Indian Space Research Organisation [ISRO Notes for UPSC]

ISRO is an important body in India and spearheads research in space science in India, also playing a huge role in the development of the country through educational, agricultural, communication, and defence sector projects. Hence, it is an important segment of UPSC science and technology syllabus.

ISRO or Indian Space Research Organisation is India’s space agency founded in 1969 to help develop an indigenous Indian space program. It is one of the 6 largest space agencies in the world today. ISRO maintains one of the biggest fleets of remote sensing (IRS) and communication (INSAT) satellites catering to the needs of the nation through a network of centres, offices, and research institutes in different parts of the country. ISRO functions in the following areas: broadcasting, weather forecasting, disaster management, geographic information systems, navigation, cartography (maps), telemedicine, distance education satellites, etc.

ISRO – UPSC Notes:- Download PDF Here

ISRO is headquartered in Bengaluru.

ISRO Chairman: Dr K Sivan (who is also the Secretary of the Department of Space, GOI)

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ISRO Formation

  • The Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was established by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962 under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).
  • Eminent scientist Dr Vikram Sarabhai had a big role in this development. He understood the need for space research and was convinced of the role it can play in helping a nation develop.
  • INCOSPAR set up the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) at Thumba, near Thiruvananthapuram at India’s southern tip. TERLS is a spaceport used to launch rockets.
  • The INCOSPAR became ISRO in 1969.
  • The Department of Space was created in 1972 and ISRO became a part of it and remains so till date. The Space Department reports directly to the Prime Minister of the country.
  • During 1975-76, Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) was conducted. It was hailed as ‘the largest sociological experiment in the world’. It was followed by the ‘Kheda Communications Project (KCP)’, which worked as a field laboratory for need-based and locale-specific program transmission in the state of Gujarat State.
  • During this phase, the first Indian spacecraft ‘Aryabhata’ was developed and was launched using a Soviet Launcher.
  • Another major landmark was the development of the first launch vehicle SLV-3 with a capability to place 40 kg in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which had its first successful flight in 1980.
  • ’80s was the experimental phase wherein, Bhaskara-I & II missions were pioneering steps in the remote sensing area whereas ‘Ariane Passenger Payload Experiment (APPLE)’ became the forerunner for the future communication satellite systems.
  • Antrix Corporation Limited (ACL) is a Marketing arm of ISRO for promotion and commercial exploitation of space products, technical consultancy services and transfer of technologies developed by ISRO.

ISRO has many facilities each dedicated to a specialized field of study in space. A few of them are as follows:

  • Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram – The space research activities were initiated in India under Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the founding father of the Indian space program, during 1960s.
  • Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), Thiruvananthapuram
  • Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC-SHAR), Sriharikota
  • Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad
  • National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Hyderabad

ISRO Milestones

  • The first Indian-made sounding rocket was the RH-75 (Rohini-75). It was launched from TERLS in 1967. It weighed just 32 kg. Series of Rohini Sounding Rockets were developed by ISRO for atmospheric and meteorological studies.
  • ISRO built its first satellite in 1975 and named it Aryabhata. This was launched by the Soviet Union.
  • The first Indian-built launch vehicle was SLV-3 and it was used to launch the Rohini satellite in 1980.
  • ISRO launched its first INSAT satellite in 1982. It was a communication satellite. It was named as INSAT-1A, which failed in orbit. The next communication satellite INSAT-1B was launched in 1983.
  • Established in 1983 with commissioning of INSAT-1B, the Indian National Satellite (INSAT) system is one of the largest domestic communication satellite systems in the Asia-Pacific region with nine operational communication satellites placed in Geostationary orbit. Details regarding INSAT – 1B are available on the linked page. The INSAT system provides services to telecommunications, television broadcasting, satellite newsgathering, societal applications, weather forecasting, disaster warning and Search and Rescue operations. 
  • ISRO also launched the first IRS (remote-sensing satellite) in 1988.
  • ISRO has developed three types of launch vehicles (or rockets) namely, the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle), the GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mark III or LVM). Further details on GSLV MK III are available on the link provided here.
  • ISRO launched its first lunar mission Chandrayaan I in 2008.
  • It also launched the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or the Mangalyaan in 2014. With this, India became the first country to achieve success in putting a satellite in the Mars orbit in its maiden attempt and the fourth space agency and the first space Asian agency to do so. Read the details on Mangalyaan Mission here.
  • ISRO has launched many small satellites mainly for experimental purposes such as INS-1C, Aryabhatta, APPLE, Rohini Technology Payload, YOUTHSAT, etc. The experiment includes Remote Sensing, Atmospheric Studies, Payload Development, Orbit Controls, recovery technology and more.
  • Scramjet (Supersonic Combustion Ramjet) engine – In August 2016, ISRO successfully conducted the Scramjet (Supersonic Combustion Ramjet) engine test. It uses Hydrogen as fuel and Oxygen from the atmospheric air as the oxidizer. ISRO’s Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV), which is an advanced sounding rocket, was the solid rocket booster used for the test of Scramjet engines at supersonic conditions. This test was the maiden short duration experimental test of ISRO’s Scramjet engine with a hypersonic flight at Mach 6. The new propulsion system will complement ISRO’s reusable launch vehicle that would have a longer flight duration. Read in detail about the Advance Technology Vehicle of ISRO on the given link.
  • In 2017, ISRO created another world record by launching 104 satellites in a single rocket. It launched its heaviest rocket yet, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III and placed the GSAT 19 in orbit.
  • India’s Manned Mission to Space also termed as Gaganyaan, this project is part of the government’s ambition to make India a global low-cost provider of services in space. The launch vehicle for this mission will carry heavy payloads into space. For this purpose, GSLV Mk-III is being developed with a cryogenic engine. ISRO has already tested the GSLV Mk-III with experimental crew module (Re-entry & Recovery technology) and Crew Escape System (CES). Detailed information on Gaganyaan Mission is available on the linked page.

Also read the List of Indian Satellite From 1975 to 2021 on the given link.

Candidates can go through a few more achievements of ISRO mentioned below –

  1. ISRO has launched many operational remote sensing satellites, starting with IRS-1A in 1988. Detailed information on IRS-1A – the first indigenous remote sensing satelite is available on the linked page. Today, India has one of the largest constellations of remote sensing satellites in operation. The data from these satellites are used for several applications covering agriculture, water resources, urban planning, rural development, mineral prospecting, environment, forestry, ocean resources and disaster management.
  2. Navigation services are necessary to meet the emerging demands of the Civil Aviation requirements and to meet the user requirements of the positioning, navigation and timing based on the independent satellite navigation system.  ISRO worked jointly with Airport Authority of India (AAI) in establishing the GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) system to meet the Civil Aviation requirements. Similarly, it established a regional satellite navigation system called the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) to meet the user requirements of the positioning, navigation and timing services. Know more on IRNSS-NAVIC on the linked page.
  3. ISRO has influenced educational institutions by its activities like making satellites for communication, remote sensing and astronomy. The launch of Chandrayaan-1 increased the interest of universities and institutions towards making experimental student satellites. Some important Academic Institute Satellite are – Kalamsat-V2, PRATHAM, SATHYABAMASAT, SWAYAM, Jugnu, etc.

Go through the information on Satellite Launch Vehicle Program on the linked page.

ISRO Vision & Objectives

ISRO’s vision is stated as “Harness space technology for national development while pursuing space science research and planetary exploration.”

ISRO Mission

  • Design and development of launch vehicles and related technologies for providing access to space.
  • Design and development of satellites and related technologies for earth observation, communication, navigation, meteorology and space science.
  • Indian National Satellite (INSAT) programme for meeting telecommunication, television broadcasting and developmental applications.
  • Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) programme for management of natural resources and monitoring of environment using space-based imagery.
  • Space-based Applications for Societal development.
  • Research and Development in space science and planetary exploration.

ISRO – UPSC Notes:- Download PDF Here

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