Sun in visible and near-IR bands. ISRO will also fly Indian astronauts into space for the first time on board “Gaganyaan’ mission by 2022. Gaganyaan is an Indian crewed orbital spacecraft intended to be the formative spacecraft of the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme
ISRO has contributed to space 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.
Since India has opened up its space industry for private players, it is a first ever step in the same direction as NASA went long back and is now the biggest space agency in the world with its budget running into billions.
Future readiness is the key to maintaining an edge in technology and ISRO endeavours to optimise and enhance its technologies as the needs and ambitions of the country evolve. Thus, ISRO is moving forward with the development of heavy lift launchers, human spaceflight projects, reusable launch vehicles, semi-cryogenic engines, Single and Two Stage to Orbit (SSTO and TSTO) vehicles, development use of composite materials for space applications, etc.
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