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ISRO and its contribution to Indian space research

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Indian's achievement in space research is often considered remarkable with its low cost budget. The space research system, ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) has a good track record of making any government proud with its achievements.

Why ISRO was formed ?

The main objective behind the creation of ISRO is to create space technology for national development while pursuing space science research and planetary exploration. It was founded in 1969. It superseded the erstwhile Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) established in 1962, which was formed by the efforts of independent India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and scientist Vikram Sarabhai. The establishment of ISRO thus institutionalized space activities in India. It is managed by the Department of Space, which reports to the Prime Minister of India.

Major achievements of ISRO

Mangalyaan (2014): With the launch of Mars Orbiter Mission, India joined an exclusive global club. The mission cost was at least 10 times lower than a similar project by the NASA(US). The Rs 450-crore project revolved round the Red Planet and to collect data on surface, atmosphere and mineral composition of Mars.

Chandrayaan (2008): It was the country’s first unmanned lunar probe. With the launch ISRO joined an elite list of just six space organisations to send an orbiter to the moon.

Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (2016): The seven-satellite series which created India’s very own satellite navigation system e terrestrial and will provide services in marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management, and navigation aide for drivers.

Launching 20 satellites (2016): It launched 20 satellites in one mission, a record for the space agency. Apart from Isro’s own satellites and those built by university students in the country, the mission carried satellites from the US, Canada, Germany and Indonesia.

Indian National Satellite system (1983): It is known popularly as INSAT. It is a new system is a network of satellites that facilitates communications and broadcasting across the south Asian region. The first satellite in this series was placed into earth orbit in 1983. With the launch of the satellite, it revolutionized the country’s television and radio broadcasting, telecommunications and meteorological sectors. There are currently 9 satellites in operation.

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV (1993): It was developed in the 1990s and has become the Indian space mission’s most reliable space system. The PSLV carried out its first mission in 1993 but its first successful outing was the next year. It helped the launch of various satellites for historic missions such as the Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan. PSLV often considered as a favourite among various organisations as a launch service provider. It has launched over 40 satellites for 19 countries.

Reusable Launch Vehicle (2016): ISRO successfully tested the Reusable Launch Vehicle — Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD). It was built at a cost Rs 95 crore. It is a winged flight vehicle — called as India’s space shuttle. During the testing, the vehicle glided back onto a virtual runway in the Bay of Bengal in a 10-minute mission was the first stage of a fully re-usable vehicle. The vehicle system is seen as the future of low cost, reliable and on-demand space access.

Aryabhatta (1975): It is the country’s first satellite which is named after the famous Indian astronomer. It marked a milestone in India’s space programme because it was completely designed in the country and launched from a Russian facility.

Why Mars Mission?

The primary objective of the Mars Orbiter mission is to explore the surface of Mars and Martian atmosphere. The Mangalyaan spacecraft was fitted with methane sensor, which will be helpful to detect the presence of methane on the planet. One must note that the presence of methane gas indicates the possible life on earth. The spacecraft also contains Lyman Alpha Photometer which measures the abundance of hydrogen isotopes on the planet, thereby, providing conformity about the planet to be dry or wet one. The use of Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer in the spacecraft would help to understand the composition and mineralogy on the surface of Mars. Mangalyaan spacecraft (Mars-Craft) an unmanned spacecraft was placed successfully in the orbit to study about Mars. This mission was developed under the India’s ambitious Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). The mission was first announced in 2008, and was later completed by the scientists and was approved by the government of India in 2012. Mars craft was successfully launched on 2013 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre. It reached into the orbit on 24 September 2014.

Indigenization of Space systems

ISRO is making desperate attempts to indigenizing current space technology. It is developing its own rockets, cryogenic engines, navigation, spy and communication satellites. These developments are help in greatly cutting its costs in launch technology. Currently PSLV costs around USD 15M and GSLV costs USD 36M which are by far cheaper than any other launch vehicles, even cheaper than upcoming rocket Falcon 9 from US. Not just launch vehicles, even it is testing next generation launch technology to further decreasing its costs like using single launcher for multiple orbit launches. ISRO is also planning to use scramjet engine for minimizing rocket size (40-50 per cent) and save fuel (up to 70 per cent). Furthermore, ISRO has developed RLV-TD a reusable launch vehicle to make space program cheaper and perform advanced space research.

Cost effective system:

When it comes to cost effectiveness, India's PSLV is very cheap, it was very helpful to push payloads up to 3.8 tons in LEO (Low earth Orbit) and 1.5 tons into GTO (geosynchronous transfer orbit). For example, NASA, SpaceX's Falcon 9 offers about 13tons to LEO at USD 57 million (USD 4384 per kg). PSLV's rate is a close USD 4111 per kg into LEO.

Conclusion:

Though, India in terms of technology is about a few decades behind NASA and Russia, ISRO can rise above with the increased funding, more manpower and export control exceptions. But its very bad to compare ISRO’s programme with Russia and US as they are much older in space, they have more larger and powerful rockets. But we must note that India is the only country in the world who got success in its first attempt and it is the first country in Asia to achieve success, (except China).