Skip to main content

India's growing strides in space : BBC Report

Rocket carrying 10 satellites is launched from Sriharikota

Monday's launch was carried live on state television

India is well known today for its software and information technology industry.

Less well known is that in a nation where more than 300 million people live on less than $1 a day, it is also a real force to reckon with when it comes to top class rocket and satellite technology.

On Monday the Indian space agency created a world record by successfully launching 10 satellites in one go.

That shattered the previous record of a Russian rocket that successfully launched eight satellites last year.

Launching 10 satellites requires immense precision. When the tricky operation starts the rocket is already travelling at 7.5 kilometres per second.

Jean-Yves Le Gall, CEO of Arianspace, Paris, says "simultaneously launching 10 satellites is a great achievement".

The Indian space agency, set up 35 years ago, is still really a baby among the world's space-faring nations. This was its 26th launch of a rocket from India's only space centre, Sriharikota, situated on the Bay of Bengal coast in southern India.

Compare this to the hundreds of launches that have been undertaken by Nasa and their Russian and European counterparts.


The 16,000-employee Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has mastered these demanding space technologies with little outside help because of Delhi's decision to go ahead with nuclear testing way back in 1974.

So its achievements are all the more impressive.

India has a whopping 11 national communications satellites in orbit at present. That is the largest constellation for any country in the Asia-Pacific region.

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, which carried the satellites

India's space programme is more than 45 years old

Today the country undoubtedly has one of the largest national networks of operational satellites anywhere in the world.

Isro argues that it's a profitable business - for every $1 spent on the space programme the return has been $2.

Its budget is less than $1bn a year, compared with more than $17bn that Nasa spends.

India's remote sensing capabilities are almost legendary.

Today there are seven Indian-made and operated remote sensing satellites in orbit, the largest number of any country in the civilian domain.

They can map at a resolution of less than a metre, which means you can literally count the number of soldiers marching in a formation, anywhere on Earth.

Almost a third of the global market for remote sensing images at a resolution of 5-6 metres has already been captured by India.

The new mapping satellite of the Cartosat series put into orbit on Monday will provide even higher resolution images to the global community as it joins its Indian twin that has already been functioning since early last year.

Knocking on the door

But to capture a significant part of the $140bn satellite launch market may take a long time as India's larger rocket, the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is still in its adolescence.

Isro has a long wait before joining the big boys club of the USA, Russia, France, Japan and China, but India is knocking at the door.

The Indian rocket used on Monday was the smaller Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

It weighed a whopping 230 tons - as much as 50 elephants - and stands as high as a 12-storey building.

The launch earned India more than $500,000.

PSLV taking off

'Simultaneously launching 10 satellites is a great achievement'

Almost 15 minutes into the flight the 690kg Indian mapping satellite called Cartosat 2-A was put into orbit.

It was the most important passenger on board and is really a high resolution mapping satellite, which can, from its perch of more than 600km distinguish objects as small as a car.

Almost a minute later an experimental remote sensing satellite called the Indian Mini Satellite-1 was put into orbit.

Now with the two big daddies out of the way, the trickiest part was dropping off all the "babies" on board.

They are really nano-satellites, each weighing 3-16kg. These were dropped of one by one, with gaps of 20 seconds. It was all over in less than 20 minutes after lift-off.

These experimental nano-satellites have been made by university students from Canada, the Netherlands, Japan, Denmark and Germany.

The eight nano-satellites are really test beds meant for pushing the frontiers of satellite technology towards making affordable satellites.

They use basic off-the-shelf electronics and have short mission lives of a year or two at most.

The total weight of these nano-satellites on this record-breaking Indian mission was about 50kg.

Big challenge

India's next big challenge is the launch of Chandrayaan-1 (Moon Craft), the country's maiden shot at the Moon to be launched later this year using the PSLV.

A $100m mission, it is meant to map the Moon surface in detail like never before and will undertake the most intense search for water on our nearest neighbour.

Cartosat 2A satellite during prelaunch tests

A mapping satellite was also put into orbit

This is first multi-continent mission in several decades, and the tables have been turned.

Countries like the US, UK and Sweden are being given literally a free ride to the Moon as India is charging them nothing for taking their instruments there.

A recent Japanese and Chinese mission carried only instruments from their own countries.

India's mark on space-faring is now indelible, with a mission for robotic landing on the Moon already scheduled for 2012 and space crafts to Mars, an asteroid and the Sun already being planned.

The Indian space agency is already looking at sending an Indian up on an Indian rocket from Indian soil within the next few years.

As Dr G Madhavan Nair, chairman of Isro put it to me: "Twenty years from now, when space travel is likely to become mundane like airline travel today, we don't want to be buying travel tickets on other people's space vehicles."


Popular posts from this blog

Indigenous tank T-90 Bhishma rolls out

The first batch of the indigenously built T-90 Bhishma tanks was on Monday (August 24) flagged off by Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju at the rolling out ceremony held at the Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi, in Chennai.
The T-90S tank incorporates many new technologies in terms of mobility, protection, fighting capabilities, safety and communication.
The tank is equipped with 125mm smooth bore gun stabilised in Elevation and Azimuth, 12.7mm anti-craft machine gun and 7.62mm co-axial machine gun supported with high accuracy sighting systems and Automatic Loader ensuring high rate of fire.
A significant feature of this tank is its capability to fire guided missile in addition to conventional ammunition using the same main gun barrel. The integrated fire control system consisting of the gunner’s sight, guided weapon system and ballistic computer facilitates accurate firing of conventional ammunitions as well as the guided missiles.
The built in Explosive Reactive Ar…

GSLV Mark III with crew module launched successfully

India successfully launched its biggest ever rocket on Thursday, including an unmanned capsule which could one day send astronauts into space, the latest accomplishment of its ramped-up space programme.
The rocket, designed to carry heavier communication and other satellites into higher orbit, blasted off from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
On Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the test mission as "yet another triumph of (the) brilliance and hard work of our scientists."
"This was a very significant day in the history of (the) Indian space programme," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman KS Radhakrishnan said from mission control as fellow scientists clapped and cheered.
ISRO scientists have been riding high since an Indian spacecraft successfully reached Mars in September on a shoe-string budget, winning Asia's race to the Red Planet and sparking an outpouring of national pride.
Although India has successfully launched lighter satellit…

India conducts missile interception test, direct hit at Endo Atmospheric level

India today flight tested fourth consecutive successful Interceptor Missile test against Incoming Ballistic Missile in Endo atmospheric regime at 15 Km altitude at 1005 hrs and achieved direct Hit.The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) made, single stage Interceptor Missile fitted with Directional Warhead and other advanced systems has neutralized the target which was mimicking incoming enemy Ballistic Missile.To mimic the incoming enemy’s ballistic missile trajectory, a target missile was launched from Launch Complex – III, ITR Chandipur. Interceptor Missile fitted with directional warhead was launched from Wheeler Island and destroyed Target Missile which broke into fragments and was tracked by various Radars and other sensors. All weapon system elements including Command and Control, Communication and Radars performed satisfactorily.Present among the user representatives’ were Air Marshal PK Barbora, PVSM, VM, ADC, Vice Chief of Air Staff, IAF and Maj Gen VK Saxen…