The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is responsible for the planning and execution of the space programme in India. It develops and fabricates rockets and satellites, etc. for different uses. It has its own rocket launching station at Thumba, near Thiruvananthapuram. It has a great location advantage being very close to the magnetic equator. There is no other rocket launching station in the world close to the magnetic equator. The U.N. has recognised it as an international facility.
The Indian National Satellite System (INSAT), a multipurpose operational satellite system, was established in 1983. Since then it has successfully launched a series of INSATs including more advanced ones like INSAT-2C. Similarly, operational Indian Remote Sensing Satellites have made phenomenal progress. The series began with IRS-IA in March 1988. The IRS-IC had much better spectral and spatial resolutions, more frequent revisits, stereo viewing and on-board capabilities. It was followed by IRS-ID, IRSP4, INSAT-3B, GSLV-D1 and GSLV-D2.
India has now deployed such Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) like the Prithui, Nag, etc., which have been very successfully tested many a time. India’s ambitious plan in rocketry, space research and missile technology have opened the path for continuous space exploration and self-reliance. The success of these space efforts marks a great advancement and proof of the scientific, engineering and technological capabilities of the Indian scientists.
In the field of developing and manufacturing of space-launch vehicles, as well as components, India has been a leader among the developing countries. It has already developed Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) capable of launching 1000- kg class of satellites into a polar sun synchronous orbit. It will soon develop and manufacture Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, GSLV, incorporating cryo-engine technology, capable of placing 2,500 kg INSAT class of satellites in geosynchronous transfer orbit.
The space programme in India primarily aims at providing space-based services in the areas of communication, meteorology, resources survey and management. In these areas, India has already made significant progress through a well-integrated, self-reliant programme. Indian space research has not only enhanced the communication capabilities, but now it is also being widely used for providing advanced disaster warning, search and rescue measures, and distance education in remote areas. Similarly, space remote sensing is providing vital inputs for agriculture, soil, forestry, land and water resources, environment, minerals, ocean development, and in the management of drought and flood disasters.
The wide network of space centres and units include Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) Thiruvananthapuram, ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC), Bangalore, Space Application Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad, SHAR Centre Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, Development and Educational Communication Unit (DECU), Ahmedabad, ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC), Bangalore, and Master Control Facility at Hassan in Karnataka. The scientists, technologists, engineers and technicians working in these prestigious institutions ensure steady progress in the field as they are exceptionally talented, devoted and ambitious. India is sure to achieve much more, in the use of space, both for the purpose of peace and for defence.
Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma was the first Indian to go into space. He was launched into space, aboard the Soviet spaceship Soyuz T II along with Yuri Vasilevich and Gennady Mikhailovich, the two Russian cosmonauts. It happened on 3rd April, 1984, at Baikanour cosmodrome in Kazakhstani. Thus, India became the 14th nation to have sent a man into space. Dr. Kalpana Chawla became the first Indian lady to go into space in November, 1997. She was chosen out of 2,962 applicants by Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, U.S.A. The 42 year old dynamic lady had the proud and rare privilege to embark on her second space voyage on January 16, 2003. But, tragically, on her return journey aboard the space shuttle, Columbia, on February 1, 2003, there was an explosion minutes before landing, killing her and all the other crew members.