In 1969, the Indian Government launched the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). ISRO is the main space agency dedicated to furthering Indian development in aerospace technology and innovation. While not as sizable as other major space organizations, ISRO has consistently reached milestones and aided foreign powers in making their mark in space. Primarily, their focus has been on serving as the catalyst for satellite launches around the globe. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), used for launching satellites into polar orbits, and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), used for placing satellites into geostationary orbits, are two rockets developed by ISRO that have launched numerous communications and observation satellites in the past three decades. On June 18, 2016 India launched 20 satellites in a single payload of nations including Canada, Germany, Japan, Singapore and the U.S.
In 2012, ISRO began to develop IRNSS, a regional navigation satellite system that aims to provide accurate position information services to people in India and up to 1500 km from its boundary. While similar to GPS, the Indian government has stressed the importance of IRNSS because access to Global Navigation Satellite Systems is often not guaranteed in hostile situations. The system will provide both Standard Positioning Service (SPS) and Restricted Service (RS), which are expected to provide accuracy of 20 m or better in the satellite’s primary service area. On January 20, 2016 IRNSS-1E was launched successfully from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota. In just four months, the ISRO was able to launch all seven of the IRNSS satellites. With the satellites successfully falling into orbit, India now has its very own navigation system.
Perhaps the most impressive development in India’s space and satellite programs came in September 2014 when it became the first Asian country to successfully send a spacecraft to Mars. On November 5, 2013, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also known as Mangalyaan, was launched at a cost of $73 million (the lowest cost of any space exploration to the red planet) and entered the orbit almost a year later. To put that price tag in perspective, NASA’s MAVEN, which arrived to Mars the same week, cost upwards of $670 million. Any successful mission to Mars is seen as a magnificent accomplishment, let alone one with a budget of under $100 million. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, understandably ecstatic about his country’s feat, stated “The odds were stacked against us. Of the 51 missions attempted so far, a mere 21 had succeeded. But we have prevailed,” (1). MOM is equipped with a number of instruments, mainly to measure methane, atmospheric hydrogen, surface temperature, atmospheric pressure, and a camera for physically scanning the surface. Not only does the MOM revolutionize Asian aerospace engineering, but it adds another spacecraft to the hunt for gathering Martian information.
India’s most recent objective is its mission to build a Two Stage to Orbit (TSTO) fully re-usable launch vehicle. A TSTO is a special spacecraft that uses two distinct stages (as opposed to the three that many space vehicles need): the first to accelerate the vehicle, and the second to detach from the first stage and enter orbit on its own, then launch a vehicle and reach orbital velocity. On August 28, 2016, ISRO successfully test-fired two scramjet engines, “air-breathing ramjets in which combustion takes place in a supersonic airflow” (2), with the help of ATV-D02, a two-stage spin stabilized launcher. According to ISRO, “with this flight, critical technologies such as ignition of air-breathing engines at supersonic speed, holding the flame at supersonic speed, air intake mechanism and fuel injection systems have been successfully demonstrated,” (2). The beauty of scramjet engines is that they use oxygen from the atmosphere and reduce the amount of oxidizer that a space vehicle needs to carry along with its fuel. This advancement has potential to dramatically cut the cost of rocket launches. India is just the fourth country to successfully demonstrate the testing of a scramjet engine.
The past decade has seen Indian aerospace engineering soar into elite company amongst nations with advanced space exploration technology. Despite their low budgets and an array of competition, ISRO has officially made a case for itself as a major contributor to the Asian space race. They have quickly moved from leading the charge of communications satellite launches to the conversation of serious space exploration. A leap like this proves the capability of India’s space technology and motivates other leading nations to improve their dedication towards space exploration. These rapid developments serve as an exciting showcase for the potential of aerospace innovation in years to come.
(1) Park, Madison. "India's Spacecraft Reaches Mars Orbit ... and History." CNN. Cable News Network, 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 01 Sept. 2016.
(2) Vergano, Dan. "India Reaches Mars With Low-Cost Mission." National Geographic Society. N.p., 25 Sept. 2014. Web. 04 Sept. 2016.
(3) Lewontin, Max. "Indian Space Program Scores a Success with Reusable Spacecraft Prototype." The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 23 May 2016. Web. 02 Sept.
(4) "About ISRO." Indian Space Research Organization. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Sept. 2016.
(5) Nowakowski, Tomasz. "India Successfully Tests Its Scramjet Engine Technology." Spaceflight Insider. N.p., 29 Aug. 2016. Web. 04 Sept. 2016.
Image: © Subhrajyoti Parida | Dreamstime.com - Exhibits related to space science and astronomy
Carlos was born in Chicago, Illinois and came to USC to study psychology with a minor in Business Administration. He has worked in healthcare and finance for the past two summers. Carlos also helped co-found Trojan Marketing Group, a group that develops marketing strategies for large companies. Carlos has been with Global Intelligence Trust since summer of 2016. He am most interested in writing about innovation in the technology sector and aerospace developments. Apart from academics, Carlos enjoys playing volleyball, hiking, and traveling.