The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was set up in 1969 and since then it has been going from strength to strength. It has come a long way from when it built its first satellite Aryabhata in 1975, which had to be launched from Russia.
Awesome facts about the ISRO
Now other countries come to us for launches. ISRO got great worldwide attention when the successful Chandrayaan mission of 2008-09 detected water on the moon.
A look at its successes in 2014…
1. Mars orbit: Mangalyaan or the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) was a spectacular success. India became the fourth country in the world to reach Mars orbit (on September 24) and the first to do it in the first attempt. It is to be noted that we have beaten China to it.
More importantly, it was done at a mere one-tenth of the price of what the Americans spent and this achievement raises new possibilities for the future of space travel with rising budget cuts for space research, especially with regard to NASA.
It was executed in record time too. The feasibility study was done in 2010 and the government approved it in 2012. The launch took place in 2013 and it reached Mars orbit in 2014.
In fact so buoyed by this mission, that ISRO is considering a landing and rover mission on Mars by 2020 itself. India has truly entered the Space Age.
2. NISAR deal: NISAR or Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar will be the first satellite to use dual frequency for radar imaging. ISRO and NASA inked the deal this year and the launch is expected by 2020.
NISAR will help map complex environmental processes like earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and ice-sheet collapses. It will also be important in monitoring climate change and will be launched from India.
This is not the first collaboration between the two premier space agencies. NASA instruments placed on Chandrayaan detected water on the moon. The two will also collaborate for future Mars missions.
In fact, already co-ordinated analysis is being worked out between Mangalyaan and NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission).
3. GSAT-14: GSAT-3 (for geosynchronous satellite) was launched in 2004 to address the need for satellite-based distant education throughout India. However, it was decommissioned in 2010. The beginning of the year saw the successful launch of GSAT-14 which will replace GSAT-3.
This solar-powered satellite will last for a longer 12 years and will also be involved in weather research.
4. Cryonic rocket engine: The launch of GSAT-14 saw another success because the rocket that was used, the CE-7.5, happened to be India’s first with cryogenic fuel. ISRO’s cryogenic project was launched in 1994 and tested in 2008. However the 2010 launch was a failure. 2014 marked it a success.
It was high time that India built a cryogenic Indian rocket engine because both China and Japan have beaten us to it. America, Russia and the European Space Agency are the other successful users of such an engine.
Another cryogenic technology called the “gas-generator cycle” leads to cheaper and lighter engines. ISRO is working on that and the engine, to be called CE-20, will be ready in 2015.
5. Our very own GPS: India has planned seven Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System satellites to rival America’s stranglehold of GPS. While the IRNSS-1A was launched last year, IRNSS-1B and 1C were successfully launched in 2014.
All the rest are expected to be launched by March 2015. This will give considerable teeth to the Indian defence services because during war, we will not be dependent on American satellites for GPS applications.
This was required because every country is realizing that it cannot be at the mercy of America for navigation which is essential even in peace time. Russia, EU, China and Japan all have navigation satellite systems.
6. The 5 in 1 launch: The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle mission was launched in the early 1990s and post-2000, it has hardly seen any failures. The good work continued in 2014 when PSLV C23 launched 5 foreign satellites into space.
While that’s no record, the routine launch points to the mastery of PSLV which in the past has launched both Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan. In all 31 Indian and 40 foreign satellites have been successfully launched into space.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.