Saturday, April 5, 2014

India's second navigation satellite placed : One step closer for Desi GPS


The Indian space agency launched the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV successfully 25 times in a row, bringing India one step closer to its own global positioning system or the 'desi' GPS. 

The 44 meter, 320 ton, PSLV rocket successfully lifted off into the sky at 5.14 PM from Sriharikota and 19 minutes later accurately placed India's second navigation satellite  IRNSS-1B in space.  A jubilant K Radhakrishnan, the ISRO Chairman, said, "PSLV in its 25th successive successful flight precisely injected India's second regional navigation satellite."   

The first Indian navigation satellite IRNSS-1A launched last year in July is working normally. All seven satellites are to be launched by March 2014.

The satellite navigation system will be a fleet of seven satellites that help provide precise locations within 20 meters. The 'desi GPS' or IRNSS will be similar in function to the American Global Positioning System (GPS) but regional in coverage. 

The Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS) is an autonomous regional satellite navigation system being developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) which would be under complete control of the Indian government. The requirement of such a navigation system is driven by the fact that access to foreign government-controlled global navigation satellite systems is not guaranteed in hostile situations. The IRNSS would provide two services, with the Standard Positioning Service open for civilian use and the Restricted Service, encrypted one, for authorised users (military).

India will be the sixth country in the world, after America, Russia, Europe, China and Japan to have this system. This is vitally necessary in times of war since most modern precision bombs and missiles depend on accurate positioning. Till now most of us have relied on the American GPS, very popular on smart phones but not accurate enough for military applications as it can't be relied upon for seamless coverage in times of war and the in-built error makes it un-suitable for precision strikes. 

The constellation of Indian satellites will continuously beam down data that can be read by special hand held instruments which when calibrated using sensors based on the ground can help pin point location. Today in its 26th flight India's workhorse rocket the PSLV hoisted a 1432 kilogram special satellite that also carries on it a precision clock called an atomic clock. The entire fleet of satellites is likely to be ready by 2016 when Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System will become operational.  

India's satellite system is designed to cover a region of about 1500 km on either side of the border, essentially covering the geographical region from where India has a perception of threat, and both Pakistan and China are within the footprint. 

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