Modern space research in India is most visibly traced to the activities of
scientist S.K. Mitra who conducted a series of experiments leading to the
sounding of the ionosphere by application of ground based radio methods
in 1920's Calcutta. Later, Indian scientists like C.V. Raman and
Meghnad Saha contributed to scientific principles applicable in space
Initial experiments in space sciences included the study of cosmic
radiation, high altitude and airborne testing of instruments, deep
underground experimentation at the Kolar mines—one of the
deepest mining sites in the world — and studies of the upper
atmosphere. Studies were carried out at research laboratories,
universities, and independent locations.
Government support became visible by 1950 when the Department of
Atomic Energy (India) was founded with Homi Bhabha as secretary. The
Department of Atomic Energy provided funding for space research
Beginning in the 1960s, close ties with the Soviet Union enabled ISRO
rapidly to develop the Indian space program and advance nuclear power
in India even after the first nuclear test explosion by India on May 18,
1974 at Pokhran. The death of Homi Bhabha in an air crash on January
24, 1966 came as a blow to the Indian space program. Following
Bhabha's passing, Sarabhai was sent to assume Bhabha's place as the
chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and secretary of the
Department of Atomic Energy.
The Indian Space Research Organization in its modern form was
created by Vikarm Sarabhai in 1969. This body was to take control of
all space activities in the Republic of India. In 1972, Space Commission
was established. In 1975, India launched its first satellite,
Aryabhata, and thus entered the space age.
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Over the last two and half decades, the Indian space programme has
made impressive progress through a well integrated, self-reliant
Directed towards self-reliant use of space technology for national
development with the main thrust on:
(i) Mass communication and education via satellite.
(ii) Survey and management of natural resource through remote
sensing technology, environmental monitoring and meteorological
(iii) Development of indigenous satellite and satellite launch vehicles.
Space Research Organizations
(i) Indian Space Research Organizations (ISRO), set up in 1969, at
Ahmedabad with Prof. Vikram Sarabhai as Chairman, is the apex
body to provide guidelines, formulate policies and monitor
implementations of the national space policy.
(ii) Physical Research Laboratories (PRL).
(iii) Department of Space (DOS) established in 1972, bringing
ISRO/PRL, etc., under it to make it a Government of India
(iv) National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) was set up
(v) Space Segment Project was introduced in 1977.
India launched its first experimental satellite on April 19, 1975, from a
Soviet cosmodrome to perform scientific X-ray experiments in space and
send data to earth.
India's second 436 kg satellite was launched on June 7, 1979, to collect
information on India's land, water, forest and ocean resources.
The Rohini series of satellite were designed and built for Indian scientific
programs. Four satellites were launched in the Rohini series; Rohini–1A,
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1B, 2 and 3. The Rohini-1B was also the first Indian satellite launched by
an Indian rocket.
Rohini 1B: Launched on July 18, 1980, from Sriharikota aboard the SLV-
3. It was India's first successful launch. This experimental satellite
followed the failure of the Rohini–1A on August 10, 1979. It re-entered
orbit on May 20, 1981.
Rohini 2: Launched on May 31, 1981, by SLV–3 from Sriharikota.
Rohini 3: Launched on April 17, 1983, from Sriharikota aboard the SLV-
3. It carried two cameras and L-band beacon. This satellite returned
around 5,000 earth images before being de-activated on September 24,
1984. It re-entered orbit on April 19, 1990.
4. APPLE (Ariane Passenger Payload Experiment)
India's first experimental, geostationary satellite weighing 673 kg was
launched on June 19, 1981.
India's second satellite for earth observation was launched on November
6. SLV Mission (Satellite Launch Vehicle)
India's first satellite launch vehicle SLV–3 was successfully launched on
July 18, 1980, from Sriharikot. Rohini–2 (RS–D2) was put into orbit on
April 17, 1983, using SLV-3, and this completed the planned
developmental flights of the SLV-3.
7. IRS Mission (Indian Remote Sensing Satellite)
IRS–1A India's first IRS was launched on March, 1988, for monitoring
and management of natural resources.
IRS–1B India's second remote sensing satellite was launched on
August 29, 1991, to replace IRS-IA which was nearing the end of its life.
The IRS system has been further an enhanced by IRS-IC, IRS-P3, IRS-ID
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and IRS-P4, the last three having been launched on December 1995, by a
Russian rocket and IRS-ID launched by PSLV on Sept. 29, 1997.
IRS-P3 was launched by the third developmental flight of PSLV-D3 on 21,
Another satellite IRS-P4 (OCEANSAT) was launched by PSLV on May 26,
Two more satellites, IRS-P5 and IRS-P6 for cartography and agricultural
resources survey respectively are planned for launch in next three years.
8. ASLV Mission (Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle)
ASLV is designed to augment indigenous satellite launching capability and
put 150 kg class satellite into low earth orbit.
9. SROSS (Stretched Rohini Satellite Series)
After failure of two ASLV launches, SROSS-III, a 105 kg satellite was
successfully placed in a 450 km high orbit via the launching of ASLV-D3,
on May 20, 1992, thought the lifespan of the satellite was only 55 days.
The fourth developmental flight was made on May 4, 1994, and SROSSC4
was successfully placed into the earth orbit from Sriharikota.
ASLV is the forerunner of the more powerful Polar Satellite Launch
Vehicle (PSLV) and the Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV).
The first developmental flight of the PSLV, called PSLV-D1, on
September 20, 1993, failed. However, according to ISRO it was a partial
success which established India's capabilities in liquid propulsion system.
10. INSAT Mission (Indian National Satellite System)
The Indian National Satellite (INSAT) system is a joint venture of the
Department of Space, Department of Telecommunications, India
Meteorological Department, and All India Radio and Doordarshan.
The overall coordination and management of INSAT system rests with the
Secretary-level INSAT Coordination Committee.
Established in 1983, INSAT is one of the largest domestic communication
satellite systems in the Asia Pacific Region with nine satellites in operation
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–INSAT –2E, INSAT–3A, INSAT–3B, INSAT–3C, INSAT–3E, KALPANA–1,
GSAT–2, EDUSAT and INSAT–4A: The latest, INSAT–4A, which was
launched successfully from Kourou in French Guyana on December 22,
2005, has given further boost to INSAT capability, especially, for Direct-
To-Home (DTH) television broadcast. Launch of INSAT–4C was
unsuccessful on July 10, 2006.
A quick look at INSAT launches is given below:
INSAT–1A On April 10, 1982–it failed prematurely
INSAT–1B On August 30, 1983–it was successful
INSAT–1C On July 22, 1988–it became redundant in 1989
INSAT–10 On July 17, 1990–it was successful and completed the
INSAT–2A:India's first indigenously built second generation satellite. It
was launched on July 10, 1992. It is equipped with 50 per cent more
capacity than the INSAT–I series.
INSAT–2B:India's second indigenously built satellite. It was launched by
the European Space Agency from Kourou, French Guinea on July 23;
1993. INSAT–2B took place of INSAT–1B whose functioning ended
following the completion of its ten-year life.
At present the system is served by ISRO-built satellites INSAT–2C,
INSAT–2E, INSAT–3B and INSAT–2DT procured from ARABSAT in October
Five Satellites, INSAT-3A to INSAT-3E are planned to be launched in
1999–2002 time frame.
INSAT–3B was launched in March 2000; it carried 12 extended C–band
transponders, 3ku-band transponders and CxS mobile satellite service
The Press Trust of India (PTI) has implemented a system to provide its
news and information services at high speed and increased volume by
utilizing broadcast facilities of INSAT satellite.
With the availability of INSAT–2C, INSAT–2E and INSAT–3B business
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communication in ku-band and mobile satellite services are being tried
INSAT has enabled a vast expansion in the television services with over
1079 TV transmitters linked through INSAT.
The fourth development flight of ASLV–4 was made on May 4, 1994, and
the SROSS–C4 was successfully placed into the near earth orbit from
Today, India has realized the operational launch vehicle, PSLV, capable of
launching 1,200 kg IRS class of remote sensing satellite into polar sum
The first successful developmental launch (PSLV–D2) took place on
October 15, 1994 when it placed the IRS–P2 remote sending satellite into
The second and final developmental test (PSLV–D3) was conducted on
March 21, 1996, when IRS-P3 was placed into the intended polar orbit.
The first operational flight, PSLV–C1 placed IRS–1D in orbit.
PSLV–C2 placed IRS–P4 (OCEANSAT), a Korean satellite KITSAT–3 and a
German satellite TUBSAT into 727 km polar sun synchronous orbit on May
PSLV–C3 is planned to launch IRS–P5 and Belgium satellite PROBA
The development of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle
(GSLV), incorporating a cryogenic stage, which will be capable of placing
2,000 kg INSAT class of satellite in geosynchronous transfer orbit, is at
first developmental test stage.
India has developed the following space launch vehicles:
1. SLV–Satellite Launch Vehicle
2. ASLV–Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle
3. PSLV–Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle
4. GSLV–Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle
India is also developing following space launch vehicles:
1. GSLV Mk–I 2. GSLV-Mk-II 3. GSLV Mk-III
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The launcher and propulsion represents the ISRO's largest single
development area. The launcher program has seen a gradual evolution
India's First Man in Space
On April 3, 1984 Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma became India's
first man to go into space. He was launched abroad Soyuz T-II
spaceship from Baikonor Cosmodrome in Kazakhastan (former USSR)
along with two Soviet cosmonauts. The 6,850 kg spacecraft traveled at a
speed of 8 km per second and docked with the orbiting Soviet Space
Station Salyut–7 to begin its seven-day space experiments. Squadron
Leader Rakesh Sharma returned safely to earth on April 11, 1984.
The Chandrayan-1 mission was announced by former Prime Minister Atal
Behari Vajpayee on August 15, 2003, during his Independence Day
address to the nation. Chandrayaan-1 was India's first unmanned lunar
probe. It was launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation in
October 2008, and operated until August 2009. The mission included a
lunar orbiter and an impactor. India launched the spacecraft by a
modified version of the PSLV, PSLV C11 on 22 October 2008 from Satish
Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Nellore District, Andhra Pradesh,
about 80 km north of Chennai, at 06:22 IST. The mission was a major
boost to India's space program, as India researched and developed its
own technology in order to explore the Moon. The vehicle was successfully
inserted into lunar orbit on 8 November 2008.
On 14 November 2008, the Moon Impact Probe separated from the
Chandrayaan orbiter at 20:06 and struck the South Pole in a controlled
manner, making India the fourth country to place its flag on the Moon.
The probe impacted near Shackleton Crater at 20:31 ejecting
underground soil that could be analysed for the presence of lunar water
The estimated cost for the project was Rs. 386 crore (US$ 80