Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

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See also Moon mission, India/ Chandrayaan <> Satellites: India <> Space technology: India

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


The beginning

Amarnath K. Menon , Space ace "India Today" 21/8/2017

In 1962, astrophysicist Vikram Sarabhai impressed upon Jawaharlal Nehru the imperative of developing indigenous space technology. He did the spadework to create the infrastructure for solid propulsion rockets at the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station in the suburbs of Thiruvananthapuram, seeking only technological inputs from his extensive contacts in the US, former USSR, Japan and France. He created a culture of open-ended experiments and innovations that contributed to a healthy competitive environment and team spirit at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Blossoming as a space power, India today occupies pride of place with its mastery of rocket and satellite manufacturing expertise. This has engendered confidence in the country's engineering and scientific R&D capabilities. Despite ISRO's ex-chairman Satish Dhawan's claims about 'the space programme standing on peaceful legs', the learning has, over the decades, been shared strategically for defence preparedness and missile development.


1963 Nov

In November 1963 India fired its first rocket successfully
From: February 6, 2022: The Times of India

See graphic:

In November 1963 India fired its first rocket successfully


ISRO’s PSLV launched eight satellites in Sept 2016. Till then ISRO has earned India $120m. by launching foreign satellites.
The Times of India
ISRO: Milestones, 1963-2014; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, June 20, 2016

Hits and misses of Isro

Chethan Kumar,TNN The Times of India | Sep 24, 2014

Times of India tracks the journey of India’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro):

1: The sounding rocket might have been launched from Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) as early as 1963, with Vikram Sarabhai being the visionary mind behind Indian space programme, but the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) was officially created on Aug 15, 1969. A new campus at Veli, Thiruvananthapuram was set up in the same year.

2: Just about 6 years from creation of Isro, the launch of the first Indian satellite, Aryabhata, happens on April 19, 1975. Several other landmarks like operationalising SHAR Centre in Sriharikota (1971) rechristened as Satish Dhawan Space Centre in October 2003; establishment of the Department of Space (DOS) on June 1, 1972 with Satish Dhawan as the Secretary, and, establishment of the Isro Satellite Centre in Bangalore (1972).

3: Four years after Aryabhata, Isro launches Bhaskara, an experimental satellite for earth observations on June 7, 1979, and the first experimental launch of SLV-3 (launch vehicle) was done on August 10 the same year. But the satellite failed to reach the orbit. Many experiments including multiple attempts of launching SLV-3 and other satellites happened over the next eight years, including the launch of the first INSAT system on August 30, 1983.

4: Basking in the glory of the achievements, Isro experimented with the launch of ASLV, an advanced version of SLV-3 on March 24, 1987. But the satellite (SROSS-1) failed to reach the orbit. This was followed by a successful launch of INSAT-1D on June 12, 1990, which preceded the launch of the second operational Remote Sensing Satellite on August 29, 1991.

5: 1993: First developmental launch of what is today called Isro's workhorse launch platform, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) began. Even the PSLV's first attempt to put a satellite into orbit failed on September 20, 1993 This was followed by many communication and remote sensing satellites in the 90s. Isro saw success with PSLV, even began development of the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). GSLV, in fact, placed GSAT-1 satellite in orbit on April 18, 2001.

6: 2008: Isro launches a record Cartosat-2A and IMS-1 along with eight nano satellites (DELFI-C3 for the Netherlands; CUTE-1.7 and SEEDS for Japan; CAN-X2 and NLS-5 for Canada; AAUSAT-II for Denmark; COMPASS-I and RUBIN for Germany). Landmark project Chandrayaan also saw its launch on October 22, 2008 aboard the PSLV-C11.

7: November 5, 2013, Isro sent a probe to Mars at a cost of Rs 450-crore.

8: As India gears up for her date with the Red Planet, Isro's first interplanetary mission, the space agency holds the credit of having put in place the largest (civilian) constellation of remote sensing satellites, with 10 of them currently working in space.

9: September 24, 2014: Mars Orbiter Mission to be inserted into the Martian Orbit.


Chethan Kumar, August 16, 2019: The Times of India

The ISRO, 1963-2019 (and future plans till 2028)
From: Chethan Kumar, August 16, 2019: The Times of India

From the Satellite Telecommunication Experiments Project (STEP) that took the first televisions to Indian villages much before India officially had TVs to real-time satellitebased advisories being sent to fishermen nowadays, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has led India’s development from the adolescence of Independence to present-day advancements.

As the space agency prepares for another eventful year having successfully launched its second mission to Moon, it has achieved another major milestone. August 15, India’s 73rd Independence Day, also marks the golden jubilee year for Isro, which was founded on this day in 1969. The year also marks the centenary year of Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space programme.

When India’s space programme was first conceived, it had a clear priority that space science must first help its citizens, which is why the focus was on earth observation and communication. Vikram Sarabhai had once famously said, “We have no fantasies of landing people on Moon or studying planets.” This was not lack of ambition as much as it was a result of a different vision: Make India self-reliant using space technology.

Today, space agency chairman K Sivan says: “Sarabhai’s vision that space science and technology must be used for the benefit of the common man has been the guiding force for Isro. And, all our programmes were centred around this vision, which led to several applications.”

Another senior scientist, while claiming that Isro is still committed to meeting the growing demands of the common man, whether it is in the form of communication satellite, remote sensing or earth observation satellite, said that huge strides have been made by the space agency in the last 50 years.

Isro, which was once depended heavily on foreign help to build and launch its satellites, today helps other countries launch their satellites. In fact, on February 15, 2017, the Indian agency had launched 104 satellites, mostly foreign, in one go, making a world record that still stands.

In the past three years, Isro has launched 239 commercial satellites helping Isro’s commercial arm, Antrix Corporation, garner Rs 6,289 crore revenue. Today, it is able to rub shoulders with the best in the business. One example is Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar (Nisar) project, in which, Isro is an equal partner with the US space agency and not an agency seeking Big Brother’s help. It is also planning a joint mission with Japan to explore Moon and another joint project with Nasa for Mars exploration.


ISRO in the 21st century- 2001-18
From: Chethan Kumar, March 29, 2019: The Times of India

See graphic:

ISRO in the 21st century- 2001-18


ISRO's future projects, 2019-22
From: Chethan Kumar, March 29, 2019: The Times of India

See graphic:

ISRO's future projects, 2019-22


Satellites, launch vehicles, planetary exploration


Alind Chauhan, September 23, 2023: The Indian Express

A brief history of the three major programmes of the Indian space agency: satellites, launch vehicles, and planetary exploration.

ISRO’s satellite programmes

The launch of the Aryabhata satellite on April 19, 1975, marked India’s entry into the space era. Built to conduct experiments in X-ray astronomy, aeronomics, and solar physics, the 360 kg spacecraft was entirely designed and fabricated by ISRO. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi named it after the legendary fifth-century mathematician and astronomer, choosing Aryabhata ahead of ‘Mitra’, to signify the friendship between the Soviet Union and India, and ‘Jawahar’.

The satellite took off from the Kapustin Yar launch base in the Soviet Union on the country’s Kosmas 3M rocket. India didn’t have its own launch vehicle at the time, and the Soviets had in 1971 offered to assist in launching India’s first satellite and later agreed to do so free of cost. The satellite worked well for about five days in space but then lost power, resulting in a loss of communication.

“Aryabhata became the forerunner of our space programme and provided us confidence to build state-of-the-art application satellites for communication, remote sensing of natural resources and meteorological investigations,” U R Rao, who led the development of ISRO’s satellite programme, wrote in ‘From Fishing Hamlet to Red Planet: India’s Space Journey’, a book written by former ISRO scientists.

Soon after Aryabhata, two experimental remote-sensing satellites went into Space: Bhaskar-1 in 1979 and Bhaskar-2 in 1981. These spacecraft laid the foundations for the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) Satellite system — a series of Earth Observation spacecraft built by ISRO.

It was kickstarted with the launch of the IRS-1A into a polar sun-synchronous orbit (spacecraft here are synchronised to always be in the same ‘fixed’ position relative to the Sun) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan on March 17, 1988.

Also in 1981, another Indian spacecraft was launched — an experimental communication satellite called Ariane Passenger Payload Experiment (APPLE), which helped inspire the Indian National Satellite System (INSAT), a series of multipurpose geostationary satellites that aimed to meet the telecommunications, broadcasting, meteorology, and search and rescue needs of India.

Although the first few INSATs were built by Ford Aerospace in the US, starting with the INSAT-2 series, all satellites of the system have been indigenously made. The first INSAT-2 spacecraft, the INSAT-2A was the first multipurpose satellite of India. It was launched on July 10, 1992.

“INSAT initiated a communication revolution in the country by providing nationwide connectivity, broadcasting and meteorological information to the most remote corners of the country. Remote sensing satellites have become the backbone for nationwide monitoring of forests, wasteland, environment, water resources, agriculture, ocean, fisheries, cyclones, floods and disasters,” Rao wrote.

Since then, numerous INSAT satellites have arrived in space. The launch of KALPANA-1 in 2002 marked a milestone — it was the first in the series of exclusive meteorological satellites built by ISRO.

More recently, a notable satellite mission has been the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) or NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation). It began with the launch of India’s first dedicated navigation satellite IRNSS-1A on July 1, 2013, and currently consists of seven such spacecraft. They are used in terrestrial, aerial, and marine transportation, location-based services, personal mobility, resource monitoring, surveying, scientific research, etc.

Launch vehicle programmes

India had been thinking of rockets even before ISRO was established. On November 21, 1963, it launched the US Nike Apache ‘sounding rocket’ from Thumba, near Thiruvananthapuram. The rocket was taken to the launch site on a bullock cart. Sounding rockets are suborbital rockets that carry experiments to the upper atmosphere of the Earth. They aren’t capable of exiting the planet’s gravity or reaching into space.

The first Indian launch vehicle to arrive there was the SVL-3 in 1980. The mission was led by A P J Abdul Kalam, who had joined ISRO in 1969, and was responsible for designing, developing and launching the vehicle. But the success didn’t come instantly as the first attempt to send the SVL-3 into space on August 10, 1979, ended in failure.

SVL-3 had gone out of control and splashed into the Bay of Bengal at a distance of 560 km from the coast, about five minutes after take-off from the Sriharikota launch pad.

Kalam and his team learnt quickly from the mistakes. The second attempt for the launch was scheduled for just a year later, on July 18, 1980. There was some tension because Sanjay Gandhi, the Prime Minister’s son, had died in a plane crash about three weeks ago. “Delhi was in chaos as Indira Gandhi tried to come to terms with the loss. In Trivandrum and SHAR this had a trickledown effect, but we were determined to go ahead with our launch,” Ramabhadran wrote.

SLV-3 took off without any glitches, and placed its payload, Rohini 1, a 40 kg experimental satellite, in space. This made India the sixth member of the exclusive club of space-faring nations, and boosted ISRO’s morale to new heights. SLV-3’s payload capability wasn’t significant. But it provided a learning platform to ISRO, and led to the development of the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV). This was essentially the SLV-3 rocket, but with additional strap-on boosters, which enabled it to carry a payload of more than 100 kg. However, ASLV didn’t prove very successful. Its first two launches ended in failure and by the time its first glitch-free take-off came in 1992, a new generation of launch vehicle had made its entry. It was the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

PSLV’s development started in 1982, and its maiden successful launch took place in October 1994. Most significantly, it marked India’s entry into the Big Rockets league, as it could carry a payload of up to 1,000 kg.

In the years that followed, PSLV emerged as one of the most reliable and versatile workhorse launch vehicles, sending numerous Indian and foreign customer satellites into space. Some of India’s most ambitious space missions have been launched using this rocket — Chandrayaan-1 rode a PSLV rocket in 2008, as did Mangalyaan, the Mars Orbiter mission, in 2013. PSLV also helped India enter the arena of satellite navigation, which is considered crucial for both civilian and defence applications.

“Today, PSLV is available in three configurations: the generic PSLV with six strap-ons, the core alone (PSLV-CA) configuration with no strap-ons and the most powerful one designated as PSLV-XL, with extended strapons,” scientist N Narayanamoorthy, who was associated with the PSLV project from the beginning, wrote in ‘From Fishing Hamlet to Red Planet: India’s Space Journey’.

The next and latest class of rockets is the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). The new launch vehicle primarily aimed to solve two of the biggest limitations of PSLV: it can deliver a payload of about 1,750 kg to a lower Earth orbit, up to an altitude of 600 km from the Earth’s surface; and it can go a few hundred kilometres higher in Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO), though only with a reduced payload.

Unlike their predecessor vehicles, GSLVs use cryogenic engines — they consist of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen — that provide far greater thrust than the engines used in the older launch vehicles. ISRO developed these cryogenic engines indigenously after the US refused to transfer the technology to India in the 1990s.

The big success came in December 2014, with the experimental flight of the third generation (Mk-III) GSLV, now known as Launch Vehicle Mark-3, containing an indigenous cryogenic engine. The rocket can put a 4,000 kg payload into geostationary orbits that are over 30,000 km from Earth — it is ISRO’s heaviest launch vehicle right now. LVM-3’s first successful mission was in 2017, when it carried the GSAT-19 satellite, a communication spacecraft, into space.

Subsequently, the same launch vehicle put the Chandrayaan-2, weighing 3,850 kg, outside the Earth’s atmosphere in 2019. And last month, it was LVM-3 that took Chandrayaan-3 into space.


In the first four decades since its inception, ISRO largely focused on space missions that benefited India in some way or the other. However, with the turn of the century, it began to explore new avenues as it had achieved most of the goals laid out by Vikram Sarabhai, the first chairman of ISRO, including self-reliance, launch capabilities, and societal needs.

“One such mission which apparently had no ‘practical benefits’ was Chandrayaan-1, India’s maiden Moon shot,” the book, ‘From Fishing Hamlet to Red Planet: India’s Space Journey’, mentions.

The notes that it took ISRO more than four years to convince the Indian government to greenlight the mission. Former ISRO chairman K Kasturirangan, in a 2006 lecture, said, “We had to go through an elaborate process of consultation and justification with the scientific community, academics, the political system and the public media before the mission was given the go-ahead… This process, spread out over four years, culminated in the announcement by the Prime Minister of India (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) on 15 August 2003 on the nation’s decision to enter the new era of planetary exploration.”

With the approval of the Chandrayaan-1, an Orbiter mission, ISRO began preparations, aiming to launch in 2008. It improved the payload capabilities of the PSLV, which was ISRO’s main rocket at the time, and realised that it had some excess capacity. “It was then proposed that we could invite foreign space agencies to send their instruments on our mission,” G Madhavan Nair, who was the space agency’s chairman between 2003 and 2009, told The Indian Express recently. The Chandrayaan-1 featured payloads from international space agencies like the European Space Agency and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The Chandrayaan-1 mission was launched on October 22, 2008, and the spacecraft entered lunar orbit on November 8. Six days later, the Moon Impact Probe, which had the Indian colours on its sides, was made to crash land on the lunar surface — to leave India’s mark on the Moon. With this, ISRO became the fifth country to reach the lunar surface. Chandrayaan-1’s orbiter also detected evidence of water on the Moon.

The next milestone for ISRO came on September 24, 2013, with the launch of Mangalyaan — the space agency’s first interplanetary mission. ISRO was the only fourth agency to reach the Mars orbit after Russia’s Roscosmos, NASA, and ESA. The mission was a “technology demonstrator” project to develop the technologies for designing, planning, managing, and operations of an interplanetary mission.

Six years later, the sequel to the first Chandrayaan mission came out. Speaking to The Indian Express, Nair said the discussions for Chandrayaan-2, which would also feature a lander and rover, had started right after the success of its prequel. But its launch came only after Mangalyaan as “there were huge technological learnings involved, particularly with regard to the descent module that was supposed to land”, which took a number of years.

Chandrayaan-2 began its journey to the Moon on July 22, 2019. Its lander, called Vikram, was scheduled to make a soft-landing on the lunar surface on September 7 but minutes before the scheduled touchdown, ISRO lost contact with the spacecraft. Vikram failed to reduce its velocity to an optimal level to ensure a soft-landing, and crashed into the lunar surface.

Despite the lander’s failure, it wasn’t as if the mission itself was a failure. The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter continued to work fine and in the following years, it gathered a wealth of new information that has expanded knowledge about the Moon and its environment.

Chandrayaan-3, launched on July 14, 2023, has now accomplished what the Chandrayaan-2 couldn’t. The success of the mission is not only a major step forward for India’s lunar programme but also showcases its capabilities and scientific advancement.

Apple and other early successes/ 1981

The Times of India, Jun 21 2016

Chethan Kumar  How an `Apple' on a bullock cart took Isro to stars

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has become one of the first picks for countries looking to launch satellites. The situation was not always like this.Thirty-five years ago, on June 19, 1981, Isro successfully launched its first communication satellite, Ariane Passenger PayLoad Experiment (Apple), on Ariane-1 from Kourou, French Guiana. This was a major milestone in India's space programme as Apple was used for several communication experiments, including relay of television programmes and radio networking. Incidentally , this satellite was transported on a bullock cart, captured for pos terity in an unforgettable photograph. It had only been six years since Aryabhatta, Isro's first satellite, and the agency was still in its infancy much like the country's infrastruc ture. Isro had been trying launch technology through its SLV class of launchers and the Satellite Telecommunication Experiments Project had been launched.

Bhaskara and Rohini had been successes before Apple.But Apple laid the foundation for indigenous development of operational communication satellites which grew into a very large constellation of satellites in Insat and Gsat series that spurred the country's technological and economic growth. Newer applications like tele-education, telemedicine, Village Resource Centre, Disaster Management System etc were enabled through space technology.

According to the book `Fishing Hamlet to Red Planet', although the satellite was laun ched through Ariane, Apple was boosted into Geo-Synchronous Orbit by Isro's own apogee motor derived from the fourth stage motor of the SLV-3. It kicked off Isro's impeccable record with deadlines. While the agency is known to have built the Mars Orbiter Mission in 18 months, it continued a long tradition and the agency had designed and built Apple in just two years with limited infrastructure in industrial sheds. Meanwhile, the final 48hour countdown to Isro's record-breaking mission, which will place 20 satellites -17 from abroad -in the same orbit, kicked off on Monday . The launch of the PSLV C-34 Cartosat-2 series satellite mission is slated for June 22 at Sriharikota.

Antarctica/ the Bharati research station

Mangala Mani

Surendra Singh, 56-yr-old 1st Isro woman to spend a yr in Antarctica, March 18, 2018: The Times of India

At 56 years of age, having never experienced a snowfall before, yet lugging kilos of equipment across an icy landscape, Mangala Mani, Isro’s first woman scientist who spent over 403 days in Antarctica, is a true embodiment of ‘Nari Shakti.’ Staying in the world’s coldest place where minimum temperatures can slide to -90 degrees Celsius, Mangala Mani was part of a 23-member expedition team that went to India’s research station, Bharati, in the icy continent in November 2016. She was the only woman in the all-men team.

In an exclusive interview to TOI, Mani, who successfully completed her mission last December, said, “The Antarctica mission was really a challenge. Climate there was very harsh. We were very careful while going out of our climatecontrolled research station. One had to wear polar clothing. Even 2 or 3 hours out in severe cold was too much and one had to come back immediately for warm-up.”

When stationed at Bharati, she was not only the sole woman in the Indian expedition team but the only female in that zone as the Russian and Chinese earth stations also did not have any woman. “My team members were very cooperative. Adjustments were made from both sides. In fact, my team members celebrated my birthday at the station,” she said.

To get selected for the tough job, Mangala Mani and her team had to first undergo a series of check-ups at AIIMS for a week. Thereafter, they were taken to Auli in Uttarakhand at 9,000 feet altitude for ice acclimatisation and later to Badrinath at 10,000 feet. There, she and her team had to go on long treks with heavy backpacks.

On her nature of job at Antarctica, Mangala Mani’s boss National Remote Sensing Centre director Y V N Krishnamurthy told TOI, “Mangala and her team where supposed to operate the Antarctica station and collect loads of satellite data as we have polar-orbiting satellites. Unlike Hyderabad (near the equator), where only two or three orbits are visible, Antarctica (south pole) is the place from where one can observe 14 orbits. The data are downloaded at the station and sent to the Hyderabad centre via the satellite link for processing.” He said, “Drawing inspirations from Mangala, a young woman Isro scientist is currently camping at Bharati.”

Anti-satellite test (A-Sat)

2019: the debris issue

Surendra Singh, August 26, 2019: The Times of India

A latest report from US space agency Nasa says around 49 pieces of debris from India’s maiden anti-satellite test (A-Sat) in March are still roaming in space. The report drew flak from an Indian missile expert, who calls it ‘malicious campaign against India”.

The A-Sat test, called “Mission Shakti”, broke DRDO’s Microsat-R satellite weighing 740-kg into hundreds of pieces of debris on March 27 that have since been tracked by the US Strategic Command. According to Nasa’s latest orbital debris quarterly news, “At the time of breakup, over 400 fragments were initally tracked at approximately 294 x 265 km altitude by US Strategic Command’s Space Surveillance Network.A total of 101 debris have entered the public satellite catalog (database which contains a list of objects in orbit), of which 49 fragments remain on orbit as of July 15.”

Missile expert and former DRDO scientist Ravi Gupta told TOI that the Nasa report smells of a “malicious propaganda”. “Why can’t Nasa talk about the debris generated by its own country, Russia or China? These countries together had generated a large number of debris in space with their tests and satellite launches. If the debris are now around 100km altitude, they don’t pose a danger to any spacecraft as most of the satellites, including International Space Station, are hovering between 400km and 1,000km altitude.”


See also: Moon mission, India/ Chandrayaan

Chiefs, ISRO

K Sivan

Sep 7, 2019: The Times of India

A humble farmer's son to Isro's 'Rocket Man': Incredible journey of K Sivan

The entire nation expressed solidarity with Isro chief K Sivan and his team of scientists after Chandrayaan-2's moon lander Vikram lost contact with ground stations minutes before touchdown. 

Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking on behalf of the country, told Isro scientists that the entire nation stands with them and expressed confidence that the space agency will go on to achieve many milestones in the future. 
Just like PM Modi's speech, K Sivan's journey, from working barefoot on his father's farm to heading one of the biggest space agencies in the world, has been inspiring. 

The humble son of a farmer from Sarakkalvilai village in Tamil Nadu's Kanyakumari district, Kailasavadivoo Sivan as Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chairman is currently heading the Chandrayaan-2 mission. 

Sivan studied at a Tamil medium government school. After graduating from ST Hindu College in Nagercoil, Sivan completed aeronautical engineering from Madras Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1980 and completed a Master's in engineering from IISc in 1982. In 2006, he received a PhD in aerospace engineering from IIT Bombay. 

Sivan is the first graduate in his family. His brother and two sisters were unable to complete higher education due to their poverty. "When I was in college, I used to help my father in the field. That was the reason he got me admitted in a college near our house," Sivan told TOI. "Only when I had completed my BSc (Mathematics) with 100% marks, his mind changed." Sivan said he had spent his childhood days without a shoe or sandal. "I continued wearing vesti (dhoti) till college. I wore pants for the first time when I entered MIT." 

He joined Isro in 1982 and worked on almost all rocket programmes. Before taking charge as Isro chairman in January 2018, he was the director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), which develops rockets. He is known as Isro's 'Rocket Man' for his contribution to the development of cryogenic engine, PSLV, GSLV and reusable launch vehicle (RLV) programmes. He had also played a key role in the launch of 104 satellites in one go on February 15, 2017, a world record by Isro. Though a rocket expert, Sivan loves listening to Tamil classical songs and doing gardening in his past time. His favourite movie is Rajesh Khanna-starrer 'Aradhana' of 1969. "When I was VSSC director, I grew a huge variety of roses in my house garden in Thiruvananthapuram. Now in Bengaluru, I hardly get time," he said. 

On July 15, when a glitch in GSLV-MkIII stalled the launch of the Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission, Sivan quickly set up a high-level team to find the snag and got it fixed within 24 hours. On July 22, he & his team successfully launched the mission from Sriharikota. A few days ago, PM Narendra Modi, in his 'Mann ki Baat' radio programme, praised Isro scientists for fixing the rocket glitch in record time and launching the lunar mission within seven days of the first scheduled liftoff date.

Commercial revenues, foreign exchange

1999, 2014, 2017-19

Surendra Singh, Dec 16, 2019 Times of India

Isro’s PSLV has turned into a money-spinner for the space agency as forex brought by the country’s mainstay rocket increased by Rs 90 crore from Rs 232.56 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 324 crore in 2018-19 fiscal year.

Isro has earned Rs 1,245 crore during the last five years by launching foreign satellites from 26 countries. Key contracts with 10 countries — the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, Singapore, The Netherlands, Japan, Malaysia, Algeria and France — were signed in the last five years under commercial arrangements. In financial years before 2017-18, the annual revenue figures just hovered around Rs 200-crore-plus mark. In 2016-17, it was Rs 208 crore, Rs 227 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 252 crore in 2014-15. The information was provided to the Rajya Sabha in a written reply by minister of state for space Jitendra Singh in the just-concluded winter session.

Though Isro’s market share in the global satellite launch market is less than 2%, PSLV has carved a niche for itself in the small satellite launch market and bringing in big moolah for the country. Since May 26, 1999, when the first foreign satellite was launched by India, PSLV has till now launched 319 foreign satellites. Of the 319 satellites, which did not weigh more than 445kg, around 279 were launched in the last five years.

Cooperation with NASA

World's most expensive earth imaging satellite 

Surendra Singh, Indian rocket US once `grounded' will put ISRO-NASA satellite in space, May 22, 2017: The Times of India

In 1992, the US under President George Bush had slapped sanctions on Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) and prevented Russia from sharing cryogenic engine technology with the Indian space agency so as to check India from making missiles. Two decades later, US space agency Nasa has joined hands with Isro to co-develop the world's most expensive earth imaging satellite that will cost the two countries over $1.5 billion. The irony is GSLV , which is likely to place this Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite into orbit in 2021, is the same rocket for whose cryogenic engine the US put sanctions on India. Leaving the past behind, Isro and Nasa are busy buil Isro and Nasa are busy building the 2,200kg NISAR satellite, which will provide a detailed view of the earth by using advanced radar imaging. It is being designed to observe and take measurements of some of the planet's complex processes, including ecosystem disturbances, ice-sheet collapse and natural hazards. Nasa became interested in Isro when the Indian space agency in April 2012 launched the country's first indigenous radar imaging satellite (Risat-1), some called it a spy satellite, which enabled imaging of the earth's surface during day and night under all weather conditions. The negotiations went on for two years but the formal agreement for NISAR satellite happened when Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a declaration with former US President Barack Obama during his visit to the US in 2014. The objective behind the collaboration was to use the satellite for the “benefit of humanity“ as the mapping data from this satellite will be available for all.

The Ahmedabad-based Space Application Centre (SAC) is flight testing the “mini version“ of the radar satellite over the city skies. The “mini radar“ developed by SAC has been fixed on a Beechcraft Super King B 200 -owned by Isro -for the flight-testing primarily to `understand weather and geo graphical conditions'. SAC director Tapan Misra said, “We are testing the radar by taking images from about 8km above the sea level. The same area will be further studied by scientists from the ground level to understand the radar's accuracy level.“

He added, “For ground level data analysis, we are roping in NGOs, academic institutes, government departments and people with scientific exper tise. This process of aerial data analysis will continue in Gujarat for three months until the crop season ends.

We plan to conduct the same aerial-cumground exercise for three years in 39 places of the country , including over the Himalayan glaciers, Ganga, Sundarbans, Rann of Kutch, Andhra, Kerala and Karnataka, to study the geological changes in forests, vegetation, rivers and glaciers.“

“The data gathered from the mini radar will be helpful when we will launch the NISAR satellite, most probably in 2021. The work on the main satellite is simultaneously going on,“ the SAC director said.

“The three basic functions of the satellite will be mapping the land mass, Arctic and Antarctica regions; analysis of seismic activities of the earth crust that will help in predicting earthquakes and tsunamis and analysis of drastic movement in glaciers and the rate at which these glaciers melt. The satellite, once put into its sun-synchronous dawn to dusk orbit, will map the entire world in 12 days,“ he added.

Aerosol over Asia

Chethan Kumar, Isro-Nasa joint team confirms presence of aerosol over Asia, Sep 20, 2017: The Times of India


Satellite images had earlier showed the presence of an aerosol layer over the Asia region.

A joint study by Isro and Nasa has confirmed this.

The study also found the presence of nitrate.

BENGALURU: A joint study by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) of the US, which had commenced after satellite images showed the presence of an aerosol layer over the Asia region, has confirmed the same and has also found the presence of nitrate, which is a new finding. Aerosol, the sub-micron size particles suspended in air are produced from a variety of man-made and natural processes such as vehicle exhaust, waste-burning, wind blown dust, volcanic eruptions et al, are mostly restricted to the first few kilometers from the surface of Earth's atmosphere—Upper Troposphere and Lower Stratosphere (UTLS).

According to Isro, measurements by the joint team has "confirmed the presence of aerosol layer seen in satellite measurements over the Asian region and it also shows a sharp increase of aerosol concentration near 16.5-18.5 km (from Earth's surface)."

This layer, Isro says, has distinct size distribution as opposed to that from background mineral aerosol dust that is naturally present in the atmosphere. "This layer contains particles of size less than 0.25 micron and are 90 per cent volatile. It appears the aerosol is formed from precursor pollutant gases which are transported via convection from the ground," Isro has said.

Preliminary chemical analysis of samples collected in this campaign indicates dominant presence of nitrate, which is a new finding and the converging air masses over northern part of India during Asian Monsoon which is generally active during July and August is found to be the main forcing for vertical transport of the aerosols and trace gases to the UTLS region along with long-range transport from northern parts of India.

However, detailed analysis yet to be carried out with all the data collected during the campaign. Aerosols, Radiation and Trace Gases Group (ARTG) of National Atmospheric Research Laboratory, Isro, and a team from Nasa have been studying air quality around India as part of this campaign.

According to the joint team, one additional campaign during winter months for obtaining the background conditions is planned. Presence of different pollutants which results from interplay of different circulation patterns and pollutant source regions also necessitates multiple campaigns spread over a few years (until 2020) to comprehensively characterise the aerosol layer in the UTLS region and study its impact on radiation budget and ozone chemistry.

Additionally, this campaign seeks to use balloon-borne measurements of aerosol, water vapor, and ozone to validate measurements from Nasa's Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) satellite and Nasa's Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) III instrument along with Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) on the International Space Station.

Sell your technology to us, Nasa said: Isro chief S Somanath

Surendra Singh, Oct 16, 2023: The Times of India

NEW DELHI: During the run-up to the launch of the Chandrayaan-3 mission, a delegation of Nasa scientists, on a visit to the Isro headquarters, was "astonished" to see the sophisticated technologies Indian space scientists has developed "at such low cost" to go to the Moon's south pole and wanted India to sell them to the US, Isro chairman S Somanath said.

Addressing students at an event organised by the Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Foundation in Rameswaram to commemorate the 92nd birth anniversary of the late former President, he said, "About 5-6 people from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory came (to the Isro headquarters) and we explained to them about Chandrayaan-3 technology. That was before the soft landing took place (on August 23)... they just said, 'We have no comments. Everything is going to be good'. They also said, 'Look at the scientific instruments, they are so beautiful and very cheap. Very easy to build and they are high-technology. How did you build it? Why don't you sell this to America?'

Talking to students, Somanath said, "Times have changed. We are capable of building the best of equipment, best of devices and best of rockets. That is why our PM Narendra Modi has opened the space sector. Our knowledge and intelligence level in the country is one of the best in the world. India will be a very powerful nation one day. We will be powerful in technology."

Reiterating the moments on the day India landed on the lunar south pole, Somanath said, "PM Modi called me and thanked me when I told him that 'India is on Moon, Sir'. He then asked me, 'When are you next sending an Indian to the Moon?'"

"At the launch of Chandrayaan-10, one of you (referring to students in the audience) will design a rocket that will go to the Moon and one of you will be sitting inside that rocket and, most probably, it will be a girl child. A girl astronaut will go from India and land on the Moon... You don't have to wait till 2047. It will be much before that," he said.

Referring to his recent participation in a space conference, Somanath said everybody from Nasa and space agencies of Europe and China was congratulating him for the success of the Chandrayaan-3 mission. "Why are they doing it? Because they realise that India is going to be a powerful nation."

Recalling Kalam's stint in Isro, Somanath said, "I joined Isro in 1985 and I was fortunate to work with him, but for a short duration as he was leaving Isro to work for DRDO."

After the failure of the GSLV launch, Somanath said "I was asked to explain the reason for the failure to Kalam, who was then the President of India. Being a rocket engineer himself, he asked me a lot of questions. But later he said, "keep trying and you will succeed'. And we did."

Costs kept low

Chandrayaan-2 mission cheaper than Interstellar / 2018

Surendra Singh, Chandrayaan-2 mission cheaper than Hollywood film Interstellar, February 20, 2018: The Times of India

We’ll Try For Dawn-To-Dusk Landing & Rover Walk On Moon: Isro chief

India’s upcoming Rs 800-crore Chandrayaan-2 mission will be cheaper than Hollywood’s 2014 sci-fi movie ‘Interstellar’ that cost Rs 1,062 crore ($165 million). In fact, Isro’s earlier Mars mission (Rs 470 crore) launched in 2013 was also cheaper than another Hollywood space movie ‘Gravity’ (whose budget was Rs 644 crore or $100 million) made in the same year. So, what makes Indian Space Research Organisation’s space and interplanetary missions cost-effective?

In an exclusive interview with TOI, Isro chairman Dr K Sivan explained the frugal nature of their space and interplanetary missions. He said, “Simplifying the system, miniaturising the complex big system, strict quality control and maximising output from a product make our space missions frugal and cost-effective. We keep strict vigil on each and every stage of development of a spacecraft or a rocket and, therefore, we are able to avoid wastage of products, which helps us minimise the mission cost.”

Isro will try to launch the Chandrayaan-2 mission, involving a soft-landing on the moon’s surface and rover walk, sometime in April. However, there are various factors like moon’s relative position with respect to the Earth that will decide the launch date. Dr Sivan said, “We are trying for a dawn-to-dusk landing and rover walk on the lunar’s mission for maximum utilisation of the scientific mission. If we are not able to land in April due to various factors, then the mission will be launched in November. If we launch between April and November, we won’t get the perfect dawn-to-dusk landing and experiment time due to moon eclipses, therefore, we will avoid the launch in between. The perfect timing for the launch comes only once in a month.”

Unlike NASA’s Apollo and Russia’s Luna missions where the rover landed on the equatorial region of the moon, Isro is planning to land the rover near the south pole. The Isro chairman said, “We have chosen the landing site near the south pole as it has big rocks that are billions of years old. Analysing these rocks and the surface will help us explore the moon better and enrich our understanding of the universe.”

He said simulations tests on different Chandrayaan-2 components had been going on at Isro centres in Bengaluru, Mahendragiri and Chitradurga, Karnataka. Isro, in fact, created some artificial ‘lunar craters’ as part of ‘hazard avoidance and landing’ tests.

The shoe string budget of 2023’s Chandrayaan 3

Chethan Kumar, August 25, 2023: The Times of India

Bengaluru : Every time an Isro rocket takes off or a mission like Chandrayaan-3 is completed, project comparisons — even with movies — become commonplace.

While the exact cost of a space mission is hard to determine given that most countries subsidise space activities, Chandrayaan-3 is estimated to have cost Rs 600 crore. For a comparison, Russia’s Luna-25, which crashed, cost Rs 1,600 crore, though Chandrayaan-3 took 40 days to reach Moon, while Luna was to land on the 11th day.

How does India do it? “That’s a secret,” said Isro chairman S Somanath in half jest after Vikram’s touchdown on Wednesday. TOIspoke to a host of Isro scientists to find answers. While all of them said it was improper to compare one science mission with another, they all agreed that three factors make Isro’s missions cost-effective: Indigenisation, ingenuity and affordable manpower.

Comparing Chandrayaan-3 with Luna-25, the biggest savings India made was on the rocket. Russia used an additional booster to give Luna-25 an extra push, allowing it to be propelled straight into the trans-lunar insertion (TLI) phase, while India had to do several Earthbound manoeuvres before TLI. The cost-saving here, Isro scientists say, was on propulsion. “The bigger the rocket, the more you spend,” a former director said.

Former Isro chairman K Radhakrishnan said Isro has a“modular philosophy” to build one upon another: “We use systems and structures with legacy to build the next rockets and satellites. There are a lot of common systems in GSLV that came from PSLV; we use common satellite bus structures while building spacecraft,” he said. A former director said this ensures reduction of development cost for launch vehicles and satellites.

Isro has a good indigenisation record. “A lot of indigenisation has taken place in rocket building. It’s about 90% for a PSLV,” Somanath had said earlier. Isro’s import is mostly electronics. A former associate director explained: “The model Nasa followed right from the beginning is to give specifications, let big industries build rock- ets and satellites and then purchase them. This involves high cost. In India, Isro makes most things in-house and industry is used as vendors. Here, the cost is low.”

Isro former chairman K Sivan said the biggest advantage India has over the US, Russia and Europe is the manpower cost. A former Isro director added: “It’s almost one-tenth of the cost in a developed country, though our scientists and engineers are as good as any other.”

Sivan said the way Isro tests also helps save on cost. “We are very optimal when it comes to tests,” said the former chairman. The former director elaborated: “Our testing is done with a lot of risk analysis and simulation. Europeans conduct around eight tests to qualify a motor or engine, we are able to qualify with two tests, at best three, which saves a lot of money in terms of hardware costs.”

Debut rocket launches

GSLV-Mk III breaks the jinx/ 2017

Surendra Singh, GSLV-Mk III breaks Isro jinx of failed debut rocket launches, June 6, 2017: The Times of India

When the first developmental flight of GSLVMk III pierced through the sky after its launch from the Sriharikota at 5.28pm on Monday , it finally broke Isro's jinx of failing to achieve success in maiden rocket launches.

Isro's 640-tonne `Fat Boy' ended the phase of uncertainties when it placed the advanced communication satellite Gsat-19 into a geosynchronous transfer orbit around 16 minutes after the launch and helped the space agency achieve a new milestone of launching a fourtonne satellite into the geostationary orbit. With this, India has entered the global market of heavy payload launches.

Congratulating Isro scientists for the successful launch, PM Narendra Modi said, “GSLV-MKIII D1Gsat-19 mission takes India closer to the next generation launch vehicle and satellite capability . The nation is proud.“ A jubilant Isro chiefA S Kiran Kumar called it a “historic day“. The PM called Kumar and congratulated each member of the Isro team.

Though the US sanctions on India in 1992 prevented the country from getting cryogenic engine technology from Russia, it failed to halt Isro's relentless effort to develop rocket and cryogenic engine technologies.

Starting from the first ex perimental launch of Satellite Launch Vehicle-3 (SLV-3) on August 10, 1979, thereafter the first developmental launch of Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) on March 24, 1987, and later the developmental launch of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) on September 20, 1993, Isro failed in all these debut rocket launches.

Overcoming initial hurdles, the PSLV rocket has emerged as the most reliable workhorse launch vehicle with 38 consecutive successful missions since October 1994. The GSLV programme, too, faced many challenges. Despite initial bumps, GSLV Mk II was developed and the rocket had four consecutive successful launches since January 2014.

Energy efficient technologies

2022/ Hybrid Propulsion System

Sep 21, 2022: The Hindu

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said on September 21, 2022, that it has successfully demonstrated a hybrid propulsion system that uses a solid fuel and liquid oxidiser.

The hybrid motor was tested at the ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC), Mahendragiri, on Tuesday evening. The hybrid system is more efficient, greener and safer to handle and paves the way for new propulsion technologies for future missions, the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) which tested it with support from the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), said.

In the ground-based test, the flight equivalent 30 kN hybrid motor used Hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB)-based aluminised solid fuel and liquid oxygen (LOX) as the oxidiser. The test was performed for 15 seconds on a 300-mm sounding rocket motor.

Conventional HTPB-based solid propellant motors used in rockets use ammonium perchlorate as oxidiser. In rocket engines, oxidisers supply the oxygen needed for combustion.

While both HTPB and LOX are green, the cryogenic LOX is safer to handle. And unlike conventional solid motors, the hybrid technology permits restarting and throttling capabilities on the motor. The use of liquids facilitates throttling and control over the flow rate of LOX, the VSSC said.

The technology demonstration paves the way for hybrid propulsion-based sounding rockets and an exciting platform for vertical landing experiments for spent-stage recovery, the VSSC said.

As part of perfecting the technology, ISRO will try it out on a sounding rocket launch in future.


2018/ Vikas engine

Upgraded Vikas engine will soon boost ISRO’s rockets, July 16, 2018: The Hindu

The Vikas engine:
Specific impulse;
Liquid-fuel engine;
From: Upgraded Vikas engine will soon boost ISRO’s rockets, July 16, 2018: The Hindu

All three satellite launch vehicles of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) are set to add muscle to their spacecraft lifting power in missions 2018 onwards. The space agency has improved the thrust of the Vikas engine that powers all of them. The agency said the high-thrust engine qualified on Sunday after a ground test lasting 195 seconds (over three minutes).

Main beneficiary

The main beneficiary of the high-thrust Vikas engine is said to be the heavy-lifting GSLV-Mark III launcher, which ISRO expects will now put 4,000-kg satellites to space. This would be the third Mk-III and the first working one to be designated MkIII Mission-1 or M1.

The first MkIII of June 2017 started with a 3,200-kg satellite and the second one is being readied for lifting a 3,500-kg spacecraft.

Upgraded Vikas engine will soon boost ISRO’s rockets

The Vikas engine “will improve the payload capability of PSLV, GSLV and GSLVMk-III launch vehicles,” ISRO said. The improvement effort, the second such since December 2001, was conducted at ISRO Propulsion Complex in Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu.

S. Somanath, Director, Launch Vehicles Centre, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, said the incremental benefit of the upgraded engine should be seen in the PSLV and GSLV missions over the coming months. MkIII-D2, the second test flight of the heavy-lifter, is being assembled. The new engine will be used in the subsequent mission — M1.

The Vikas engine is used in the second stage of the light lifting PSLV; the second stage and the four add-on stages of the medium-lift GSLV; and the twin-engine core liquid stage of Mk-III.

Mr. Somanath said that, eventually, ISRO will phase out Vikas by replacing it first in Mk-III with a cleaner and safer semi-cryogenic engine. The semi-cryo engine is ready for trial; its stage has just been approved. “I cannot predict when it [the replacement] can happen,” he said.

Foreign exchange earnings


Satellites launched by ISRO for respective countries, January 2013-December 2015;
An increase in revencue, 2013-15, year-wise;
Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, May 17, 2016

See graphic

Satellites launched by ISRO for respective countries, January 2013-December 2015;
An increase in revencue, 2013-15, year-wise

Re-entry of decommissioned satellites

2023: Megha-Tropiques

Chethan Kumar, March 7, 2023: The Times of India

BENGALURU: Isro successfully completed the controlled re-entry for the decommissioned Megha-Tropiques-1 (MT-1) satellite.

“The final two de-boost burns were executed at 4.32pm and 6.22pm, respectively by firing four 11 Newton thrusters on-board the satellite for about 20 minutes each. The final perigee was estimated to be less than 80km indicating that the satellite would enter the denser layers of the Earth’s atmosphere and subsequently undergo structural disintegration. The re-entry aero-thermal flux analysis confirmed that there would be no surviving large debris fragments,” Isro said.

The TOI had reported on March 5 that Isro would be attempting this challenging experiment: Megha-Tropiques Re-entry.

Isro progressively lowered the satellite’s perigee (nearest point to Earth) through a series of 20 manoeuvres, spending about 120kg fuel since August 2022. Multiple manoeuvres including the final de-boost strategy were designed after taking into consideration several constraints, including visibility of the re-entry trace over ground stations, ground impact within the targeted zone, and allowable operating conditions of subsystems, especially the maximum deliverable thrust and the maximum firing duration constraint on thrusters.

“All manoeuvre plans were screened to ensure that there would be no post manoeuvre close approaches with other space objects, especially with the crewed space stations like International Space Stations and the Chinese Space Station,” Isro said.

The latest telemetry has confirmed that the satellite re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and would have disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean, the final impact region estimated is in deep Pacific Ocean within the expected latitude & longitude boundaries.

The entire sequence of events was carried out from the Mission Operations Complex in ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (Istrac) in Bengaluru.

In recent years, Isro has taken up proactive measures to improve the compliance level with the internationally accepted guidelines on space debris mitigation. Efforts are underway to build indigenous capabilities for tracking and monitoring of space objects to safeguard Indian space assets, Isro said.

“The Isro System for Safe and Sustainable Space Operations Management (IS4OM) has been established to spearhead such activities. The controlled re-entry exercise bears yet another testimony to India’s continued efforts towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of outer space activities,” it added.

The MT-1 was launched on October 12, 2011, as a collaborative effort between Isro and French space agency CNES for carrying out tropical weather and climate studies.

GPS system, Indigenous

How US govt made India create its own GPS

April 30, 2018: The Times of India

The coverage of the Global Positioning Systems of the USA, Russia, the EU, China and India, April 2018
From: April 30, 2018: The Times of India

A seventh satellite’s launch earlier this month completed India’s own GPS system. Here’s what started off India on its quest for a navigation system

What is satellite navigation system?

Satnav or satellite navigation provides geospatial positioning to small electronic devices that can determine location to high precision. The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a spacebased radio navigation system first developed by the US Department of Defence for military use but now available for civilian use worldwide. A GPS receiver is provided location and time. The Russian GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System) is also available for global use. EU is launching its version (Galileo), Chinese are expanding theirs and India’s is now in place.

How does it work?

The original GPS design had 27 satellites: 24 operational, 3 as backup. Each satellite daily made two rotations of the Earth. They were so arranged that from any place on Earth, at least four were visible — three for variables of latitude, longitude and altitude. Since the satellites move at high speed and the minutest time lag between signals received from two satellites can cause large positional error, a fourth variable was introduced — the time of sending the signal. The receiver has to solve four equations to derive four variables. Thus the need for a minimum of four satellites.

What are the components of these positioning systems?

The US GPS is based on a constellation of 24 medium earth orbit satellites that transmit microwave signals to the GPS receiver that calculates latitude, longitude, altitude and time for the specific user. The Russian system has 29 satellites. EU’s and the Chinese system will be based on 30 and 35 satellites, respectively. The Indian system, NavIC, is a constellation of seven satellites that can be used for geo-spatial positioning by those in countries within 1,500km radius of India.

How big is the market for geosatellite positioning devices?

The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency estimates that in 2017 there were 5.8bn GNSS devices in use globally. The revenue data for 2015 shows that it was about a 100bn euro industry.

What is GPS’s basic principle?

These systems work on triangulation to find a location. Say you don’t exactly know where you are. You’re told you are 115 km from Chittorgarh — that means you are somewhere on a circle around Chittorgarh with a radius of 115 km. Another person tells you you’re 185 km from Mount Abu. Now you have two circles; these have two intersection points that could be near Udaipur or Rajsamand. Now, a third person adds you are 262 km from Ahmedabad. Mathematically, three circles can intersect at only one point and hence you can deduce that you are in Udaipur. GPS uses a similar principle to locate positions.

Why did India want its own system ?

India took a firm decision on developing its own system in 1999 after the US government refused to share GPS data that would provide vital information on Pakistani troop positions during the Kargil war. Twenty years on, the system is in place. NavIC provides position, navigation, timing information for civilian and strategic use in terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation and for vehicle tracking and fleet management as well.

2016: India joins the league

The Times of India, Apr 29 2016

India and Global Positioning System, in brief; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, Apr 29 2016
Missions proving indigenous excellence of ISRO; The Times of India, May 6, 2017

U Tejonmayam

India in elite club with own satnav

India joined an elite group of countries, including the US and Russia, with its own satellite navigation system, with Indian Space Research Organsation's (Isro) successful launch of PSLV-C33 delivering its payload, IRNSS-1G, the seventh and last in a constellation of satellites that make the indigenous GPS system.

An XL version of a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C33) placed the satellite in orbit around 20.19 minutes after lift off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at 12.50pm. Congratulating scientists on the successful launch, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the new technology will not only help India but can also help the Saarc nations.

“The new technology will benefit our people, our fishermen,“ he said. “The world will know it as Navic.“

he said. Modi gave the expanded form of `NAVIC' as Navigation with Indian Constellation. The European Union and China, along with US and Russia, have indigenous satellite navigation systems.

IRNSS mission director B Jayakumar said the complete network of seven satellites will be fully functional within two months.

“The first six satellites in the orbit have already started functioning from their designated orbits,“ he said.

When the entire network becomes fully operational, it can provide navigation and positioning services to users via their smartphones and devices in vehicles with an expected positional accuracy of 20metres. It can also provide the service in areas that require high precision for marine navigation, rail transport, aviation and military applications with an ac curacy of 10m. But for the positioning service to reach the common man on a handheld device may take some time as it will require Isro's installation of additional hardware.

An Isro official said the space agency had developed a coded chipset that can be incorporated with an existing receiver of a smartphone or any positioning device on vehicles, ships or planes to communicate with the satellite and get position information.“But entrepreneurs have to step up and make these chipsets on a large scale,“ he said.

Isro has also been conducting meetings with navigation device manufacturers and mobile phone manufacturers to demonstrate how IRNSS could provide accurate information on par with US's GPS, which is the most widely used system in the world.

Compared to the US GPS, which has a precision of 5m and global coverage, IRNSS covers a 1,500-km radius with India at the centre. However, it will reduce India's dependence on the US and Russia's GLONASS particularly during emergencies including military situations.

The IRNSS project was envisioned after the US denied GPS information during the Kargil war. Further, scientists say that while GPS is not available at all places, the indigenous system will provide signal even in remote areas with better accuracy.

Manned mission

Crew module test

The Times of India, Nov 30 2014

Binoy Valsan

Scientists at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota were busy integrating a brown bucket-like structure with a black lid mounted on a pedestal.Some day soon, they believe, an improved version of this would carry people to space. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) took baby steps towards sending man to space, with an experimental flight of a GSLV-Mark III all set to carry this `crew module' as the payload in the sec ond week of December. While the manned mission is at least 10 years away , a full-fledged flight of GSLV-MIII is also a couple of years away . The biggest rocket to be made by ISRO, it can carry payloads up to four tonne-a necessity in the coming days of heavy satellites. Scientists are testing indigenously developed cryogenic engine at Isro's Mahendragiri facility.

The unmanned module to be used in Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) is to test its ability to re-enter the atmosphere with thermal resistance, parachute deployment in cluster formation, aero braking system and apex cover separation procedures.

IMO recognition

Surendra Singh December 10, 2020: The Times of India

In a big boost to the Indian Space Research Organisation, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has recognised the agencydeveloped Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC) or desi GPS as a component of the World-Wide Radio Navigation System, making India the fourth country in the world to have its independent regional navigation satellite system get this recognition. The other three countries that have its navigation systems recognised by the IMO are the US, Russia and China.

The development will enable the utilisation of NavIC in the fields of maritime navigation, surveying and geodesy (science of accurately measuring Earth’s geometric shape, its orientation in space and its gravity field).

The recognition was awarded at the 102nd meeting of maritime safety committee of the IMO held last month, Isro said. NavIC or IRNSS has been represented at the IMO by the directorate general of shipping, ministry of ports, shipping and waterways with technical support from the space agency.

NaVIC can provide two types of services — standard positioning service, which is meant for all navigation users and restricted service, which is an encrypted service provided only to authorised users like security agencies. It is designed to provide accurate position information to users in India as well as the region extending up to 1,500 km from its international boundary. The desi GPS can provide a position accuracy of better than 20 metre in the primary service area.

GSAT series

Gsat-6A came into limelight in Antrix-Devas case in 2011

Surendra Singh, Gsat-6A came into limelight in Antrix-Devas case in 2011, April 2, 2018: The Times of India

Isro’s satellite Gsat-6A, whose communication link with the ground station got snapped, came to limelight first when the Antrix-Devas deal came under the scanner in 2011.

Gsat-6A was in news when Antrix, Isro’s commercial arm, struck a deal with Bengaluru-based Devas Multimedia Private Ltd in 2005 to provide 70 MHz of scarce S-Band wavelength for the latter’s digital multimedia services. This was to be done by leasing 90% of the transponders in Gsat-6A and its predecessor Gsat-6. Devas, in turn, was to pay Antrix $300 million (around 1,900 crore) over 12 years.

G Madhavan Nair was the then Isro chairman. However, when financial irregularities in the deal came to the fore in 2011, the UPA government cancelled the agreement. Nair and other Isro officials were charged by the CBI for causing a loss of Rs 578 crore to the exchequer.

India and Isro received another setback when Devas took Antrix and the government to the international court for cancelling its contract and claimed $1.6 billion in damages. Later, the CBI booked Devas and its directors.

2018: GSAT-6A launched

U Tejonmayam, Isro launches GSAT-6A, reaches out for the Moon, March 30, 2018: The Times of India

When GSLV Mk-II ejected the satellite GSAT-6A into the orbit on Thursday, for many it was a boost for communications in the country, for some it was a step forward for military strength but for Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) it was a dress rehearsal for its second mission to the Moon.

The space agency tested certain improved critical systems in the launch vehicle that may eventually be used in its future missions. It was also to attract foreign satellites that could use the rocket for launches. “The launch vehicle demonstrated the capability of GSLV as an operational launcher. It has evolved as a workhorse,” said P Kunhikrishnan, director at Satish Dhawan Space Centre. At 4.56pm, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle took off for its twelfth flight with an indigenous cryogenic upper stage from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.

Around 17 minutes after lifting off, the three-stage rocket injected the satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit, and Isro scientists at the mission control centre broke into a celebration. In the coming days, the scientists will fire the thrusters on board the satellite to manoeuvre it to a geostationary orbit at an altitude of 36,000km from earth.

“This GSLV is not like any other vehicle. The importance of this mission is that we have enhanced the performance of the vehicle with an improved Vikas engine that has increased thrust by 6%, thereby enhancing payload capability by 50%,” said Isro chairman K Sivan.

GSAT-7A/ 2018

Some brief facts about how GSAT-7A will make Indian Air Force more formidable, 2018
From: December 19, 2018: The Times of India

See graphic:

Some brief facts about how GSAT-7A will make Indian Air Force more formidable, 2018


2016: 1st indigenous cryogenic engine

The Times of India, Sep 09 2016

U Tejonmayam

India launches 1st operational GSLV using indigenous cryogenic engine 

After more than two decades of toiling over the Indian cryogenic engine programme, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) successfully registered the first operational flight of a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle using an indigenous cryogenic engine.

GSLV-F05, powered by the CE-7 engine, lifted off from Sriharikota at 4.50pm -40 minutes behind schedule because of a gas leak in the ground circuit. About 17 minutes later, the rocket put in orbit INSAT-3DR, India's third exclusive meteorological satellite.Isro scientists at the earth station will fire the thrusters of the 2,211kg satellite to move it from a geosychronous transfer orbit to its final geostationary orbit in the next two days.

Isro chief A S Kiran Kumar said the launch has given confidence to take up two GSLV launches every year.“This has demonstrated our cryogenic capabilities. The next launch is planned in March 2017,“ he said. GSLV enables India to put in orbit satellites heavier than 2 tonnes, and bring in revenue through commercial launches.

It was the GSLV's 10th flight, and the fourth using the indigenous engine (the first three were developmental flights). Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre director S Somanath said, “Cryogenics does not scare us anymore. We are building a bigger engine called C35.“ With this, Isro is targeting a quantum leap in commercial launches. And the logical progression would be to GSLV-MIII which can carry payloads weighing up to 4,000kg to a geosynchronous transfer orbit.


U Tejonmayam, `Baahubali' rocket boosts desi space heft, June 6, 2017: The Times of India

Lays Foundation For Several Future Projects

The country took another step to establish itself in the global heavy-payload market, successfully launching its most powerful rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III).

After the rocket, nicknamed `Fat Boy', fired by a highthrust indigenous cryogenic engine, lifted off at 5.28pm from the second launchpad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, a four-tonne communication satellite Gsat-19, India's heaviest, was placed in a geosynchronous transfer orbit 15.53 minutes later, a few seconds earlier than scheduled. Isro has now demonstrated its mastery in developing a cryogenic engine, a technology denied to it years ago. The launch also proves the homegrown launch vehicle's capability of hurling up to four payloads into higher orbits.

Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar said, “The GSLV-MkIII needs just one more developmental flight, planned in a year, before it can be declared operational.“ The boosters of Gsat-19 would be fired at 9.30am on Tuesday to make a series of manoeuvres in the next two days so that it would be placed in its orbital slot in two weeks, he said.

The launch demonstrated an indigenous cryogenic engine which was in the works since 2002, a strong foundation for ambitious future projects, including Chandrayaan II scheduled for the first quarter of 2018 and a manned mission. It also showed the capability to make a next-generation satellite with a high reach. The satellite contains 50 new technologies which will be its mainstay in the next decade.

The mood was upbeat at the mission control where scientists burst into applause when the cryogenic stage started to burn. On its maiden flight, the CE-20 engine was operational for 640 seconds.Congratulating the scientists and others involved in the mission, Kumar said, “The team has worked since 2002,“ he added.

Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre director Dr K Sivan said it was the commencement of complex technologies -a vehicle that can carry twice the payload weight and a high throughput satellite. “Proud to say Isro has given birth to a Baahubali,“ said Tapan Misra, director of Isro's space applications centre. Satish Dhawan Space Centre director P Kunhikrishnan said Isro had made two new technologies for GSLV-Mk III at the launchpad. “We made an acoustic suppression unit -a tower with 600 tonnes of water -and a solid propellant plant to prepare the 200 tonnes each of propellant loaded in each motor. The suppression unit splashed the water on the rocket when it lifted off.“

10 facts

The Times of India, June 5, 2017

GSLV Mk III rocket: All you need to know about this game-changer in communications


Isro is undertaking a mega experiment at India's rocket port at Sriharikota today: a spanking new monster rocket named GSLV Mk III D1 is all set to launch an altogether new class of communications satellite. Here's all you need to know about the mission that's been dubbed India's "rocket of the future".

1. The GSLV Mk III D1 rocket successfully launched at 5.28 pm on Monday from the second launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.

2. The GSLV Mk III D1 is a three-stage vehicle with indigenous cryogenic upper stage engine+ designed to carry heavier communication satellites into the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).

3. Apart from the cryogenic engine, designated C25, carrying about 28 tonnes of propellants, it has two solid strap-on motors (S200) and a core liquid booster (L110).

4. The mission is significant as the GSLV Mk III+ , that weighs equivalent to the weight of five fully-loaded Boeing Jumbo Jets or as much as 200 fully grown elephants, is the heaviest rocket to be launched from our own soil. Till now, Isro had to depend on foreign launchers for communication satellites weighing more than 2,300 kg.

5. The GSLV Mk III D1 is capable of lifting payloads of up to 4,000 kg into the GTO and 10,000 kg into the Low Earth Orbit.

6. The mission augmented India's communication resources as a single GSAT-19 satellite will be equivalent to having a constellation of six to seven of the older variety of communication satellites in space.

7. This is India's rocket of the future as it will undoubtedly be human rated to carry Indian astronauts likely to be named 'gaganauts or vyomanauts'. Former Isro chairman K Kasturirangan, the man who conceived the GSLV Mk III, confirms it will be the country's vehicle to ferry Indians into space.

8. The most innovative development on GSAT-19 is that for the first time there will be no transponders on the satellite. Instead for the first time, Isro is using a whole new way beaming data down using multiple frequency beams and hence it is dubbed "a high through put satellite".

9. GSAT-19 is going to be powered for the first time with indigenously-made Lithium-ion batteries. These batteries have been made so that India's self-reliance quotient can increase. In addition, similar batteries can then be used to power electric vehicles like cars and buses.

10. Isro says GSAT-19 also features certain advanced spacecraft technologies including "miniaturised heat pipe, fibre optic gyro, Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) accelerometer". These are all important developments being tested so that they become mainstay systems on future missions.

2018, GSLV MK-III: for moon mission, broadband revolution

Chethan Kumar & U Tejonmayam, November 15, 2018: The Times of India

Isro’s heaviest rocket GSLV MK-III carrying Gsat-29 satellite being launched from Sriharkota
From: Chethan Kumar & U Tejonmayam, November 15, 2018: The Times of India

India came one step closer to completing a satellite-driven digital broadband revolution with the Indian Space Research Organisation successfully launching the second, high throughput communication satellite Gsat-29 on board GSLV MK-III.

The success boosts Isro’s confidence as it readies for its second moon mission and first human mission, which will use tweaked versions of GSLV MK-III. Gsat-29, which will provide high-end communication, also has a high-resolution camera which keeps a watch over India and its surroundings. It also heralds the age of communication between satellites. Along with a previous satellite and two others in the pipeline, Gsat-29 promises to deliver 100mbps data speed across the country.

About 17 minutes after lifting off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, GSLV MKIII-D2, the second demonstration flight of MKIII, placed Gsat-29 in a geostationary transfer orbit.

“India’s youngest launch vehicle has launched the heaviest satellite from Indian soil,” said Isro chairman K Sivan. “I am happy that the insertion was so precise. This mission is very important for both the Gsat and GSLV programmes.”

After three orbit raising manoeuvres, Gsat-29 will be placed in its final geostationary orbit using onboard propulsion system.

Isro achieves twin objectives

Surendra Singh, November 15, 2018: The Times of India

Isro has achieved twin objectives with G-sat29 launch. The satellite will not only provide communication services but will serve as a test bed for new technologies.

Ka and Ku bands will fulfil communication requirements of J&K and NE. Three new technologies — Q/V band, geo highresolution camera and optical communication — will be also tested for use in future missions. While Q/V band is intended to demonstrate high throughput satellite system technologies, the camera will carry out highresolution imaging and optical payload will demonstrate data transmission at a high rate .

Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS)

2016: Indiainches closer to its own GPS

The Times of India, Jan 21 2016

Global Positioning System, Contributions by some major nations, US, Russia, China and India; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, Jan 21 2016

U Tejonmayam

SEVEN-SAT SYSTEM - 5th navigation sat takes India closer to `desi GPS'  Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has started 2016 with a bang, launching the fifth (IRNSS-1E) naviga tion satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) constellation that will function as an alternative to the US-owned Global Positioning System (GPS).

An XL version of a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C31) placed in orbit the satellite 19.36 minutes after liftoff from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

IRNSS will provide navigation and positioning services in areas that require high precision for aviation, marine navigation, rail transport and military applications.In six-months, Isro expects the system to be integrated with smartphones.

Interceptor missile

2017: successful test

Rajat Pandit, India successfully test-fires supersonic interceptor missile, December 29, 2017: The Times of India


The experimental two-tier BMD system is supposed to track and destroy nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere.

This was the third supersonic interceptor test carried out this year.

India took another step forward towards developing its two-tiered ballistic missile defence (BMD) shield, which has been long in the making, by testing a supersonic interceptor missile to destroy an incoming ballistic missile over the Bay of Bengal.

The experimental two-tier BMD system is supposed to track and destroy nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere. The Phase-I of this BMD system, with interceptors flying at 4.5 Mach high-supersonic speeds to intercept enemy missiles, is meant to tackle hostile missiles with a 2,000-km strike range.

The Phase-II, in turn, will be geared for taking on 5,000-km range missiles, virtually in the class of ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles), with interceptors at hypersonic speeds of 6-7 Mach. The indigenous missile shield, once it becomes fully operational, is supposed to protect cities like New Delhi and Mumbai.

In the test, the low-altitude or endo-atmospheric Advanced Area Defence (AAD) interceptor missile hit the "enemy" missile (a modified Prithvi missile) at an altitude of 15-km, in the third such successful test this year after a string of failures.

While the interceptor missile was fired from the Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast, the "enemy" missile was launched from the Launch Complex-III of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) also based in the island. "It was a direct hit," said a DRDO official.

"The weapon system radars tracked the target and provided the initial guidance to the interceptor which could precisely home on to the target and destroy it in the endo-atmospheric layer. The complete event including the engagement and destruction was tracked by a number of electro-optical tracking systems using infrared imagery. Radars and telemetry stations tracked the target and the interceptor till the destruction of the target," he added.

Though the DRDO had earlier promised that the missile shield would be deployed for New Delhi by 2014, it's yet to become fully operational. The DRDO is also working on adding a third layer to the BMD system, which will tackle low-flying cruise missiles, artillery projectiles and rockets with the overall aim to achieve ``near 100% kill or interception probability, as was earlier reported by TOI.

International cooperation

2018- 22

Surendra Singh, Dec 16, 2022: The Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Centre said that Isro, through its commercial arms, has successfully launched 177 foreign satellites belonging to 19 countries in the last five years and forex generated from providing these launch services is approximately $94 million and 46 million Euro.

In a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, space minister Jitendra Singh said that from January 2018 to November 2022, Isro has successfully launched 177 foreign satellites belonging to countries like Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Finland, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, UK and the US, on board PSLV and GSLV-MkIII launchers under commercial agreements.

On space reforms, the minister said far-reaching reforms in the sector were announced in June 2020 with an intent to enhance participation of non-government entities in the sector and bring in a commerce-oriented approach to space activities — all steps towards enhancing the nation’s share in the global space economy.

The result of these reforms was reflected with the heaviest commercial launch by India in the form of LVM3, carrying 36 Oneweb satellites and the recent suborbital launch by an Indian private entity Skyroot Aerospace, which was the first such instance.

Moreover, the creation of IN-SPACe as a single-window agency for the promotion and handholding of NGEs in conducting end-to-end space activities has resulted in a remarkable interest in the startup community, with 111 space startups registered as on date on the IN-SPACe digital platform. Over the last five years, the government has taken several steps to strengthen the space programme and take it to greater heights.

Significant progress has been made in the development and realization of space systems catering to earth observation, satellite communication and space science. Multiple successful flights of operational launch vehicles, along with development, realization and testing of major technology elements of future launch vehicles, was seen during this period.

International collaborations (with other countries)

With French CNES for inter-planetary missions/ 2018

Surendra Singh, India, France join hands for interplanetary ops, April 17, 2018: The Times of India

Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) and French space agency (Centre National D’Etudes Spatiales —CNES) are working together on inter-planetary missions like Mars, Venus and asteroid projects. The collaboration on interplanetary missions is part of the joint vision for space cooperation which India and France agreed upon during signing of an MoU last month.

“Isro and CNES will work together on autonomous navigation of rovers in Moon, Mars and other planets, aerobraking technologies for planetary exploration and modelling of Mars and Venus atmosphere and inflatable systems for Venus exploration,” says the vision document.

Talking to TOI, Isro chairman Dr K Sivan said, “Yes, we have agreed to collaborate with French space agency CNES for inter-planetary missions. The vision document signed in March is an umbrella agreement. Based on our specific requirement for inter-planetary missions, we can have further interaction with CNES for joint collaboration.” However, the chairman clarified that “Chandrayaan-2 mission (scheduled for October launch) is totally a desi mission with no foreign agency involvement”. Amid the space agreement with France, Isro has started shortlisting scientific payloads for the Mars Orbiter Mission-2 (MOM-2) mission. The scientific payloads for the Red planet mission were submitted to Isro in response to its 2016 Announcement of Opportunity (AO) inviting institutes to submit suggestions or studies on planetary explorations for the MOM-2 mission.

Sivan said, “Based on Isro’s Announcement of Opportunity for the MOM-2 mission, we shortlisted some payloads. We will study the payloads and configure a spacecraft for the mission. Currently, there is no plan for collaboration with CNES for the mission. However, we may consider joint cooperation with CNES for the MOM-2 mission.”

In 2013, Isro had launched the first Mars mission, becoming the first Asian country to reach the Red planet orbit. The Indo-French space cooperation is not new but six decades old. France has not only provided India technical aid in developing space technologies, it has been launching India’s heavier satellites.

Interstellar spacecraft (sprites)

2017: Breakthrough Starshot

Surendra Singh|Isro sows seed of interstellar missions|Jul 31 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)

Remember the 2014 Oscar-winning sci-fi movie “Interstellar“, where a group of volunteers travels across the galaxy in search of a new home for humanity? In real life, however, only five Nasa spacecraft have gone beyond the planets of our solar system. Interstellar missions (travelling between stars or planetary systems) remain only in the realms of possibility.

Indian Space Research Organisation became part of a global project that will help bring star travel closer to reality when its PSLV C38 rocket launched six prototypes of tiny interstellar spacecraft, or sprites, into low-earth orbit on June 23 this year.

The good news is that one of these six stamp-sized sprites, which weigh just 4gm and are 3.5cm long, has managed to establish contact with ground stations, becoming the smallest spacecraft ever to do so. It's being seen as a giant step in space technology , with the Isro launch sowing the seed of what could be future interstellar missions. The six interstellar space craft are part of an ambitious, multi-million dollar `Breakthrough Starshot' research project being funded by Rus sian billionaire and tech investor Yuri Milner and supported by cosmologist Stephen Hawking.

Breakthrough Starshot aims to send a fleet of sprites to Alpha Centauri -our closest star system located about 4.37 light years away from the Earth. Each sprite, weighing just 4gm, carries with it sensors, solar panels, radio equipment and computers on a single circuit board. The sensors on each circuit board will enable scientists to track their movement in space.Though India's Cartosat-2 satellite was the main payload of the June 23 launch, the PSLV C38 carried with it 29 nano satellites from 14 countries. The six sprite prototypes piggybacked on Venta and Max Valier educational satellites (two of the 29 satellites). While Venta-1 is a Latvian satellite built in collaboration with Germany , Max Valier is a nano satellite co-developed by teams of Germany and Italy . Another four sprites are still mounted on Max Va lier and await deployment.

Confirming the development, Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar told TOI, “Venta-1 and Max Valier nano satellites (on which six sprites were mounted) were indeed launched by PSLV C38 on June 23.“

Sprites, Breakthrough Starshot and ISRO, July 2017

Though currently only prototypes of interstellar spacecraft have been launched for preliminary tests, Breakthrough Starshot wants to use lasers to launch the sprites deep into space. The sprites, once accelerated by laser, will reach up to 15% to 20% of the speed of light. Even with such great speeds, it will take over 20 years for a sprite to reach Alpha Centauri.

Once there, the sprites will capture images of the star and its planet Proxima b, and send images back to Earth. Scientists expect to launch thousands of sprites to study the Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere, and this could become a reality within the next decade.

Launch services

As in Feb 2018

India holds less than 1% share of the global launch services market, which is estimated to be Rs 40,000 crore. Till date, Isro has launched 209 foreign satellites of 28 countries. On February 15 2017, Isro made history when it launched 104 satellites, including 101 foreign satellites, in one go. (The Times of India, 16 February 2018)

Major ISRO centres

The Times of India

Major ISRO centres

Feb 20 2015 Arun Ram

Geography, history and logistics have necessitated the positioning of 14 of 20 major ISRO centres in the region

In the 1960s, when children of coastal Thiruvananthapuram remained outdoors even after nightfall, mothers employed a scare: “Get in, Maadan would be flying now.“ Maadan, the not-so-friendly local god would fly with a mace at night, spewing fire and threatening to knock down those who disobeyed parents. For those disbelieving kids, the women would point to the night sky and show the occasional ball of fire that disappeared in seconds. Later in high school, science teachers called the mothers' bluff. The fire ball, they told the students, was the flare of sounding rockets fired from the neighbouring Thumba Equitorial Rocket Launching Station. The 30kg-something rockets would go up to an altitude of 60km, and the tiny payloads, before plunging into the Arabian Sea, would do some atmospheric studies.

From flying tiny sounding rockets gifted by the US, the USSR and France in the 1960s to launching satellites weighing up to a couple of tonnes into geosynchronous transfer orbits from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India has come a long way . With that has grown the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) that today has centres across the country . But the southern peninsula remains the hub of India's rocket-making, testing, flying and tracking.

Sample this: Out of the 20 major Isro centres, 14 are situated in the southern states . While a large majority of these centres handle strategic operations, the others are mostly involved in research, education, training and analysis.

So why this geographical dichotomy? The answer lies not in parochialism, but in a combination of science, history and logistics. To know this concentration of Isro branches, we should look at the roots of India's space programme.

When Jawaharlal Nehru, on the advice of Homi J Bhabha, formed the Indian National Committee for Space Research (Incospar) in 1962, its leader Vikram Sarabhai's first assignment was to identify a place from where India could launch borrowed sounding rockets.

To carry out atmospheric stud ies, the best place would be somewhere near the magnetic equator of the Earth which ran close to the southern tip of the country. And this led Sarabhai and Bhabha to Kerala, where they zeroed in on Thumba, then a sleepy fishing village. There was not even a proper building in Thumba, but Sarabhai was in a hurry . In 1963, he moved his small team that included H G S Murthy ,D Eswar Das, M R Kurup and A P J Abdul Kalam to the St Mary Magdalene's Church.

Murthy, who headed the team, had an office in the Bishop's house. The remaining scientists, later joined by S Nambinarayanan, put together four tables in the church building to mount their drawing boards. A cattle shed doubled up as their laboratory , the coconut palmfringed beach their test pad.

After experimenting with foreign sounding rockets, when Incospar became Isro in 1969, it was time for indigenous rocket launches. And it needed a bigger launch pad on the eastern coast, for future satellite launches would need an eastward launch to go against the Earth's spin.Sriharikota, 100km north of Chen nai, on the Andhra Pradesh side was identified. The island had Bay of Bengal on one side and the Pulicat lagoon on the other three. This meant that even if a rocket went out of control, it could be destroyed above the sea, with minimum risk to people.

Soon, a liquid propulsion centre came up in Thiruvananthapuram and, after Sarabhai's untimely death in 1971, all the facilities in the Kerala capital became the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC). When Isro wanted a facility to test its rocket engines made in Thiruvananthapuram, Mahendragiri in neigh bouring Tamil Nadu became a natural choice because of the proximity and the hilly topography.

For administrative purposes, Bangalore had become the Isro headquarters, and being equidistant from VSSC and Sriharikota helped. This also led to many auxiliary offices cropping up around Bangalore, including the Isro Telemetry Tracking and Command Network headquarters and the Isro Satellite Centre.When India needed a deep space tracking centre, Byalalu, a remote place in Karnataka was chosen for its sparse population and the result ant low electromagnetic interference.Hyderabad became the nerve centre of remote sensing, probably for its central location.

Isro centres in the northern states provide basic research and payloads. Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, does high-end studies in astrophysics, while Space Applications Centre in the same city makes satellites and other payloads.Once the satellite is in space, north and south equally count, and hence the regional remote sensing centres and tracking centres across the country . For controlling geostation ary satellites, Isro has a master control facility each in Hassan, in Karnataka, and Bhopal.

Still, as India's rockets continue to be made, tested and fired in the south, there remains an open secret that Isro scientists don't tell you. In 1962, when Vikram Sarabhai's search for the perfect place near the Earth's magnetic equator took him to Thumba, the great man wouldn't have suppressed a smile when he realized it was also the farthest point from Pakistan and China.

Maadan, obviously, posed a much lesser risk.

Manned mission

2018: Isro tests crew module

Surendra Singh, Isro tests crew module for manned mission to space, July 6, 2018: The Times of India

259-Sec Test On ‘Pad Abort’ A Success: Chief

Testing a crucial component of the indigenous human space flight programme for the first time, Isro on Thursday successfully tested a crew module that will carry an Indian astronaut to space in future. The experiment on ‘Pad Abort’ or crew escape system was conducted in Sriharikota.

Explaining the nature of the test, Isro chairman K Sivan told TOI: “The experiment on the ‘Pad Abort’ or crew escape system at 7 am in Sriharikota was a grand success. Instead of a person, a crew model was used. The model was kept in a crew module and this was attached to a rocket engine. When the solid engine motors were fired and launched, the crew module reached an altitude of 2.7km, got separated from the engine, arced out over the Bay of Bengal, parachutes were deployed and the capsule landed safely at a designated spot on the sea (3 km from the launch site).

Sivan said, “The 259-second experiment on the critical technology was meant to check the safety mechanism of the crew module and to see if it can be moved to a safe distance in case any untoward accident happens during the test-flight of the spacecraft.” The Isro chief said, “Our next test will focus on aborting the crew module at flight mode. Like today’s test, many components needed for our first manned mission will be tested in near future.”

On other systems for the manned mission, he said, “A human space programme focuses on taking a human to space and bringing him back to the Earth safely. For that, we will have to provide a life support system to our crew within the spacecraft. Therefore, we will have to make arrangement for continuous oxygen supply, controlled pressure system, food supply, human waste discharge system and crew protection system involving the escape capsule.” Sivan said, “After today’s test, we will prepare a project report and submit it to the government for approval.”

Military purpose satellites

2017/ 6th Cartosat-2 satellite

Sixth Cartosat-2 satellite launch: 10 things to know, Jun 23, 2017: The Times of India


From being able to spot terrorist camps down to even the bunkers in them, India's defence surveillance is set to get a major boost with the launch of yet another satellite in the Cartosat-2 series. Here are 10 things to know about this satellite, meant specifically for the country's defence forces:

The PSLV C-38 with the sixth Cartosat-2 series satellite and 30 nano satellites. The PSLV C-38 with the sixth Cartosat-2 series satellite and 30 nano satellites

1. This sixth Cartosat-2 series satellite+ weighs 712 kg and the 30 nano 'co-passenger' satellites that were launched with it together weigh 243 kg

2. Of the 30 nano satellites that were launched+ , 29 are foreign and one is Indian

3. The 29 international nano satellites launched are part of the commercial arrangements between ISRO's commercial arm, the Antrix Corporation Ltd and 14 international customers. These customers are Austria, Belgium, Britain, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and the US

4. The Indian nano satellite, the 15 kg NIUSAT, belongs to Tamil Nadu's Nooral Islam University. It will provide multi-spectral imagery for agricultural crop monitoring and disaster management support applications

5. This satellite was launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, which was on its 40th flight

6. This latest satellite has a resolution of 0.6 metres, which means it can spot very small objects. "Defence surveillance will get a leg-up. It can be used in identifying terrorist camps and bunkers... some formations," an ISRO official said

7. To get an idea of what ISRO means by "very small", it's worth noting that the previous satellite in the series, which had a resolution of 0.8 metres, took images that helped India carry out its precise strikes on seven terror camps across the Line of Control last year

8. The Cartosat-2 series satellites are extremely "agile", said the ISRO official. That means they can be programmed to take very specific pictures of very specific designated areas

9. Not only will the images it takes be specific, this Cartosat-2 satellite's photos will be high resolution as well. The ISRO official succinctly defined it thus: "High-resolution scene specific spot imagery"

10. With the launch, the total number of spacecraft missions launched by ISRO is now 90

Safeguarding India's space assets in orbit

Surendra Singh, How Isro is safeguarding India's space assets in orbit, June 23, 2017: The Times of India

`Alerts By Int'l Body, Radar Help Sats Avoid Space Debris'

With Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) set to launch another bunch of satellites--Cartosat along with 30 nano satellites--from the Sriharikota launchpad on Friday , the number of spacecraft missions launched by the space agency till now will go up to 90. However, not all these spacecraft are operational now but are still in space.

Though Isro's main objective is to make these satellites functional once placed in orbit, protecting them from space debris is also the top priority of the agency . Space debris is the collection of defunct man-made objects in space ­ old satellites, spent rocket stages and fragments from disintegration and colli sions. These space debris can really be dangerous as they travel at a speed of up to 30,000 km an hour, which turns even tiny pieces of junk into deadly shrapnel that can damage satellites. However, Isro relies on a slew of methods to safeguard its assets in space. The agency is a member of InterAgency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC).The key objective of IADC is to exchange information on space debris among member space agencies. Tapan Misra, director of Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre (SAC), said, “IADC alerts a respective space agency when any satellite of that space agency is in danger due to space debris.“

Isro also banks on its sophisticated Multi-Object Tracking Radar (MOTR), operational since 2015, to track space debris. Tapan Misra said, “The state-of-theart radar, developed at our centre, can track 10 objects simultaneously of size 30cm by 30cm at a distance of 800km.In case of objects of 50cm by 50cm size, the radar can track at a range of 1,000km.“

Isro is also making efforts to reduce space debris by going for mass satellite launches. After the launch of a record 104 satellites in one go on February 15, Isro is gearing up to launch 31satellites from Sriharikota on Friday . The SAC director said, “With use of one rocket for multiple satellites, Isro is actually helping reduce space debris“, as each rocket spent in space adds to space junk.

Dr K Sivan, director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, said, “The fourth stage of rocket once launches a satellite into its orbit becomes useless. This fourth stage, which contains some propellant, could be dangerous as it could explode and add to space debris. But we ensure this stage doesn't explode as we have a mechanism whereby this stage deactivates itself after completing its mission.“

Agni-V can double up as sat launcher

'Agni-V can double up as sat launcher during emergency', June 26, 2017: The Times of India

 With the successful launch of the Cartosat-2E “eye in the sky“ satellite with surveillance capabilities, the total number of satellites being used for military purposes has gone up to 13, an Isro source said. These satellites, which can be used for surveillance and mapping border areas, are primarily used for keeping an eye on enemies both on land and sea.

“Most of these remote-sensing satellites are placed in near-earth orbit. Placing these satellites in a sun-synchronous polar orbit (about 2001,200 km above the Earth's surface) helps in better scanning of the earth. However, some of these satellites have also be en put in the geo orbit,“ the source said. The recently launched 712-kg Cartosat-2 series spacecraft is an advanced remote-sensing satellite capable of providing scene-specific spot imagery . The Cartosat-2 can accurately spot objects within a square of 0.6 metre by 0.6 metres. “The 13 satellites used by the military for surveillance include Cartosat 1 and 2 series and Risat-1 and Risat-2,“ the Isro source said. The Navy also uses Gsat-7 for real-time communication among its warships, submarines, aircraft and land systems.

India also has the capability to launch anti-satellite weapon (ASAT), which is meant to destroy enemy satellites. Only the US, Russia, and China are known to have developed these weapons. However, Isro has no intention of engaging in such an anti-satellite weapon project. Tapan Misra, director of Space Applications Centre, said, “Isro follows international norms, which prohibit member space agencies from militarising outer space.“

Ravi Gupta, defence technology expert and former director (public interface), DRDO, said, “Technolog ical capabilities indigenously evolved in the process of development of Agni-V ballistic missile can be readily employed for `satellite launch on demand' if needed. The 5,000-km-plus missile has demonstrated capabilities of reaching well beyond altitudes characteristic of relevant satellites with payloads.“

He said, “Similarly , these technologies, combined with technolgies developed for ballistic missile defence system can be used for developing an anti-satellite weapon system.“


ISRO’s plans for Jan 2017; The Times of India

Transporting satellites to launch centres

Surendra Singh & Chethan Kumar, Before the journey to the stars, a slow trip on Indian roads , May 16, 2017: The Times of India

In 1981, when India's space scientists grappled with the challenge of finding a metal-free transportable platform for a new satellite, they trusted a creaking old bullock cart. That bullock cart has long since been replaced by a state-of-the-art satellite transportation system (STS). But this high-tech carrier still relies on two humans to ferry the super-valuable cargo.

Jagadish S and M Suresh are no ordinary drivers. The duo, both in their 40s, are trained to carry Isro's sophisticated satellites or spacecraft to Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) or Sriharikota rocket launch centre in Andhra Pradesh from the Bengaluru satellite centre. The distance from Bengaluru to Andhra is 380km, which normally takes just about seven hours. But for an Isro convoy, it takes over a day to complete the road mission.


Before the journey of Isro's trusted trailer (KA 03 6806) starts, the entire route is mapped. For example, for transporting the 1,350-kg Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft on October 2, 2013, Jagadish and Suresh first went on a road recce. They noted down everything meticulously -from the number of speed-breakers to dangling wires and potholes. If a road on the route did not meet standards, authorities were intimated and repair work done on priority .


To ensure that no harm came to the spacecraft's complex wiring and electronic system, all electricity wires on the route were marked and electricity boards told to cut off power supply when the convoy passed through.


Even small vibrations could cause problems, so the speed limit of the trailer was maintained at 25 kmph. Slow, sure and safe was the mantra. Drivers took turns to drive the vehicle because the low-speed journey was very tiring.


Nothing's left to chance. From mechanics for the vehicle to CISF personnel, intelligence officials, local police, scientists, technicians, everybody's either behind or ahead of the vehicle.


On Nov 21, 1963, rocket parts were carried by scientists on bicycles to a remote church in Kerala's Thumba that was turned into a launchpad from where India's first sounding rocket was successfully launched

Feb 2017: Isro launches 104 satellites at one go

U Tejonmayam & Srinivas Laxman, 96 American Nanosats Piggyback On India's 714kg Cartosat, Feb 16, 2017: The Times of India

The Times of India, Feb 16, 2017

India broke a world record in space with the successful de ployment of 104 satellites in one go. The 104 satellites consisted of three Indian satellites -the 714 kg Cartosat-2 series satellite along with two other Indian satellites -and 101 international co-passengers which were nano and micro satellites.

The mission, which has attracted global interest, lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 9.28am.The rocket was the advanced version of the four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle called the PSLV-C37.

In brief

1. Of the 104 satellites ISRO launched, three are Indian and 101 are foreign and smaller satellites.

2. The space agency used the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) for the launch. It carried a 714 kilogram main satellite for earth observation and 103 smaller "nano satellites" which weighed a combined 664 kilograms.

3. Most of the nano satellites are from other countries, including from Israel, Kazakhstan, The Netherlands, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and the US, said the state-run ISRO. A whopping 96 satellites are from the US alone.

4. ISRO today beat the record+ held by Russia, which in 2014 catapulted 37 satellites in a single launch, using a modified inter-continental ballistic missile.

5. In June 2016, India set a national record after it successfully launched a rocket carrying 20 satellites, including 13 from the US.

6. The famously frugal ISRO hopes to set an enviable benchmark for the space fairing nations. In fact, in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi quipped that an Indian rocket that launched four foreign satellites into orbit cost less to make than the Hollywood film "Gravity".

7. Putting commercial satellites into space for a fee is a growing business sector. That's because phone, Internet and other companies, as well as countries, are seeking greater and more high-tech communications.

8. ISRO sent an unmanned rocket to orbit Mars in 2013 at a cost of just $73 million, compared with NASA's Maven Mars mission which had a $671 million price tag.

9. ISRO is also mulling the idea of missions to Jupiter and Venus. The second mission to Mars is tentatively slated for in 2021-2022 timeframe and as per existing plans it may well involve putting a robot on the surface of the Red Planet.

10. The government is pleased with ISRO's progress and in the recently announced annual budget it gave the space agency a 23 per cent increase in its budget.

For Isro it was a giant leap from 20 to 104. On June 22 2016, it had placed 20 satellites in orbit in a single shot which gave the organisation the confidence to raise the number.In Wednesday's mission the total weight of all the 104 satellites flown was 1,378 kg.

After the launch both the President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the premier space organisation. “This remarkable feat by Isro is yet another proud moment for our space scientific community and the nation.India salutes our scientists,“ said Modi while congratulating Kumar over phone.

Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar and mission director B Jayakumar told the media post the launch that the main challenge was the deployment of the 104 satellites in orbit so that they do not collide.

They said the foreign satellites were placed in quadrapacks, which are like small boxes. Once these quadrapacks were released from the rocket, the satellites were thereafter released in a timesequence manner. “The deployment went off flawlessly and we got a good response from the international customers,“ Kiran Kumar said. He emphasised that mission was not to break any records, but to utilise the extra capacity in the PSLV .

The chairman also said the other challenge was adhering to the timeframe demanded by the customers. He said this was also achieved.Jayakumar had earlier told TOI that the success of the mission would ensure a larger share for India in the global satellite market. “It is a combination of technology and commerce,“ he said. So far, of the 226 satellites launched through PSLV , 180 belonged to other countries.

Around 16 minutes and 48 seconds after the lift-off, the rocket began injecting satellites. In the succeeding 12 minutes all the 104 satellites separated from the PSLV .

Veteran space scientist K Kasturirangan also hailed the record launch, terming it as a remarkable feat and spectacular success demonstrat ing to the world India's capability in the field.

“I admire Isro for having done this and demonstrated to the world that we can launch more than 100 satellites in a single shot“, the for mer chair man of the country's premier space research organisation said.

Solar car

Srinivas Laxman, Isro unveils solar car made of desi resources, May 4, 2017: The Times of India


The car is run using high-energy lithium ion batteries.

The demonstration of the green friendly vehicle, held in the last week of March, included a successful uphill drive.

Isro is now researching ways to cut down the car's cost.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) demonstrated a solar hybrid electric car, designed and developed using in-house resources, at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvanathanapuram. Isro made an announcement about this environment-friendly car.

VSSC is Isro's centre for making various types of rockets like the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and the Reusable Launch Vehicle. The demonstration of the green-friendly vehicle, held in the last week of March, included a successful uphill drive. Isro is now researching ways to cut down the car's cost.

The car is run using high-energy lithium ion batteries, which can be recharged using sunlight, said sources. The main challenges in developing the vehicle included designing a solar panel on top of the car and also control electronics for the battery and solar panel interface and, what is known as, "drive electronic" to run the car smoothly.

NavIC (‘desi GPS’) regional navigation satellite system

2018: IRNSS-1I

Chethan Kumar and Surendra Singh, Constellation of nav sats complete with Isro launch, April 13, 2018: The Times of India

Isro early on Thursday put into space a new satellite IRNSS-1I under its regional navigation satellite system—also called NavIC or desi GPS—adding to the constellation of seven existing satellites.

IRNSS-1I, which was launched by PSLV-C41 rocket from the first launchpad at Sriharikota is the eighth navigation satellite that will replace faulty spacecraft (IRNSS-1A) in orbit, whose three Rubidium atomic clocks had stopped working two years ago. An atomic clock helps measure precise locational data. With the IRNSS-1I launch, Isro completes the constellation of seven functional satellites, which are needed to provide foolproof satellite-based navigation signals.

Isro chairman Dr K Sivan said: “The satellite was precisely injected into the targeted orbit. This is the second successful launch we achieved in just 14 days after the successful GSLV launch (on March 29). The Isro community worked tirelessly to achieve this success.” PM Narendra Modi, too, congratulated scientists for the launch and said it will “benefit the common man of the country”. Serving both military and civilian needs, NavIC satellites will broadcast highly accurate timing signals that a receiver can use to triangulate its location.

Outsourcing contracts

2018: Isro outsources building of 27 satellites

Chethan Kumar, Isro outsources building of 27 sats, July 19, 2018: The Times of India

In the first big contract granted by Isro since its inception, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has allowed three firms — two private and one government-run — to build 27 satellites in the next three years.

In all these years of space faring, only two satellites have been assembled by industry — IRNSS-1H and IRNSS-1I — that too on a select basis late last year and early this year. They were assembled by a Bengaluru-headquartered consortium led by Alpha Design Technologies.

Now, Isro’s contract for satellites will see the Alpha Design consortium, which includes six SMEs — Newtech, Aidin, Aniara, DCX, Vinyas and Exseed Space — and defence PSU Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), as well as Tata Advanced Systems Ltd make three satellites each every year for the next three years. All three firms will assemble satellites with Isro’s guidance and use sub-systems procured from its supply chains.

The contract, signed by the U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) on behalf of Isro, was done behind closed doors. Isro has not made an official statement about it.

“Each firm will make nine 1.6-tonne to 2-3-tonne satellites, based on requirement,” a source in Isro said, citing the ongoing Parliament session as the reason no official statement was issued.

The satellites will be a combination of communications, imaging and meteorological (for disaster management) craft and there is an option to extend the contract for two more years, which could mean 18 more satellites.

SAC director shunted out for opposing privatisation

July 21, 2018: The Times of India

A day after signing contracts with two private companies and a public sector unit for making 27 satellites, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has sacked its Ahmedabad-based Space Application Centre director Tapan Misra. An order issued by Isro chief K Sivan on Thursday said, “He is relieved of all other responsibilities... moved to the Isro headquarters with immediate effect” as ‘senior advisor’ reporting to the chair man. Misra is known for his contribution to the making of several satellites, including Risat 1, which keeps an eye on India and its neighbours even in darkness and on cloudy days. Misra told TOI soon after his farewell that he would continue to serve Isro. “For me, Isro is bigger than anybody. What I am today is because of Isro.”

Sources said Misra had differences with the chairman over the move to privatise Isro’s ventures. He had raised concerns about the delay in the launch of GSAT-11, which was called back from French Guiana in April this year. Isro suffered an earlier setback when it lost communication link with GSAT-6A soon after its launch in March.

An alumnus of Jadavpur University, the 57-year-old, who has braved brain cancer and was in coma for 10 days, is a workaholic. “Four days after I took 36 chemo sessions and was discharged from hospital, I joined duty and worked for 10 hours,” said Misra, under whose leadership SAC developed several surveillance satellites like Risat and Cartosat.


What is the PSLV?

April 23, 2023: The Indian Express

The PSLV is one of ISRO’s most reliable vehicles, having launched hundreds of satellites with only three failures or partial failures since 1993. Over the years, various improvements have been made to it, making it a stand-out satellite carrier.

Launch vehicles are meant only to deposit satellites into space, after which they become useless. They either burn up in space or add to the ever-increasing concern of space debris. The PSLV, however, is now technologically advanced enough to have one component that can stay on in space to carry out the research after it has delivered its satellite. The current mission includes this component, POEM-2, which stands for PSLV Orbital Experimental Module.

Here is what makes the PSLV, ISRO’s workhorse rocket, special.

What was PSLV’s most recent mission?

The rocket launched on Saturday carried TeLEOS-2 as the primary satellite and Lumelite-4 as a co-passenger satellite, ISRO said in a statement. While TeLEOS-2 will “be used to support the satellite imagery requirements of various agencies within the Government of Singapore”, Lumelite-4 “aims to augment Singapore’s e-navigation maritime safety and benefit the global shipping community”, the space agency said.

POEM-2, meanwhile, will “be utilised as an orbital platform to carry out scientific experiments through non-separating payloads. The payloads belong to ISRO/Department of Space, Bellatrix, Dhruva Space, and Indian Institute of Astrophysics,” ISRO said.

First, why do satellites need launch vehicles?

The launch vehicle rockets have powerful propulsion systems that generate the huge amount of energy required to lift heavy objects like satellites into space, overcoming the gravitational pull of the earth. Satellites, or payloads as they are often called, sit inside the rocket and are ejected once they reach near their intended orbit in space. Most satellites have small propulsion systems and carry small amounts of fuel, because they encounter very little drag, or force, in outer space. What they do carry are the instruments needed for the scientific work for which they are being sent into space.

What is PSLV?

PSLV is the most reliable rocket used by ISRO to date. Its first launch was in 1994, and it has been ISRO’s main rocket ever since.

Apart from Indian satellites, it also carries satellites from other nations into space, like in the current mission, where it carried payloads from Singapore. The reason for this is that apart from being reliable, the PSLV is also more affordable than the launch vehicles of many other countries.

According to ISRO’s website, “After its first successful launch in October 1994, PSLV emerged as a reliable and versatile workhorse launch vehicle of India. The vehicle has launched numerous Indian and foreign customer satellites. Besides, the vehicle successfully launched two spacecraft, Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and Mars Orbiter Spacecraft in 2013, that later travelled to Moon and Mars respectively. Chandrayaan-1 and MOM were feathers in the hat of PSLV. PSLV earned its title ‘the workhorse of ISRO’ through consistently delivering various satellites into low earth orbits.”

The various components of PSLV

Rockets have several detachable energy-providing parts. They burn different kinds of fuels to power the rocket. Once their fuel is exhausted, they detach from the rocket and fall off, often burning off in the atmosphere due to air-friction, and getting destroyed. Only a small part of the original rocket goes till the intended destination of the satellite. Once the satellite is finally ejected, this last part of the rocket either becomes part of space debris, or once again burns off after falling into the atmosphere. PSLV has four parts — PS1, a solid rocket motor augmented by 6 solid strap-on boosters; PS2, a storable liquid rocket engine, known as the Vikas engine; PS3, a solid rocket motor that provides the upper stages high thrust after the atmospheric phase of the launch; and PS4, the uppermost stage consisting of two Earth storable liquid engines.

As technology evolves, the effort is to make the various parts of a rocket reusable. PSLV’s PS4 has been able to achieve this.

Enter POEM

As part of POEM, PS4, instead of being discarded, is now utilised as a “stabilised platform” to perform experiments.

POEM has a dedicated Navigation Guidance and Control (NGC) system for attitude stabilisation, which stands for controlling the orientation of any aerospace vehicle within permitted limits. The NGC acts as the platform’s brain to stabilise it with specified accuracy. It derives its power from solar panels mounted around the PS4 tank, and a Li-Ion battery.

Last year, when the PS4 orbited the earth as a stabilised platform for the first time, ISRO chairman Somnath had said the PS4 would “write some poems in orbit”. This time, ISRO tweeted images of the successful launch with the caption, “While the POEM is being written, here are initial images…”

1999-2017: 209 foreign satellites launched

With Many Firsts To Its Credit, Vehicle Being Readied For Solar Mission

Surendra Singh | Isro’s rockstar PSLV launched 209 foreign satellites since ’99: Jul 02 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has turned out to be the most trusted and reliable satellite carrier of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). It has not just launched 209 satellites of 28 countries since May 1999, the vehicle has also placed 48 Indian satellites in their respective orbits till now.

After its first copybook launch in October 1994, PSLV has built a reputation of being a highly versatile spacecraft with 39 consecutive successful missions till June this year. Among all foreign satellites launched by the PSLV till now, the heaviest so far was the 400kg TeLEOS earth observation satellite of Singapore on December 16, 2015.Among the others heavyweights hauled to space by the PSLV are Italy's Agile satellite (352kg), equipped with scientific instruments on April 23, 2007 and Israel's reconnaissance (spy) satellite TecSAR (295 kg) on January 21, 2008.

The vehicle has been a commercial hit earning the space agency global fame for several landmark missions.The vehicle was used for launching the cost-effective Chandrayaan-1 (lunar) mission in 2008 and Mars mission in 2013.

Speaking to TOI on PSLV's track record, Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar said, “We are progressively trying to improve PSLV's features and capabilties with each launch. Today with ability to provide multiple capabilities, it has attracted the attention of many satellite operators and they are looking for an opportunity to make use of PSLV for their launch.“ The chairman said, “PSLV has been very versatile as it has launched satellites in lower orbit, geo-stationary transfer orbit, lunar orbit and also Mars orbit.“ With the successful Mars mission, India became the first Asian country to reach the Red Planet and accomplished the mission in the first attempt itself. Several countries, including China, supposedly more advanced than India, had attempted the Mars mission but failed. In February this year, PSLV achieved another milestone when it (PSLV C37) made history by placing a record 104 satellites in their desired orbits, breaking the previous record held by Russia (37 satellites) and the earlier record of the US (29). Launching dozens of satellites in different orbital slots is an extremely complex manoeuvre. However, PSLV proved its mettle. The vehicle's latest multiple launch was on June 23 this year when PSLV C8 carried with it India's surveillance satellite Cartosat-2E along with 29 nano foreign satellites.

PSLV was originally developed by Isro to launch Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites. However later, it was used for a variety of missions.The vehicle launched different kinds of satellites, including surveillance satellites like Cartosats, the country's first multi-wavelength space observatory Astrosat and navigation satellites (IRNSS).Known for charting an incredible trajectory, PSLV is, therefore, called the workhorse of Isro's space programmes.


The PSLV was first launched on September 20, 1993. The first and second stages performed as expected, but an altitude control problem led to the collision of the second and third stages at separation, and the payload failed to reach the desired orbit. Dr K Sivan, director of Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre told TOI, “The first launch of PSLV in 1993 was unsuccessful.However, data collected from this failed mission was used to take all corrective measures for subsequent missions. After the 1993 setback, PSLV has never seen failure as all subsequent launches till now have been successful. Proving its versatility , PSLV had carried payloads not only to the lowearth orbit (350-400 km altitude) but also to the furthest Mars orbit (Mangalyaan travelled 650 crore km from the Earth for over 300 days to reach the Red Planet's orbit).“

“PSLV , however, will not be used for Chandrayaan-2 as Isro is planning a heavier payload carrying a lunar rover to Chandrayaan this time. Therefore, GSLV is the preferred choice. But PSLV is definitely being readied for the Aditya mission (solar mission in 2019),“ Dr Sivan added.


April 2016: PSLV C33

The Hindu, April 29, 2016

Avinash Bhat

ISRO’s workhorse PSLV C33, carrying India's seventh navigation satellite IRNSS-1G, soars into the sky after its launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota near Chennai on Thursday. Photo: K. Pichumani The Hindu ISRO’s workhorse PSLV C33, carrying India's seventh navigation satellite IRNSS-1G, soars into the sky after its launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota near Chennai.

A regional navigation satellite system with just seven spacecraft and in civil domain is unique to India.

India’s own navigational system, the set-up for which was completed on Thursday with the launch of the seventh and final satellite, will be called NAVIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation), Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced after the launch.

The seventh and final satellite of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, the IRNSS 1G, was launched into a sub geosynchronous transfer orbit with a perigree (nearest point to earth) of 284 km and an apogee (farthest point to earth) of 20,657 km. The satellite was launched on board the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which took off from the Sriharikota launch pad at 12.50 p.m.

With this launch, the IRNSS constellation of seven satellites is now complete. This will allow the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to focus on the process of designing front end chips which will receive the navigational signals sent out by the satellites. The system will be similar to the Global Positioning System (GPS) operated by the United States with 24 satellites and the Glonass, Galileo and BeiDou systems of Russia, Europe and China respectively.

All satellites will undergo stabilisation testing and verification of their performance over the next few months before being pushed into use, according to ISRO officials.

An area of 1,500 km from Indian boundaries will be covered under the navigational system. The Prime Minister invited other countries to make use of this system as well. “We have seven neighbours who rely on technology provided by other countries. They can use Indian services if they want,” he said in a video message addressed to ISRO engineers.

With an accuracy of better than 20 m being claimed by ISRO, the navigation system will be offered as an open or Standard Positioning Service and a superior, coded military Restricted Service.

“We are now one of five countries with our own navigational system. Today we are free of dependence on other countries for navigation. Our planes will be able to land with ease and accuracy, we can plan disaster relief better and with our own technology,” a proud Mr. Modi said.

Explaining the name NAVIC, Mr. Modi said the system was dedicated to India’s mariners and fishermen who have been navigating using the sun and stars as waypoints for hundreds of years. “They have shown strength and determination in venturing out to sea for so many years. We have named this system for them, the ‘naviks’ (mariners),” he said.

June 2016

Inject a record 20 satellites at a time into orbit

The Times of India, Jun 23 2016

20 satellites in 26 minutes launched by ISRO. Some facts in the graphic above; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, June 23, 2016

U Tejonmayam

Isro record: 20 satellites take off at one go  India's PSLVC34 rocket circled the earth in about 90 minutes, at 7.7km per second, to inject a record 20 satellites into orbit and demonstrate its capability to reach another orbit in the same mission. The `XL' version of the 320-tonne spacecraft lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota with payloads weighing 1,288kg at 9.26am. India's remote sensing satellite Cartosat-2C, weighing 727.5kg, sat on the top part of the PSLV's nose cone; riding piggyback were two Indian student satellites and 17 earth observation satellites from the US, Canada, Germany and Indonesia. Prime Minister Narend ra Modi called it a mo numental accomplishment. “20 satellites in a go! @isro continues to break new barriers. Hearty congratulations to our scientists on the monumental accomplishment,“ he tweeted. “PSLV has done its job again,“ said Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar.

About 17 minutes after lift-off, the rocket began injecting satellites, starting with its Cartosat-2C. In the next 10 minutes, PSLV made several manoeuvres to inject all the satellites in a single orbit in different inclinations and with varying velocity, in the process travelling halfway around the earth.

Isro also used the occasion to test its capability to launch multiple satellites into different orbits.

About 50 minutes after launching all the satellites, the fourth stage reignited for five seconds before travelling around the earth for 45 minutes, completing a full circle.

The demonstration was conducted for Isro's next mission, when it plans to launch five satellites in two different orbits.

Mission director B Jayakumar said that multiple launches in a single mission required complex technology and Isro is working on resolving certain problems that may arise during such launches. “Initially we were a little hesitant to take 20 satellites in one go. But we soon resolved the problems,“ he said.

“What we have achieved today shows we have the expertise to take up complex missions,“ Jayakumar said.

Isro set a world record for the highest number of satellites launched in a single mission when it placed 10 satellites in a PSLV on April 28, 2008.Nasa in 2013 placed 29 satellites in a single mission and Russia in 2014 launched 33 satellites in one launch.

Sept 2016: PSLV-C35 launches eight satellites in multiple orbits

U Tejonmayam, In its longest flight, PSLV puts 8 sats into orbit, Sep 27 2016 : The Times of India

PSLV-C35, launched in Sept 2016. Graphic: PTI.

With its engine turned off for much of the mission's duration of two hours and 15 minutes on Monday , the PSLV-C35 glided its way not just across the earth, but also the annals of India's spacefaring history -placing eight satellites in multiple orbits along the way .

The rocket had two coasting periods which together lasted for more than 1.5 hours after its engine was reignited and shut down twice.

Monday's launch was the PSLV's longest flight.Among the satellites it put into orbit were two developed at Indian universities -Pratham by students of IIT-Bombay and PISAT by the PES University , Bengaluru, and its consortium. In its longest-ever flight, the PSLV C-35, carrying India's Scatsat-1 meant for ocean and weather studies among seven satellites including those from the US and Canada, lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

About 100 minutes after the Scatsat-1 was put into orbit, seven other satellites were placed in the other polar orbit.

“We were able to put differ ent satellites from different countries in different orbits in different local times. We have so far launched 79 satellites from 21 countries,“ said Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar.

When PSLV-C35 placed Scatsat-1 in the polar synchro nous orbit 17 minutes after liftoff from Sriharikota, both the satellite and the rocket began to circle the earth.

About 66 minutes later, the rocket's fourth-stage engine was reignited and shut down for about 20 seconds, as a preparation to switching orbits and launching the rest of the satellites. The shutdown gave the necessary thrust for the rocket to manoeuvre further and change orbits -from polar sun synchronous to polar orbit. The rocket was coasting at a speed of about 27,000km per hour.

The engine was restarted and cut off for 20 seconds, about 45 minutes after it coasted for the second time during its mission. A minute later, seven other satellites were placed in orbit one after the other within 3.45 minutes.“PSLV launches usually last 20 to 25 minutes. But this launch lasted nearly two-anda-half hours. It was almost like having two separate launches,“ said B Jayakumar, mission director. Very few space-faring countries have achieved this feat. European Space Agency's Vega rocket recently accomplished a twin-orbit manoeuvre. “One side of the rocket was getting hot, as it was facing the sun while the other side was using heat to move,“ Jayakumar said. He added that PSLV now has the flexibility to suit customers' demands.

Isro chairman said an Algerian team, which witnessed the launch of its satellites on Monday , has shown interest in using Indian launch vehicles.

Isro's commercial arm Antrix Corporation has orders worth Rs280 crore from countries wanting to launch satellites. “We had a turnover of Rs1,790 crore this year and Rs1,717 crore last year,“ said Isro Propulsion Complex director S Rakesh. 1st satellite by IIT students enters orbit A t 11.26 am on Monday, Mumbai rocketed into the space age when Pratham, a 10 kg satellite, developed by students of IIT-Mumbai, went into orbit. It was the first satellite made in Mumbai.

Manvi Dhawan, a project manager, explained that the primary role of Pratham would be to do what is known as a total electron count of the ionosphere. In plain terms this will help to correct GPS signals and rectify navigation.

2017: first launch failure in 24 years

U Tejonmayam & Chethan Kumar, PSLV launch fails for first time in 24yrs; satellite lost, September 1, 2017: The Times of India

After 39 successful launches of its PSLV rockets, Isro had the first taste of failure in 24 years. PSLV-C39, which lifted off from Sriharikota could not deliver the IRNSS-H1satellite into orbit as the heat shield -the tip of the rocket where the satellite was housed -failed to open.

The last stage of the rocket reached the sub-geosynchronous transfer orbit, but the mission failed as the satellite got ejected within the closed heat shield which was programmed to open three minutes and 23 seconds into the flight. Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar announced that the PSLV-C39 mission was unsuccessful.“All stages of the mission performed well, but the satellite is still inside the fourth stage,“ he said.

“We could see the satellite circling in its orbit along with the heat shield. We have to check the heat shield separation command and see what went wrong,“ Kumar said. The failure has come at a time when Isro is banking heavily on PSLV for at least two important future projects -the second mission to Mars and Chandrayaan-2, which will put a lander on the moon.While the second mission to Mars is still in the planning stage, work on Chandrayaan-2 has reached advanced stages with the development of the lander complete. “We have to see how this will impact commercial launches,“ Isro chairman Kumar said.

Some Isro scientists told TOI that they may have to take a relook at the technology used for the heat shield separation. Thursday's failure is a setback for Isro which attempted to augment the country's indigenous navigation services. IRNSS-1H, the eighth in the NavIC constellation, was to replace IRNSS-1A, the first satellite in the constellation whose rubidium atomic clocks stopped functioning. The clocks are a critical component in providing accurate locational data.

Isro officials said the failure will not affect the indigenous navigation satellite network, as four satellites are enough to provide services.Isro has six satellites in orbit that are fully functional.

1 tonne of extra weight doomed PSLV mission

Chethan Kumar, 1 tonne of extra weight doomed PSLV mission, September 2, 2017: The Times of India

The PSLV-C39 rocket, which failed to launch the IRNSS 1H satellite, was dragged down by at least one tonne of extra weight from the unseparated heat shield after the second stage, its velocity reduced by one kilometre per second.This greatly reduced the altitude it was to reach for a successful mission, say scientists privy to the project.

Former Isro Satellite Centre director SK Shivakumar said: “The launch vehicle was carrying at least one tonne more than its design permitted it, as the heat shield did not separate. This affected its velocity . For example, it should have attained a velocity of 9.5km per second at the end of it but attained only 8.5km per second.“

The heat shield is meant to protect the satellite from the heat generated due to friction against atmosphere during takeoff. Once a satellite is placed in orbit, the shield is expected to separate and fall off. In this case, the command for separation reached the heat shield's mechanisms but it did not trigger the mechanical process to release the satellite.

Ineffect, the heat shield began to weigh down the launch from the the 114th second. “I cannot accurately say by how much it missed the desired altitude. It was supposed to have an apogee (farthest point from Earth) of 20,650km but managed only 6,000-odd km,“ Shivakumar said.

Isro chairman Kiran Kumar said Thursday's failure, the first in the PSLV's 24 years, would not affect future missions as there was no structure or design flaw. “There has been a snag that resulted in the heat shield not separating... what exactly caused that needs to be found out. A team of experts has begun the examination,“ he said.

A money-spinner: launches 209 satellites of 28 countries

Surendra Singh|Isro's satellite launcher turns into money-spinner|Jul 21 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)

Indian Space Re search Organisation's rockstar Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), known for its exemplary track record of launching 209 satellites of 28 countries till now, is turning into a money-spinner.

On June 23 this year, PSLVC38 had launched 712-kg Cartosat-2 satellite along with 30 co-passenger satellites. Of the 30 satellites, 29 were from 14 other countries. On Wednesday , the government said the launch of 29 satellites helped Antrix Corporation Ltd, the commercial arm of Isro, earn Rs 45 crore (6.1million euros).

Before the June 23 multiple launch, Isro made the world record when its PSLV C37 launched 104 satellites in one go on February 15 this year. However, the space agency did not reveal how much it earned from that launch. Launching satellites is fast becoming a competitive industry -several companies like SpaceX's Falcon 9, Russia's Proton ULA, and Arianespace are big names in the space. But Antrix's competitive rates and Isro's expertise in launching nano satellites are helping it woo foreign customers.


During the 2015-16, Antrix through launches of foreign satellites earned Rs 230 crore, which is 0.6% of the global launch services market (estimated to be Rs 38,000 crore). From 2013 to 2015, Isro had launched 28 foreign satellites and helped Antrix earn revenue of 80.6 million euros (Rs 600 crore -according to today's exchange rate). Globally , the space industry is a $200 billion industry . Even though Antrix has a small piece of the big pie in the satellite market, it is on the track to make big profit in future.

Mini-PSLV booked for US customer before its birth

Surendra Singh, August 11, 2019: The Times of India

Even before its birth, Isro’s small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV) or mini-PSLV has been booked by domestic and foreign satellite customers. The mini launcher, whose maiden test-flight is due later this year, can be assembled in just 3-5 days as compared to 30-40 days for a normal-size rocket and made in just onetenth the cost of a PSLV, which is worth Rs 150 crore.

Spaceflight, the leading ride-share company that provides satellite launch service, said it has booked SSLVD2, the second demonstration flight considered to be the first commercial launch of Isro’s mini rocket, for carrying an American payload. “Spaceflight has sold out the entire manifest for this SSLVD2 launch with spacecraft from an undisclosed USbased satellite constellation customer,” a statement said.

Isro chairman K Sivan told TOI, “The maiden demonstration flight of SSLV, which was earlier scheduled in July-August, will happen only after the Chandrayaan-2 landing on Moon on September 7 as our focus is on the moon mission.” He said the first test-flight “will carry two small defence satellites of 120kg weight each”. SSLV weighs just 110 tonnes, which is 1/10th the mass of a PSLV. It can carry a payload of up to 500 kg to the low earth orbit and 300 kg to the sun synchronous orbit, making it ideal for launching small satellites.

Spaceflight CEO Curt Blake said, “We’re excited to work with New Space India Ltd (Isro’s new commercial arm) to offer customers the option to launch from SSLV, hence our purchase of its first available launch. SSLV is perfectly suited for launching multiple micro satellites at a time and supports multiple orbital drop-offs.” NSIL director D Radhakrishnan said, “We’re taking advantage of the growth in the small satellite market to deliver more launch options with the mini-launcher.” Through NSIL, Isro plans to transfer the SSLV technology to the industry at a fee.

2019/ Spy satellite, RISAT-2BR1, and nine customer satellites put in orbit

Dec 11, 2019 India Today

India launched its latest spy satellite, RISAT-2BR1, and nine foreign satellites through the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which is on its 50th mission.

RISAT-2BR1 is a radar imaging earth observation satellite developed by India's space agency Isro; apart from being used for military purposes, it has applications in fields such as agriculture and disaster management support.

RISAT-2BR1 has a mission life of five years.

The other satellites include six from the United States, and one each from Japan, Italy and Israel; their applications range from remote sensing to earth imaging.

The launch vehicle, PSLV-C48, took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, at 3.25 pm.

RISAT-2BR1 was placed in orbit arond 16 minutes after liftoff, and the nine customer satellites were released into orbit around five minutes later.

"I am extremely happy to declare that the 50th PSLV vehicle successfully injected RISAT-2BR1 precisely into the 576 km orbit," said Isro chief K Sivan.

Today's launch marks milestones other than PSLV's 50th mission: it is also the 75th launch vehicle mission from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, and the sixth launch of 2019.

2019/ PSLVC44 lifted off at midnight

U Tejonmayam, Here’s why this PSLV lifted off at midnight, January 25, 2019: The Times of India

As PSLV lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota soaring through the night skies for the second time in five months, Microsat-R, the main payload, played a key role in deciding the launch time. The 740kg imaging satellite was programmed to cross the equator every day around noon local time when the sun illuminates the Indian region. At 11.37pm on Thursday, PSLVC44 lifted off with Microsat-R and Kalamsat from the first launch pad in the Indian spaceport at Sriharikota.

“Launch time depends on the requirement of the satellite. Here, they wanted the satellite to cross south to north of equator around noon, maybe due to sunlight condition. Our launcher goes from north to south of equator. To meet the requirement of the satellite, we needed to have a night launch,” said K Sivan, Isro chairman. “It is the satellite team that decides when they want the satellite payload to take photographs. It could be during maximum sunlight condition or minimum cloud condition. Launch time depends on that.”


Why it failed

U Tejonmayam, Why PSLV-C39 failed: An explosion that didn’t happen, January 15, 2018: The Times of India

While the nation celebrated the launch of PSLV-C40, the 40th successful mission involving the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, Isro scientists were learning lessons from the failure of PSLV-C39 on August 31, 2017. A failure analysis, details of which were shared with TOI, has found the pyro devices (that trigger a small, controlled explosion tosnap some parts) in the rocket's heat shield had malfunctioned. The detonation of the devices was to break the rivets linking the two halves of the heat shield encasing the satellite. Due to this malfunction, the shield remained intact, keeping the navigation satellite IRNSS-1H within.

Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre and Isro chairman-designate K Sivan, who chaired the failure analysis committee, said a rubber bellow between the two vertical halves of the heat shield was supposed to expand with the gas pressure generated by the ignition of the pyro devices. The explosion was to detach the two parts of the heat shield. “In this case, the pressure generated was not enough for the bellow to expand and trigger the separation,” said Sivan.

The heat shield protects satellites they carry from atmospheric temperature generated due to friction as the rocket moves in the earth’s atmosphere. The nose cone provides smooth aerodynamics for the rocket. “Once the vehicle crosses the earth’s atmosphere, the heat shield is not required, and it has to be separated from the vehicle,” said PSLV project director R Hutton.

Sivan said while the command for separation had gone through, it failed totrigger the mechanical process that pops open the heat shield. “The heat shield should separate in two places - from the launch vehicle below and then split into two halves. In this case, the nose cone detached from the rocket, but did not open into two halves till the end of the mission,” he said. “The satellite is still in orbit with the heat shield.”

Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar earlier said that uneven pressure distribution around the rocket was also one of the reasons for the failure.


2018: 31 satellites, 28 countries’ satellites, Cartosat-2 Series put in two different orbits

U Tejonmayam, January 12, 2018: The Times of India


PSLV-C40 placed 31 satellites -- Cartosat-2 Series, Microsat, 28 foreign nanosatellites and an Indian nanosatellite -- in orbits.

There were 28 nanosatellites from the US, France, Finland, the UK, South Korea and Canada.

The space agency has also placed the 100th satellite it has built in its laboratory.

After a lull of over four months, the Indian Space Research Organisation is back in the game as its workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C40) successfully placed 31 satellites in two different orbits in one of the longest missions.

The launch was also significant for another reason -- Isro demonstrated multiple-burn technology that it tested in three previous launches.

"This is PSLV's 40th successful launch," project director R Hutton said. PSLV-C40, in its 42nd flight, placed 31 satellites-- Cartosat-2 Series, Microsat, 28 foreign nanosatellites and an Indian nanosatellite -- in orbits. The foreign nanosatellites are from the US, France, Finland, the UK, South Korea and Canada.

Around 17 minutes after the lift-off from the launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at 9.28am, the rocket injected its main payload- the 710kg weighing Cartosat-2 series, the seventh satellite in the series, into a polar sun synchronous orbit at an altitude of about 510km.

Within a span of around seven minutes, the rocket ejected 29 satellites as it maneuvered its way up the altitude to 519km.

"It is an excellent mission. Cartosat's performance has been so far satisfactory," said retiring Isro chairman AS Kiran Kumar after the rocket placed 30 satellites in orbit, with one remaining to be placed in a different orbit.

After the ejection of the 30th satellite, the fourth stage earth storable liquid engine was restarted for the first time 30 minutes later and was shut off within five seconds. For the next nearly 45 minutes of coasting period, the rocket moved from 505km to 359km altitude before the engine was restarted again for the second time for another five seconds.

Roughly around one and 45 minutes later, the rocket ejected its 31st satellite - Isro's Microsat -- in the second orbit at an altitude of 359km. Fifteen minutes later, the engine was again ignited for the last time and shut off in 13 seconds.

Isro back in orbit

The PSLV-C40 mission is happening four months after the failure of PSLV-C39. PSLV-C39, which lifted off on August 31 last year, failed after the heat shield, the tip of the rocket, did not open as programmed. The satellite separated from the rocket circling in space within the closed heat shield.

"We are coming to the launch pad after four months. Many of our customers came ready with satellites after our previous failure. It shows their confidence in us. We have some exciting launches coming up including Chandrayaan 2, GSLV MKIII and GSLV MKII" said chairman-designate K Sivan.

Satish Dhawan Space Centre director P Kunhikrishnan said the mission was an excellent tribute to chairman AS Kiran Kumar and a welcome to chairman-designate K Sivan.

"Three consecutive launches are planned from second launch pad in addition to those in the first launch pad. The construction of the second assembly centre is in its final phase of completion. A project is underway to increase capability of first launch pad to 15 launches a year," said Kunhikrishnan.

Cartosat-2 Series

The main payload Cartosat-2 Series satellite will provide regular remote sensing services using its panchromatic and multispectral cameras. The images sent by the satellite will be useful for cartographic applications, urban and rural applications, coastal land use and regulation, utility management like road network monitoring, water distribution, creation of land use maps, change detection to bring out geographical and man-made features and various other land information system (LIS) as well as geographical information system (GIS) applications.

Pakistani objections to Cartosat-2

January 12, 2018: The Times of India


Pakistan said that the dual nature of the satellite can lead to "a build-up of destabilizing military capabilities"

Indian Space Research Organization today launched its 100th satellite, Cartosat-2 into the space

A day before India was to launch its 100th satellite, Pakistan raised objections over the launch of the satellite and said that its dual nature, military as well as civilian, of the satellite can have a "negative impact on the regional strategic stability".

"According to media reports, India is set to launch 31 satellites including the earth observation spacecraft Cartosat, on 12th January 2018. All space technologies, including earth observation satellites, are inherently dual use and can be employed for both civilian and military purposes," spokesperson of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan Dr Mohammad Faisal said in a media briefing.

Responding to a question posed by a reporter, Faisal said that the dual nature of the satellite can lead to "a build-up of destabilizing military capabilities".

"All states have a legitimate right to pursue peaceful uses of space technologies. However, given the dual-use nature of such technologies, it is essential that such pursuits are not directed towards a build-up of destabilizing military capabilities, which can negatively impact the regional strategic stability," he added.

Indian Space Research Organization today launched its 100th satellite, Cartosat-2 into the space.

The Indian microsatellite will demonstrate a new technology which will allow capturing of images at night and will also provide high resolution scene specific spot imageries. The imagery transmitted by the satellite will be related to areas of cartographic, urban & rural applications, coastal land use, road network & monitoring and water distribution.

Private sector and the ISRO

2017/ satellite manufacturing outsourced

Isro outsources job of satellite manufacturing to private firms, April 3, 2017: The Times of India


In a highly secure, clean room of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) here, a new jugalbandi is unfolding -teams from the private sector are working shoulder-to-shoulder with government engineers to create a new bird that will soar in the sky very soon.

The Indian space establishment has crossed a new threshold, engaging for the first time a private sector industry to make a full multicrore, heavy duty satellite.

Having been unable to keep pace with satellite fabrication, the Isro has now roped in the private industry to bridge the gap. A consortium led by Alpha Design Technologies, Bengaluru is tasked to make two full satellites for India's navigation system. After almost 150 missions and three decades of space faring, the Isro is on a mission like never before, handholding the private industry to make a full navigation satellite.

Towards that, a high-tech defence equipment supplier from Bengaluru, Alpha Design Technologies has been chosen as the first private industry tasked with making not one but two full satellites for the ISRO.

Colonel H S Shankar, the man who helped India get its first bulk supply of electronic voting machines (EVMs), is leading the consortium. Shankar, Chairman-cum-Manging Director of Alpha Design Technologies, says, “It is a challenging task for any Indian company to undertake assembly, integration and testing of a satellite and that too for the first time in India.“

Antrix Corporation Ltd

Devas contract, its scrapping and Rs 4,435cr fine

The Times of India, Oct 01 2015

Int'l tribunal slaps Rs 4,435cr fine on Antrix

Isro Arm Had Aborted Devas Deal In 2011 Antrix and Devas had signed a contract to launch two satellites and use spectrum. However, after a controversy over procedural lapses led to blacklisting of four Isro scientists, including ex-Isro chief Madhavan Nair (above), the govt had scrapped the deal Isro's commercial arm, Antrix, has termed the international arbitration court ruling asking Isro to pay Rs 4,435 crore ($672 million) in damages to Bengaluru-based Devas Multimedia as shocking. “Antrix, with the support of the department of space, is preparing to file in court its application for remedy ,“ said an Antrix statement.

The tribunal's ruling on Tuesday is not yet binding on the Indian space agency , as Devas would require to get the ruling enforced by an Indian court. In a statement, Devas Multimedia said: “Devas Multimedia and its shareholders, including highly regarded international investors, are pleased that the ICC Tribunal unanimously ruled in its favour and found that Antrix is liable for unlawfully terminating the Devas-Antrix Agreement in February 2011.“

It said that Devas is hopeful that Antrix will now live up to its legal obligations and pay the award so that this dispute that arose during the prior government can be brought to a swift closure.

The contract signed between Devas and Antrix was to launch two operating satellites and use spectrum that is licensed to the firm.

However, following a controversy of lapse in procedures that led to blacklisting of four Isro scientists, including ex-chairman Madhavan Nair, the government scrapped this deal. This prompted Devas to take the legal course.

Devas was to lease 70 MHz of S-band spectrum from two satellites that were to be launched by Isro and pay $300 million for the rights.

Commercial services


ISRO’s budget, main programmes, government funding and commercial revenues, 2014-16; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, May 6, 2016

Antrix-Devas deal

Cancelled in 2011

The Times of India, Aug 12, 2016

Antrix deal was cancelled in 2011

The CBI filed a chargesheet against Isro's former chairman G Madhavan Nair, former executive director of Antrix Corporation R Sridhara Murthi and a US firm in the controversial Antrix-Devas deal. The contract for leasing S-band spectrum was given to an “ineligible company“ without informing the government, which led to a loss of Rs 578 crore, CBI said. The development comes days after the Permanent Court of Arbitration tribunal at The Hague ruled against India and said it was liable to pay compensation to foreign investors in De vas Multimedia.

The CBI said Nair kept the then Manmo han Singh Cabinet in the dark and gave wrong information about the deal. Nair rubbished the charge and said scientists were made “scapegoats“ in the case. The agency had questioned him earlier this year over his “conflict of interest“ in the deal. Nair was chairman of Antrix's governing council and secretary , department of space, when the deal was finalised.He was barred from holding any government post for his alleged role in the deal.

Devas had entered into an agreement with Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of Isro, in 2005 to lease almost the entire transponder space on two of its satellites, and nearly half of the S-band spectrum under its control.The government had cancelled the deal in 2011 after a CAG report questioned it.

In an exclusive interview to TOI in March 2015, Nair had said the Antrix-Devas deal came under the scanner because “there was a panicky reaction from the PMO (then headed by Manmohan Singh) since 2G scam dented the government's image“.

In its chargesheet, the CBI named Nair, Murthi, Ramachandra Vishwanathan (former MD of Forge Advisors LLC USA & CEO of Devas Multimedia), M G Chandrasekhar (then director of Devas), Veena S Rao (then additional secretary in department of space), A Bhaskar Narayana Rao (then director in Isro) and D Venugopal and M Umesh (directors in Devas) for criminal conspiracy and cheating.


The Economic Times , 26 Jul, 2016

By Gaurav Laghate & Maulik Vyas

Antrix-Devas deal: India loses arbitration in Hague

Indian government may have to shell out over a billion dollars in damages to Bengaluru-based Devas Multimedia, after an international court of arbitration ruled in favour of the company in case related to cancellation of a contract with Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) tribunal at The Hague found that the government of India's actions in "annulling a contract between Devas and Antrix and denying Devas commercial use of S-band spectrum constituted an expropriation," Devas said in a statement on Tuesday.

It added PCA agreed that the Indian Government expropriated investments of Devas' foreign shareholders and acted unfairly and inequitably, thus making it liable to pay financial compensation.

This is not the first time that an international court has ruled against the government in Devas case. Last year, the International Chamber of Commerce's International Court of Arbitration (ICA) had ruled against Antrix, for "unlawfully terminating" Devas-Antrix agreement in 2011, directing the agency to pay $672 million (over Rs 4,400 crore) plus an annual interest accruing at 18 per cent post award, till it is paid in full, to Devas Multimedia.

However, after this PCA ruling, Devas will now have to take a decision as to whether or not to enforce this award against ISRO/Government of India. Abhishek Malhotra, managing partner at the law firm TMT Law Practice said, "In the event that Devas decides to enforce this award in Indian Courts, the only defence that ISRO would have is Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, i.e., to say that this decision is against public policy of India."

He added that ISRO will have to demonstrate that the security-related and conflict of interest issues that led to cancellation of the agreement with Devas were of paramount importance and hence public policy considerations required cancellation thereof.

Accordingly, allowing such an award to be enforced would conflict with public policy considerations. Or it will have to prove that the quantum of damages awarded is inconsistent with Section 73 of Indian Contract Act, 1872, which only allowed for compensatory damages to be awarded.

"Whether Devas wins or loses its enforcement battle, the judgment does have the effect of bringing under cloud India's efforts to become an appealing destination for ease of doing business," Malhotra added.

Madhavan Nair, former ISRO chief, who was with the Department of Space when the deal was signed, told ANI, "It is all because of the illegal action taken by the UPA 2 government and the Department of Space at the time." He added that procedures were not followed while cancelling the contract.

"The tribunal ruled 60 per cent in favour of India, and 40 per cent against and no amount was determined to be due at this stage on the 40 per cent. That will be the subject of a second phase of the case. which has not yet begun. There is no deadline for the second phase, which will likely last at least a year and perhaps longer," said George Kahale III, partner, Curtis, Mallet- Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLp, a firm that is representing government of India in the dispute. "We are reviewing the options for legal recourse because we believe the entire case, not just 60 per cent, should have been dismissed."

The case dates back to 2005, when Antrix and Devas signed an agreement wherein the latter was to get about 70 MHz of S-band satellite spectrum to provide high-quality telephony and Internet services.

2019/ Devas faces ₹1,585cr fine for illegal investment

February 3, 2019: The Times of India

A special Fema (foreign exchange management act) court has imposed a Rs 1,585 crore penalty against private entity, Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd, its directors and US-based foreign investors for alleged illegal investments of Rs 579 crore in a joint venture with Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro).

The Enforcement Directorate, which had earlier investigated the FEMA violation case against Devas, observed that some employees of Isro and its subsidiary Antrix Corporation conspired with Devas Multimedia leading to loss to the government exchequer. The joint venture between Devas and Antrix Corporation used Isro’s valuable S-band spectrum free without paying for its fees.

“The company (Devas) fraudulently raised foreign investment of Rs 579 crore and subsequently illegally transferred 85% of the investment out of India to its subsidiary in USA in the guise of investment and services fee, etc,” ED investigation revealed.

The ED has already attached properties worth Rs 80 crore of Devas Multimedia for its alleged involvement in money laundering. The agency had later registered a PMLA case. A chargesheet was also filed before designated PMLA special court of Bangalore seeking punishment for the accused and confiscation of attached properties.

Devas, set up by some retired ISRO officials in 2004, entered into a joint venture with ISRO’s arm Antrix Corporation where the latter provided bandwidth in two proposed satellites for services to be offered on a commercial basis in Digital Media and Broadcasting by Devas.

In a separate case under PMLA against Devas, ED filed a chargesheet against Devas in a designated special court in Bangalore which took cognisance of the ED’s complaint on 1st January 2019.

The ED has already attached properties worth Rs 80 crore of the firm for its alleged involvement in money laundering. It had later registered a PMLA case too

Pay $1.2bn to B’luru start-up Devas: US court

Surendra Singh, October 30, 2020: The Times of India

Devas wins 9-year-old legal battle against Antrix as US court awards it $1.2 billion compensation

NEW DELHI: Winning a nine-year-old legal battle against Indian Space Research Organisation’s (Isro’s) commercial arm Antrix Corporation, Indian startup Devas Multimedia has been awarded $1.2 billion compensation by a US court in a 2005 satellite deal case.

In his order on October 27, US District Judge Thomas S Zilly, western district of Washington, Seattle, ruled that Antrix should pay a compensation of $562.5 million to Devas and related interest rate amounting to total $1.2 billion.

As per the agreement in January 2005, Antrix had agreed to build, launch and operate two satellites — Gsat-6 and Gsat-6A — and to make available 70 MHz of S-band spectrum to Devas, which the Bengaluru-based startup had planned to use to offer hybrid satellite and terrestrial communication services throughout India. Gsat-6A is unfortunately the same satellite that Isro later lost in space soon after its launch on March 29, 2018 during orbit-raising manoeuvres due to a power failure.

After Antrix had cancelled the satellite deal in 2011, Devas, headed by former Isro scientific secretary M G Chandrasekhar, moved the Supreme Court and several international courts against Antrix for “wrongful” termination of the deal. The apex court had then directed for a tribunal, which in its order on September 14, 2015, concluded that Antrix wrongfully repudiated the agreement and asked it to pay $562.5 million as damages to Devas along interest rates, which crossed the compensation amount to over $1 billion.

In its lawsuit filed in the US court in September 2018, Devas said that three separate international tribunals and nine different arbitrators had found the deal termination to be wrongful. Antrix, on its part, had sought the dismissal of the lawsuit in the US court, citing jurisdictional issues. It also told the court that the deal was terminated based on a Cabinet decision on February 17, 2011.

The Manmohan Singh-led CCS had concluded that because of the “strategic requirements” for S-Band spectrum, the UPA government would not be able to provide Antrix with an orbital slot for commercial activities, it said. But Devas argued that the US court has a jurisdiction over these cases as Antrix engages in business in this district and across the US.

After hearing both sides, the US court asserted that it had jurisdiction over the issue and stayed the matter for one year and asked the two to file a joint status report by April 15, 2020.

On July 16, 2020, both Devas and Antrix filed the instant motion, a joint status report, in which they disputed whether the court should lift or extend the stay.

Judge Zilly noted that over five years had passed since the Indian tribunal issued the compensation order and nine years had passed since the dispute started and that since the stay, no new developments had happened in Indian courts on the jurisdictional issue.

Why did UPA govt cancel the deal:

In 2011, months after the 2G scam was unearthed, a draft report on the Antrix-Devas deal by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) got leaked. The report pointed out irregularities and non-compliance with standard operating procedures. It said that though Devas was planning to use the two satellites for telecommunication and broadcasting services, permissions were not sought from the department of telecommunication and I&B ministry. After the CAG report became public, the UPA government, which was facing the heat of the 2G scam, called off the deal, fearng another scandal. However, the government didn’t mention corruption or conflict of interest as reasons for cancellation of the deal.

Who faced the heat:

The CBI had in 2016 filed a chargesheet against former Isro chairman G Madhavan Nair, the then executive director of Antrix K R Sridhar Murthy, Devas CEO Ramachandra Vishwanathan and the then Devas director M G Chandrasekhar for causing a loss of Rs 578 crore to the exchequer in the Devas-Antrix deal. The CBI accused them of hatching a criminal conspiracy with an intent to cause undue gains to themselves or others by abusing their official positions. The deal saw an early exit of Nair as Isro chairman since he was the head of the Antrix governing council, when the deal was finalised in January 2005.

August 2016: First rocket using scramjet engine

The Hindu, August 20, 2016

The Indian Space Research Organisation joined an elite club when it successfully launched a rocket using a scramjet engine that was developed indigenously. This is ISRO’s first major step towards developing an air breathing propulsion system. The scramjet engine functioned for around six seconds. There are many reasons why the use of a scramjet engine is so attractive.

The test flight, which attained six times the speed of sound (Mach 6) and was able to achieve ignition and maintain stable combustion even at such high velocity for about six seconds, is a big technological achievement. This is akin to “lighting a matchstick in a hurricane condition and sustaining the flame” for six seconds. The air intake mechanism and fuel injection systems were also successfully demonstrated during the maiden test flight. Since it relies on oxygen present in the atmosphere, the trajectories of scramjet engine-powered rockets are vastly different from conventional ones — rockets with scramjet engines should remain in the atmosphere for a longer period than normal rockets.

What is a scramjet engine?

A scramjet engine uses oxygen present in the atmospheric air to burn the hydrogen fuel. As a result, the amount of oxygen required to be carried on board would be reduced considerably as atmospheric oxygen is utilised to burn the fuel in the first stage. In general, propellant accounts for nearly 85 per cent of the weight of a rocket, and oxygen accounts for nearly 60 per cent of the weight of the propellant. Scramjet-powered rockets also have several times greater thrust compared with rockets powered by liquid fuel or even cryogenic fuel. Since about half of the propellant is required for the first stage to achieve the required velocity, a rocket using a scramjet engine would be significantly lighter and smaller and, therefore, cheaper. Alternatively, rockets fired by scramjet engines will be able to carry more payload.

Typically, scramjet rockets climb to a certain altitude and remain in the atmosphere for as long as possible to achieve the required velocity. It will take many years before a commercial rocket powered by a scramjet engine takes to the sky as there are several challenges to be overcome. One challenge will be to test the engine at higher Mach speeds and prolong the period of combustion. Since the scramjet comes into play only when the rocket goes beyond Mach 5, an engine that initially works at subsonic speed (as a ramjet) and later as a scramjet has to be developed. But as in the case of the successful test flight of a reusable vehicle, the first experimental flight using a scramjet engine is a technological demonstration of ISRO’s capability and will go a long way in redefining its position as one of the leading space agencies in the world.

UR Rao Satellite Centre test private satellites

Chethan Kumar, February 12, 2021: The Times of India

A first: Isro sat centre opens to private firms


For the first time in over five decades since India launched its space programme, Isro has opened up its facilities to the private sector: two satellites commissioned by corporates and one by academia are being tested at the UR Rao Satellite Centre (URSC).

Sources in URSC said satellites from Tamil Nadu-based Space Kidz India and Bengaluru-based Syzygy Space Technologies have undergone testing. Isro chairman K Sivan told TOI, “In both cases, we found problems with the solar panels and our team is helping to fix them. URSC also tested UNITYsat, which had problems with the separation system which we’re setting right.”

UNITYsat is a combination of three satellites designed and built by Jeppiaar Institute of Technology (Sriperumbudur, TN); GH Raisoni College of Engineering, Nagpur; and Sri Shakthi Institute of Engineering and Technology, Coimbatore.

Two pvt cos to test engines at Isro facilities

Over the next few months, two private firms will use Isro facilities to test their engines. Chennai-based Agnikul Cosmos will be allowed to test at Thiruvananthapuram while Hyderabadbased Skyroot Aerospace’s engine will be tested at Sriharikota, Sivan said. Also, MapmyIndia, which builds digital maps and offers GIS services, has approached Isro for high-resolution images. “We’ll be helping them too,” Sivan said.

At least 26 proposals, including those from USbased Amazon Web Services and Bharti Group backed UK-based OneWeb, are being reviewed by the regulator, Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre.

The proposals range from permissions for ground stations and establishing satellite constellations to making and launching satellites, launch vehicles and providing applications.

2022/ Earth observation satellite and Adani-led consortium

Chethan Kumar, February 15, 2022: The Times of India

BENGALURU: In another mission that saw a push for private industry, the Earth Observation Satellite-04 (EOS-04) or Risat-1A launched by the PSLV-C52 as its main payload on Monday was assembled, integrated and tested by a consortium led by Bengaluru-based private firm Alpha Design Technologies Limited (ADTL).

Adani-backed ADTL, along with its consortium partners had, in 2018, signed an agreement with Isro to work at ISITE (Isro Spacecraft Integration Test Establishment) to build satellites for the space agency. ADTL chairman-and-managing director (CMD) Col (retd) HS Shankar said young engineers and technicians from their consortium carried out the work under Isro’s guidance.

“The complete Assembly, Integration & Testing (AIT) at ISITE facilities were done by us. That is, all the items that Isro had procured from various vendors — both in India and abroad — and what they had developed in some of their centres were all assembled, integrated and tested by our specially qualified and trained team of 50+ engineers and technicians,” Shankar told TOI. Risat-1A was put into an intended sun synchronous polar orbit of 529km altitude at 6.17am eighteen minutes after the PSLV-C52 lifted off from the first launch pad at SHAR.

This was the 80th launch vehicle mission from SDSC SHAR, Sriharikota; 54th flight of PSLV; and the 23rd flight of PSLV in XL configuration (6 strap-on motors).

The satellite is a Radar Imaging Satellite designed to provide high quality images under all weather conditions for applications such as Agriculture, Forestry & Plantations, Soil Moisture & Hydrology and Flood mapping. Weighing about 1,710 kg, it generates 2,280W power and has a mission life of 10 years.

The consortium had done the AIT for another Isro satellite before this — the GSAT-30. The telecommunication satellite was successfully launched into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) on January 17, 2020 from Kourou launch base, French Guiana by Ariane-5 VA-251.

GSAT-30 is designed to provide communication services from Geostationary orbit in C and Ku bands and derives its heritage from Isro’s earlier INSAT/GSAT satellite series.

A replacement to INSAT-4A, GSAT-30 weighs 3,357kg and provides Indian mainland and islands coverage in Ku-band and extended coverage in C-band covering Gulf countries, a large number of Asian countries and Australia.

“These two satellites are part of the consortium, but before that ADTL had assembled two other satellites independently — the IRNSS-1H and IRNSS-1I — which was before the said 2018 contract,” Shankar added.

While the IRNSS-1H could not be put in orbit as the PSLV launching it suffered a glitch in the heat shield, the IRNSS-1I, a repeat satellite of the same family is in orbit as part of the constellation of satellites under the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System or NavIC programme.

“The 2018 contract came before the space reforms were announced. Now, with additional emphasis on the private sector, we are looking forward to more collaborations with Isro,” Shankar added.

Regional cooperation satellites


2017: South Asian diplomacy

Surendra Singh, PM's space diplomacy turns sat launch into mini-Saarc summit, May 6, 2017: The Times of India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened a new chap ter in neighbourhood diplomacy by launching a South Asia satellite on Friday .It's the fulfilment of a promise made in 2014, but it is the larger progress towards regional integration that might show lasting benefits.

Modi commended Isro scientists for the launch and addressed the heads of six South Asian countries, barring Pakistan, via video conferencing. Calling it a “historic moment“, Modi said the satellite “opens up new horizons of engagement and will greatly benefit South Asia and our region's progress“.

In his address to six Saarc leaders -Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina, Bhutan PM Tshering Tobgay , Maldives President Abdulla Yameen, Nepal PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Modi said, “This launch tells us that even the sky is not the limit when it comes to regional cooperation.“

He added, “Our coming together is a sign of our unshakeable resolve to place the needs of our peoples in the forefront. It shows that our collective choices for our citizens will bring us cooperation, not conflict; development, not destruction and prosperity , not poverty.“

The Rs 450-crore satellite (Gsat-9) will link all Saarc countries except Pakistan as the latter opted out of the project. The 2,230-kg satellite, with a mission life of over 12 years, will provide communications and disaster support, among other services, to India and its neighbours.

The South Asia satellite is Modi's brainchild. He had proposed it soon after assuming office three years ago. Its launch comes at a time when China is trying to in crease its influence in South Asian countries.

“This is a first-of-its-kind project in South Asia. And through it, we Saarc nations will together achieve effective communication, better governance, better banking services and better education in remote areas,“ the PM said.

Thanking Modi for his initiative, Ghani said, “Today marks the day where South Asia moves from speaking about the desirability of regional integration to making it a reality. The gap between talk and action is bridged today .“

Sheikh Hasina said, “Betterment of our people can happen through fruitful engagement between South this satellite will change the face of South Asia.“ Tshering Tobgay added, “Launch of this satellite augurs well for our region and for small nations like Bhutan.“

Recalling Modi's `sabka saath sabka vikas' slogan, Abdulla Yameen said, “This launch is an example of India's neighbour first policy.We must work for common good and better economic opportunities.“ Dahal said, “The satellite will enhance connectivity and will help in providing communication services in the mountain and hilly regions of Nepal.“ Sirisena thanked India and said, “May this initiative support people in all regions, enhance economic conditions and help in eliminating poverty .“

Pakistan had opted out saying “India was not willing to develop the project on a collaborative basis“. Though Pakistan has five satellites in space, it lacks heavy duty launchers and satellite fabrication facilities, and its space programme is highly dependent on China.

Sri Lanka and Afghanistan also have communications satellites, which were launched by other nations.The Indian project project will be of great benefit to Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives, which do not have space programmes of their own and are particularly susceptible to climate-related disasters.

Augmenting the communications sector

Chethan Kumar, GSAT-09 adds to India's comsat constellation, May 6, 2017: The Times of India

1|3 rd Of Transponders We Use Are Leased | 4 More Launches Planned in 2017

The GSAT-09 is not only a gift to India's neighbours but will augment India's communications sector. It'll join 13 other communication satellites in orbit , allowing India to offer a series of applications to its citizens.

Adding to over 200 transponders Isro owns, the 12 transponders which will be shared with its South Asian neighbours will add to India's communication infrastructure.

Isro chairman AS Kiran Kumar, in September 2016, had conceded that India was “significantly short in space“. India currently has a 36-satellite constellation spread across observation, communication, navigation and space science.

According to estimates, a third of the 286 satellite transponders India uses were non-Indian with more than 90 hired transponders used specifically for directto-home broadcasting, and the severe shortage -with a growing population and increasing number of phone and internet users -had prompted Isro to issue a request for proposal seeking to lease out some more transponders in December 2016.

“We need to at least double the number of satellites to be able to give reasonable service to the nation,“ Ku panel array undergoing tests mar said, adding that for this, the space agency must also enhance launch capa bility and reduce satellite building time. “Isro is now reaching a stage where we can launch one satellite a month, but that must be in creased to at least 1.5 or two launches a month,“ he said.

While the launch of GSAT-09 will not completely solve this problem, four other launches Isro has lined up for this year is seen to be providing a major boost areas such as tele phone, broadcasting and internet service. among other things.

The communication satellites in service are: Five in the INSAT family (3A, 3C, 4A, 4B, 4CR) and eight in the GSAT family (6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 15 and 18). Augmenting the INSAT and GSAT capacity was Isro's focus during the 12th Five Year Plan. However, of the 14 communication satellites Isro hoped to launch during the period, only seven were achieved, which has pushed the space agency to line up a series of launches this year.

In what will become a personal record if achieved (launch of five communication satellites in a year), Isro has lined up the launches of: GSAT-19, GSAT-17, GSAT-6A -for the defence forces -and GSAT-11. Of these, GSAT-11 and 17 are scheduled to be launched by foreign vehicles.

First Indian spacecraft with Electric Propulsion System

Electric Propulsion System could reduce fuel, be a gamechanger, May 6, 2017: The Times of India

The Geostationary Communication Satel lite-9 (GSAT-09) became the first Indian spacecraft to carry an Electric Propulsion System (EPS), which was successfully tested paving the way for development of future satellites that will be considerably lighter.

“The EPS can significantly reduce the fuel satellites need to carry. This leaves more room for payloads if we want to pack more into the satellite, and it reduces the satellite weight which helps us decide how to launch it,“ a senior scientist explained.

The GSAT-09 carried just 25% of chemical fuel it would have had to carry in the absence of EPS. The 2,000-kg class communication satellites generally carry around 200-300 kg of ch e m i c a l p ro p e l l a n t s which push them into the desired orbit and keep with them alive for more than a decade.

This means the workload a 5,000-kg satellite can take can be achieved by a 3,500-3,700 kg satellite equipped with EPS.

“To cut that burden to just 25% is a gamechanger.It allows us to manage satellites with long lives -GSAT-09 has 12 years of expectancy -more efficiently,“ the scientist said.This will also reduce India's dependence on foreign satellites.

Currently, Isro uses foreign launch vehicles to launch heavy satellites.While the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) family, especially the Mark-III to be tested later this year, will augment its capacity, much more is needed.

The EPS on GSAT-09 will begin functioning two weeks after the launch, when the satellite will eventually go to its final slot in space, and continue to operate after that.


Lithium-ion battery

Surendra Singh|Isro battery to power e-vehicle project|Jul 19 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)

Giving thrust to the Centre's ambitious green vehicle project, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has approved commercial use of its indigenously developed lithium-ion battery . The space agency has agreed to transfer the technology , originally meant for space applications, at a cost to industries for mass production of e-vehicles. Use of Isro's indigenous battery technology is bound to reduce the cost of e-vehicles, whose manufacture is currently dependent on costly , imported parts.

The highly efficient battery , developed by Isro's Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), is currently used in satellites and launch vehi cles like GSLV and PSLV .

VSSC director Dr K Sivan said, “It's a high-energy battery that has a long cycle of charging and recharging. Because of its high-energy density characteristics, these lithium batteries are used in satellites as a source of power for 10-15 years. The batteries provide power to a satellite in space through multiple recharges (1,500 cycles of recharging). In rockets, the battery is used to power the electrical system till a vehicle launches a satellite in orbit.“

“VSSC has developed four types of cells --1.5Ah, 5Ah, 50Ah and 100Ah. Of these, Isro has allowed Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI-a governmentapproved vehicle testing body) to use 50Ah and 100Ah cells for developing prototypes of an e-scooter and an ecar, respectively ,“ he added.

The first of these lithiumbattery prototypes was installed on an electric two wheeler and unveiled at ARAI in Pune early this year.


Commercial use of these batteries will cut the cost of production of e-vehicles and help reduce air pollution.

“The government is currently working on modalities, including pricing, for transferring Isro's battery technology to industries to facilitate mass production of the green vehicle project,“ Sivan said.

Isro will also soon sign an MoU with Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) for technology transfer so that the public sector undertaking can start mass production of these batteries for space applications.

Gsat-19, launched by Isro's `Baahubali' GSLV Mk-III on June 5 this year, is uses “this indigenously developed lithium battery ,“ Sivan said.

Space tech being used in 125 govt projects

Surendra Singh, Space tech being used for 125 govt projects: Isro chief, January 29, 2018: The Times of India

‘Industry Asked To Mass-Produce NaVIC Receivers For Desi GPS’

Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is providing space technology to government departments in 125 areas to help them work on projects effectively and efficiently.

In an exclusive interview with TOI soon after taking over as Isro chairman, Dr Kailasavadivoo Sivan said, “Isro is helping the Centre make the most of space technology for social-welfare and development projects. Explaining how it all started, he said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi had held a meeting of all ministries some time back where he asked all departments to use the full potential of space technology for the betterment of the common man. In that meeting, 156 areas where identified where Isro could provide space technology solutions to fast-track projects. Out of those 156 areas, Isro is currently training government officials using space technology for 125 such projects like MGNREGA, navigation system and land demarcation plans. Gradually, the number of such areas will be increased.”

The Isro chairman said, “Isro currently has 42 satellites of different types in space. We are trying to synergise the data obtained from communication, navigation and remote sensing satellites so that it can be used in innovative ways for the societal good. For example, we are working on providing NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation or desi GPS) receivers to fishermen so that they can access Isro’s navigation system for boat navigation and locating fishing areas on high seas. The NaVIC receiver, along with a mobile app, will also help them track weather and keep themselves updated about any tsunami warning.”

Dr Sivan said, “The agency has already demonstrated the usage of the NaVIC receiver, containing an indigenously-made miniaturised chip, to fishermen in Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the presence of state officials. The fishermen had shown great interest in the NavIC receiver. Thereafter, the agency has requested the industry to mass-produce these receivers so that they can be used by people, including fishermen, for accessing the Indian regional navigation system.”

With Isro planning to increase the number of satellites so as to reduce the dearth of communication transponders, Dr Sivan said, “A second vehicle assembly building is coming up at the Sriharikota launch centre and it’s in an advanced stage of being built. Likewise, an additional PSLV integration facility is also being developed at the spaceport. These facilities will help Isro increase the frequency of launches.”

He said, “Isro is also working on the electric propulsion system (being used to propel a satellite in space) so that satellites with such electric propulsion system (EPS) will help reduce their dependence on chemical propellant. With the use of EPS, we can reduce the weight of a satellite. So, a 4-tonne satellite with EPS can do the work of a 6-tonne satellite with same efficiency.” With the development of GSLV Mk III or “fat boy’’ and increase in Isro’s capability to launch heavier satellite of over four tonnes, Dr Sivan said, “Isro will gradually reduce its dependence on the European spaceport for launching heavier satellites. However, a heavier communication satellite, Gsat-11 weighing 5.7-tonne, will be launched from French Guiana this year.”

On the upcoming launches, he said, “Isro will next launch a communication satellite Gsat-6A that will be carried by GSLV F08 next month. Thereafter, navigation satellite IRNSS1I will be launched (that will replace the faulty first navigation satellite IRNSS1A whose three atomic clocks had stopped working in 2016). The subsequent launches will be of Chandrayaan-2 mission, GSLV Mk III and PSLV C42.”

S-band synthetic aperture radar

Surendra Singh, March 12, 2021: The Times of India

Isro hits key goal in unique sat project with Nasa

Seven years after India and the US signed an agreement in 2014 to jointly develop the world’s first earth imaging satellite with two radars that can produce very highresolution images of Earth, Isro has achieved a milestone by developing the S-band synthetic aperture radar and shipping it to Nasa for integration with the L-band being developed in the US, reports Surendra Singh.

Once the integration is done, Nasa will send the module to India where other parts of Nasa-Isro SAR (NISAR) satellite will be built & launched from Sriharikota.

Nasa: NISAR will help manage earthquakes & tsunamis better

NISAR will be the world’s first-of-its-kind satellite that will operate on two radio frequencies with capability to collect data day and night and in any weather, including cloudy days.

“Its data can help people worldwide better manage natural resources and hazards like earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and landslides, as well as provide information to better understand the effects and pace of climate change,” according to Nasa.

NISAR, which will be able to “measure changes in the Earth’s surface less than a centimeter across”, will also help measure and study dynamic surfaces, ice masses like Himalayan glaciers, sea level rise and groundwater level.

Isro chairman K Sivan told TOI: “Nasa will integrate our S-band and their L-band radars and sent the integrated module back to India in the first quarter of next year and the complete satellite will be ready by 2022-end. We will then target to launch NISAR in early 2023.”

NISAR, which will weigh 2,800 kg, is estimated to be the world’s most expensive imaging satellite. The total cost of the project includes Isro’s work share cost of about Rs 788 crore and about $808 million (nearly Rs 5,890 crore) of Nasa. NISAR will have an imaging swath greater than 240 km and will therefore observe Earth’s land and ice-covered surfaces globally with 12-day regularity.

Satellites: India

See Satellites: India

Spacecraft, industry-built

The Hindu, December 11, 2016

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has signed the first contract for an industry-built spacecraft with a consortium of six companies based in Bengaluru.

The contract includes the assembly, integration and testing (AIT) of two spare navigation satellites in 18 months. It was signed between M. Annadurai, director of ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC), and the consortium lead, Alpha Design Technologies P Ltd.

ISAC assembles the country's satellites for communication, remote sensing and navigation. While ISRO has purchased sub-systems from its suppliers, this is the first time that it will be outsourcing entire satellites to industry, Col. Shankar said.

Alpha is a defence manufacturing contractor while the others are small and medium-sized companies which already supply components to ISRO's programmes.

"The second spacecraft will be made entirely by us but at ISRO's readily available facilities. From the second year onwards, the consortium must provide four to five [small- to medium-sized] satellites each year," Col. Shankar said.

ISAC said, "In order to meet the growing demands of satellites realisation, ISAC has been looking [for] active participation of industry in assembly, integration and testing of standard ISRO satellites. As part of this initiative, a contract was awarded to a consortium of six companies led by Alpha Design Technologies Private Ltd."


Gallery for viewers

Isro finally opens door for people to watch rocket launches, March 30, 2019: The Times of India

Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has finally opened its door to people who wish to catch a glimpse of spectacular launches of its multi-storeyed tall and tonnes-heavy rockets from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, an island in Andhra Pradesh.

Monday's liftoff of PSLV-C45 carrying a DRDO payload Emisat and 28 foreign satellites will be the first such launch which spectators can witness at the space agency's island, which is over 100km north of Chennai. The agency's move to open its high-security launch facility for people for free is on the lines of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), which too allows people in the US to watch its space activities, including rocket launches.

The viewing gallery, built like a stadium, can accommodate around 5,000 people. The gallery faces the two launchpads and will give a clear line of sight of the rocket and its launch.

Talking to TOI, Isro chairman K Sivan said: "The new stadium set up on the island can accommodate 5,000 spectators. But as a precautionary measure, we will allow only 1,000 people for Monday's launch. As the launch is at 9.30am, the entry at the stadium will only be till 8am to avoid last-minute hassles. The gallery is located 2-3km from the launchpad and will give a clear and better view of PSLV and GSLV launches. If all goes smoothly, we will allow 5,000 people for the next launch. We will later make some changes at the stadium to accommodate 10,000."

The Isro chief said the opening of the launch centre for the public has been part of his vision to "take Isro to people" to increase public awareness about space activities.

On the eligibility criteria, Sivan said, "Only Indian citizens and children above 10 years will be allowed entry. People have to first register themselves online at the Isro website. They also have to sign an agreement online that will make it clear that Isro won't be liable for any untoward incident at the stadium or Sriharikota launch centre. On filling up all required documents online, people will get an entry pass which they have to download, take a print and show it to security while entering the island."

On safety measures and other arrangements for visitors, Sivan told TOI, "Adequate safety systems have been placed at the stadium for the public. We have also chosen food vendors who will provide snacks to people for money. Toilet and washroom facilities have also been built. There are big screens installed at the stadium that will provide information about the launch, inside view of the space control room and post-launch space activities and the press conference."

The Isro chief said the "stadium is a part of the theme park, which will also have a museum and life-size rocket models to help visitors get a better understanding and feel of rockets".

He said Isro is taking these efforts with an objective to encourage youngsters to join the space sector and increase people's knowledge about India's advancement in space activities.


2023 February

U Tejonmayam, February 11, 2023: The Times of India

Sriharikota : Isro’s smallest and latest commercial rocket, SSLV, entered the global small satellite launch services market, with the successful launch of the SSLV-D2. 
After failing to place the satellites in orbit on its maiden flight on August 7, 2022, SSLV on its second developmental flight, placed three satellites including EOS-07, an earth observation satellite, and Janus-1 from US firm Antaris, in the desired orbit.

“We have a new launch vehicle,” said Isro chairman SSomanath after the launch. On Friday morning, SSLV, which is 34m tall and weighs 120 tonnes, lifted off from the first launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. Around 13 minutes into the launch, the vehicle separated EOS-07, weighing 156. 3kg, and 1. 6 minute later ejected the 10. 2kg Janus-1 and 8. 8kg Azaadisat-2 made by Space Kidz India. The satellites were intended for a 450km circular orbit.

Isro chairman said the vehicle used a new, cost-effective guidance and navigation system. About the first developmental flight, Somanath said, “We had a narrow miss while trying to place the satellite in orbit because of a shortfall in velocity. We analysed the problems, took corrective actions to ensure the vehicle was a success this time. ”

Mission director Vinod S S said within five months of SSLV’s maiden flight, Isro scientists realised five new hardware, a new separation system and made modifications to the navigation and the guidance system. “With this launch, we have accomplished the objective of having a low-cost vehicle with a short turnaround time to offer launches on demand,” he said.

Isro will transfer the SSLV technology to the private sector to manufacture on demand. Isro is also working on a new spaceport at Kulasekarapattinam in Tamil Nadu to launch SSLVs. 
Somanath said Isro teams have started the launch campaign for PSLV-C55 slated for the end of March. The agency is also gearing up for launch of 36 satellites of the UK-based OneWeb. The chairman said Isro will do a landing demonstration of its reusable launch vehicle and, by the end of this year, launch the Nisar satellite that it developed with Nasa.

Technology imports

Falcon-9 rocket of SpaceX/ 2024

Chethan Kumar, January 4, 2024: The Times of India

In a 1st, Isro arm to use Musk rocket to launch heavy sat

Bengaluru : In a first, Isro will use the services of an American launcher for launching its over four-tonne heavy satellite. Isro’s commercial arm Space PSU NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) will get its 4.7-tonne high-throughput satellite launched by a Falcon-9 rocket of Elon Musk’s SpaceX later this year. Till now, India had used the services of France’s Arianespace to send its heavy satellites to space as Isro’s ‘Bahubali’ GSLV MK III or LVM-3 rocket has the capability to launch a satellite weighing only up to 4tonne to the geo orbit.

NSIL plans to launch its second demand-driven com- munications satellite, GSAT-20 (renamed GSATN2), in the second quarter of 2024. The satellite will be a high-throughput Ka-band satellite aimed at meeting India’s growing broadband connectivity needs. NSIL is working with Isro on realis- ing the GSAT-N2, a cost-effective satellite that will play a significant role in connecting remote and underserved regions of the country. “NSIL will own, operate and fund the 4,700kg satellite, which can provide up to 48Gbps of capacity across 32 beams covering all of India, including Andaman, Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands,” the PSU said.

NSIL CMD Radhakrishnan D told TOI: “SpaceX was selected against a request for proposal we had floated last year. There were other bidders too. This marks a new beginning as we launch on a US rocket from their soil. The present agreement is only for this launch and we will look at future requirements as and when we need.”

See also

Solar mission, India/ Aditya

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

The ISRO Spy case: 1994

Moon mission, India/ Chandrayaan

Satellites: India

Space technology: India

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