Aerospace In India

 India began its space program in 1962 under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was established on August 15, 1969. In 1972, ISRO was brought under the Department of Space, Government of India. India has made steady progress in the development of launch vehicles and satellites. The first Indian satellite was Aryabhatta, launched by a Soviet rocket on 19th April 1975. On 18th July 1980 India entered the Space Age with the successful launch of a Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-3), when a 35kg satellite called Rohini was placed in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

The primary objective of the Indian Space Program is to achieve self-reliance in space technology and develop application driven programs to meet the national needs. Space technology in India is primarily geared towards improving telecommunication and meteorological forecasting. Equally important goals are improving distance education, providing advanced natural disaster warning, remote sensing for agriculture, soil, mineral and water resource management.

The four main satellite-based programs of ISRO are (1) Earth Observation and Meteorological Satellite System (2) Communication Satellite System (3) Navigation Systems and (4) Space Science and Planetary Research Systems.

ISRO currently has two types of operational launch vehicles, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).  ISRO is also working on the development of small satellite and heavy lift launchers, reusable launch vehicles, air breathing propulsion project and semi-cryogenic engines to cater to different payloads and an array of new missions including Gaganyaan, India’s first Human Space Flight (HSF) program.

India’s first operational Earth Observation satellite IRS-1A, an 850 kg satellite was launched into a 900km polar orbit on 17th March 1988 by a Soviet rocket. Within a span of ten years from that time, in the year 1997, India used her own rocket PSLV to place IRS-1D into polar orbit. With the development of PSLV, India has the capability to place into polar orbit satellites that weigh upto 1,200 kg. The Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) system has the largest constellation of commercial earth observation providing data in a variety of spatial and spectral resolutions. India’s first operational telecommunications satellite is INSAT-1A, launched by a NASA Delta rocket on 10th April 1982. Since then India relied on European Space Agency’s Ariane rockets to launch the INSAT series satellites into geo-stationary orbit. On April 18, 2001, India blasted into the elite space club of heavy satellite launchers with the successful test-flight of GSLV-D1. The successful launch of India’s first educational communication satellite “EDUSAT” by GSLV-F01 on September 20, 2004 heralds the operational reliability of the heavy lifter to Geostationary orbits. 

ISRO has established the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) with a space segment, NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation) consisting of three satellites in the geostationary orbit and four in the geosynchronous orbit to provide independent and accurate positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) services covering the Indian landmass and surrounding areas up to 1500 km. The IRNSS-1A was launched by a PSLV Rocket on July 01, 2013 and the most recent addition to the constellation, IRNSS-1I was launched on April 11, 2018 by a PSLV Rocket. The ground segment is situated in various parts of the country and together they provide numerous applications to the Indian user segment.

India’s first mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft carrying both Indian and international science payloads was successfully launched on October 22, 2008 by the PSLV C-11 Rocket. NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument discovered surficial water in the Moon. ISRO’s Altitudinal Composition Explorer (CHACE) mass spectrometer payload onboard the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) detected water in the vapor phase. India’s first planetary mission to Mars, Mars Orbiter Mission (“Mangalyaan”) was launched on November 05, 2013 by a PSLV Rocket and successfully entered an elliptical orbit around Mars on September 24, 2014. Mars Orbiter through its five scientific payloads continues to provide valuable data of Mars surface and its atmosphere. ASTROSAT satellite, India’s first dedicated astronomy satellite was successfully launched on September 28, 2015. ASTROSAT enables simultaneous multi-wavelength (Ultraviolet to X-Ray) observations to study Stars and Galaxies. India’s second mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft consisting of an Orbiter and a Lander module named ‘Vikram’ with a Rover was launched on July 22, 2019 by a GSLV MK-3 Rocket. Although the lunar lander was unsuccessful, the Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter is performing well at an altitude of 100 km x 100 km above the lunar surface.

In January 2019, the Human Space Flight Center (HSFC) was constituted in ISRO to carry out the vision on human space flight program. HSFC is entrusted to act as the lead center for the sustained and affordable human spaceflight activities to extend the human presence across the solar system starting with human space flight missions to LEO. The focus of HSFC is on the development of engineering systems related to the Orbiter module, development of human centric technologies, act as a hub for bio-astronautics related R&D, establish facilities for crew selection & training, develop state of the art crew-life support systems, develop technologies for sustained human space flight activities including space habitat and robotic space exploration. ISRO is currently working to implement the Gaganyaan project with the objective of demonstrating human space flight capability to Low Earth orbit (LEO) of 400 km altitude with up to three crew members for up to five to seven days in orbit and safely recovers them after the mission by 2022, the 75th Anniversary of Indian Independence.

My Research Work

My independent research work involves applying system design and management techniques to review space system architecture to understand, glean insights and recommend actions for select Indian space programs and missions and for European Space Agency’s space science missions and programs.

I am an Associate Fellow of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA.Org) professional organization, and I publish peer-reviewed technical papers through AIAA conferences and also write on Economics & Policy issues relevant for the aerospace industry.