Space Technology

Space Technology- Indian space programs.

Application of Satellites for different purposes


Despite being a developing economy with its attendant problems, India has effectively developed space technology and has applied it successfully for its rapid development and today is offering a variety of space services globally.

Indian Space Program:

During the formative decade of 1960s, space research was conducted by India mainly with the help of sounding rockets. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was formed in 1969. Space research activities were provided additional fillip with the formation of the Space Commission and the Department of Space by the government of India in 1972. And, ISRO was brought under the Department of Space in the same year.

In the history of the Indian space programme, 70s were the era of Experimentation during which experimental satellite programmes like Aryabhatta, Bhaskara, Rohini and Apple were conducted. The success of those programmes, led to era of operationalisation in 80s during which operational satellite programmes like INSAT and IRS came into being. Today, INSAT and IRS are the major programmes of ISRO.

For launching its spacecraft indigenously, India is having a robust launch vehicle programme, which has matured to the state of offering launch services to the outside world. Antrix, the commercial arm of the Department of Space, is marketing India’s space services globally. Fruitful co-operation with other space faring nations, international bodies and the developing world is one of the main characteristics of India’s space programme.

The most significant milestone of the Indian Space Programme during the year 2005-2006 was the successful launch of PSLV-C6. On 5 May 2005, the ninth flight of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C6) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota successfully placed two satellites – the 1560 kg CARTOSTAR-1 and 42 kg HAMSAT – into a predetermined polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO). Coming after seven launch successes in a row, the success of PSLV-C6 further demonstrated the reliability of PSLV and its capability to place payloads weighing up to 1600 kg satellites into a 600 km high polar SSO.

The successful launch of INSAT-4A, the heaviest and most powerful satellite built by India so far; on 22 December 2005 was the other major event of the year 2005-06. INSAT-4A is capable of providing Direct-To-Home (DTH) television broadcasting services.

Besides, the setting up of the second cluster of nine Village Resource Centres (VRCs) was an important ongoing initiative of the Department of Space during the year. VRC concept integrates the capabilities of communications and earth observation satellites to provide a variety of information emanating from space systems and other IT tools to address the changing and critical needs of rural communities.

In October 2008, the first lunar mission launched by ISRO. The spacecraft, Chandrayaan took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre and it operated till August 2009. The project was announced by former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as part of his independence day speech in 2003. The greatest achievement of this lunar project was the discovery of a large number of water molecules in moon. ISRO plans to launch its second lunar mission, Chandrayaan 2 by 2018.

In 2014, Mangalyaan, India’s first interplanetary mission was launched, making ISRO the fourth space agency to reach Mars. Mangalyaan gained worldwide repute as being the least expensive Mars mission till date.

Recently India has launched 104 staellites at one go, which is a world record. The previous world record is with the Russian space agency with 37 satellites at one go.

India has been launching heavy satellites on its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) but so far it has only been used for domestic satellites.In recent months though, there have been queries from foreign companies for launches on the GSLV.


Application of satellites for different purposes:

Satellites based on application can be categorized as follows:

Earth Observation satellite->

Starting with IRS-1A in 1988, ISRO has launched many operational remote sensing satellites. Today, India has one of the largest constellations of remote sensing satellites in operation. Currently, *thirteen* operational satellites are in Sun-synchronous orbit – RESOURCESAT-1, 2, 2A CARTOSAT-1, 2, 2A, 2B, RISAT-1 and 2, OCEANSAT-2, Megha-Tropiques, SARAL and SCATSAT-1, and *four* in Geostationary orbit- INSAT-3D, Kalpana & INSAT 3A, INSAT -3DR. Varieties of instruments have been flown onboard these satellites to provide necessary data in a diversified spatial, spectral and temporal resolutions to cater to different user requirements in the country and for global usage. 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.

Communication satellite->

The Indian National Satellite (INSAT) system is one of the largest domestic communication satellite systems in Asia-Pacific region with nine operational communication satellites placed in Geo-stationary orbit. Established in 1983 with commissioning of INSAT-1B, it initiated a major revolution in India’s communications sector and sustained the same later. GSAT-18 joins the constellation of INSAT System consisting 14 operational satellites, namely – INSAT-3A, 3C, 4A, 4B, 4CR, 3DR and GSAT-6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15 and 16.

The INSAT system with more than 200 transponders in the C, Extended C and Ku-bands provides services to telecommunications, television broadcasting, satellite newsgathering, societal applications, weather forecasting, disaster warning and Search and Rescue operations.


Navigation satellite->

Satellite Navigation service is an emerging satellite based system with commercial and strategic applications. ISRO is committed to provide the satellite based Navigation services 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. To meet the Civil Aviation requirements, ISRO is working jointly with Airport Authority of India (AAI) in establishing the GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) system. To meet the user requirements of the positioning, navigation and timing services based on the indigenous system, ISRO is establishing a regional satellite navigation system called Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).

(a) GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation (GAGAN):

This is a Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) implemented jointly with Airport Authority of India (AAI). The main objectives of GAGAN are to provide Satellite-based Navigation services with accuracy and integrity required for civil aviation applications and to provide better Air Traffic Management over Indian Airspace. The system will be interoperable with other international SBAS systems and provide seamless navigation across regional boundaries. The GAGAN Signal-In-Space (SIS) is available through GSAT-8 and GSAT-10.

(b) Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) : NavIC

This is an independent Indian Satellite based positioning system for critical National applications. The main objective is to provide Reliable Position, Navigation and Timing services over India and its neighbourhood, to provide fairly good accuracy to the user. The IRNSS will provide basically two types of services

Standard Positioning Service (SPS)

Restricted Service (RS)

Space Segment consists of seven satellites, three satellites in GEO stationary orbit (GEO) and four satellites in Geo Synchronous Orbit (GSO) orbit with inclination of 29° to the equatorial plane. This constellation of seven satellites was named as “NavIC” (Navigation Indian Constellation) by the Honourable Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi and dedicated to the Nation on the occasion of successful launch of IRNSS-1G, the seventh and last satellite of NavIC. All the satellites will be visible at all times in the Indian region. All the seven Satellites of NavIC, namely, IRNSS-1A, 1B, 1C, ID,1E, 1F and 1G were successfully launched on July 02, 2013, Apr 04, 2014, Oct 16, 2014, Mar 28, 2015, Jan 20, 2016, Mar 10, 2016 and Apr 28, 2016 respectively and all are functioning satisfactorily from their designated orbital positions.

Ground Segment is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the IRNSS constellation. It provides the monitoring of the constellation status, computation of the orbital and clock parameters and navigation data uploading. The Ground segment comprises of TTC & Uplinking Stations, Spacecraft Control Centre, IRNSS Timing Centre, CDMA Ranging Stations, Navigation Control Centre and Data Communication Links. Space segment is compatible with single frequency receiver for Standard Positioning Service (SPS), dual frequency receiver for both SPS & RS service and a multi mode receiver compatible with other GNSS providers.


Experimental satellite->

ISRO has launched many small satellites mainly for the experimental purposes. This experiment include Remote Sensing, Atmospheric Studies, Payload Development, Orbit Controls, recovery technology etc. Example- INS-1A, INS-1B, YOUTHSAT, APPLE


Small satellite->

The small satellite project is envisaged to provide platform for stand-alone payloads for earth imaging and science missions within a quick turn around time. For making the versatile platform for different kinds of payloads, two kinds of buses have been configured and developed.

Indian Mini Satellite -1 (IMS-1): IMS-1 bus has been developed as a versatile bus of 100 kg class which includes a payload capability of around 30 kg. The bus has been developed using various miniaturization techniques. The first mission of the IMS-1 series was launched successfully on April 28th 2008 as a co-passenger along with Cartosat 2A. Youthsat is second mission in this series and was launched successfully along with Resourcesat 2 on  20th April 2011.

Indian Mini Satellite -2 (IMS-2) Bus: IMS-2 Bus is evolved as a standard bus of 400 kg class which includes a payload capability of around 200kg. IMS-2 development is an important milestone as it is envisaged to be a work horse for different types of remote sensing applications. The first mission of IMS-2 is SARAL.  SARAL is a co-operative mission between ISRO and CNES with payloads from CNES and spacecraft bus from ISRO.


Student/Academic satellite->

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.


Applications of Space Technology in India


Information on crop statistics is required for planning and decision making purposes, such as, distribution and storage of food grains, Govt. policies, pricing, procurement and food security and so on. Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare effectively uses contemporary techniques of satellite remote sensing in such decision making. Remote sensing data does provide many advantages over conventional methods, particularly in terms of timely decision making mechanisms, spatial depiction and coverage including cost effectiveness. Space data is used in addressing in many critical aspects, such as, crop area estimation, crop yield & production estimation, crop condition, deriving basic soil information, cropping system studies, experimental crop insurance, etc.

Crop production forecasts using satellite remote sensing data has been conceptualized by ISRO in early eighties. This led to the success of CAPE (Crop Acreage and Production Estimation) project, that was done with active participation of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoA&FW), towards forecasting of production of crops in selected regions. In order to enhance the scope of this project, the FASAL (Forecasting Agricultural Output using Space, Agro-meteorology and Land based Observations) programme was conceptualized, by developing methodology for multiple in-season forecasts of crops at national scale. A centre named Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre (MNCFC) was established by MoA&FW in New Delhi in April 2012, which operationally uses space-based observations, at national level, for pre-harvest multiple crop production forecasts of nine field crops. Crops covered are wheat, rice, jute, mustard, cotton, sugarcane, rabi & kharif rice and rabi sorghum. Remote Sensing based acreage and yield forecasts based on weather parameters or spectral indices are used to provide production forecasts. The center is also actively involved in national level assessment of Horticultural crops and their coverage across the agro-climatic regions in the country.



Disaster management

Space technology and GIS applications play a crucial role in mitigation of disasters. Space-based technologies such as Earth observation satellites, communication satellites, meteorological satellites and global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) have played an important role in risk reduction and disaster management. They are key tools for comprehensive hazard and risk assessments, response, relief and disaster impact assessment. Space-derived and in-situ geographic information and geospatial data are extremely useful during times of emergency response and reconstruction, especially after the occurrence of major events such as earthquakes or floods.

Space technologies have an essential role to play in monitoring and providing early warning to vulnerable communities at risk. They can also facilitate the transmission of warnings across continents using satellite communications and help in the identifying the location of critical infrastructure such as hospital, bridges and schools. Lack of early warning and monitoring along with poor urban planning and preparedness, can increase the magnitude of casualties and damage. During the recent cyclone Phaillin that hit the state of Orissa in India, in October 2013, the Indian authorities were applauded for making effective use of early warning systems that helped in early evacuation and thus saving many precious lives. Almost 1 million people were successfully evacuated from the state of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh following the warning of the cyclone by disaster management authorities. Thus, space based technologies, through timely provision of reliable data can help in minimizing the economic losses and damages.

Hazard mapping and damage assessment are crucial to mitigate the risk from natural disasters such as earthquakes which are almost impossible to forecast. The Asia-Pacific Region has constantly suffered from catastrophic earthquakes due to the geological structure of this region. Many countries in this region, lie close to the tectonic fault lines and hence are extremely vulnerable to earthquakes. Post-disaster assessments can play a crucial role during relief operations and can also help in preventing secondary disasters by identifying hazardous zones. These tools are slowly becoming more effective at setting recovery agendas to reduce the risks people face from future disasters. Remote sensing technology is increasingly recognized as a valuable post-earthquake damage assessment tool.

Space technology in india in education

Satellite communications technology offers unique capability of being able to simultaneously reach out to very large numbers spread over large distances even in the most remote corners of the country. The Indian  Space Programme has always aimed to be second to none in the applications of space technology to deal with the problems of development in our society. ISRO has continuously pursued the  tilization of space technology for education and development. This article highlights the projects undertaken and lessons learnt in the use of  satellite communication to meet the challenge of education and development.

The SITE (Satellite Instruction Television Experiment) project carried out in 1975-76 provided instructions in the fields of family planning, agriculture, national integration, school education and teacher training. The ground hardware consisted of Direct Reception  Systems (DRS), for community viewing of the TV programmes. They were installed in six States of the country in “clusters” of about 400 each for a total  of over 2400 DRSs. The instructional programmes (some  prepared by ISRO) were broadcast for 4 hours every day covering science education programmes  production, various school programmes and teachers training programme (by the ministry of Education). The programme  re-trained over 50000 teachers was in two 2-week sessions.

The Indian national satellite (INSAT) System has been the major catalyst in the rapid  expansion of terrestrial television coverage in India. INSAT is being used to provide Education TV (ETV) Services for primary school children in six states. University Grants Commission (UGC) is  using this for its countrywide classroom programme on higher education (college sector). INSAT is being used by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) for distance education  progammes and Doordarshan for Science Channel progranmmes.

In Gramsat Programme (GP) TDCC networks were upgraded and all  activities related to satellite  ased  development communication, education, training, healthcareswere grouped into a GP thereby  connecting each village, providing computer connectivity, data broadcasting,  and TV broadcasting facilities for applications like e- Governance, NRIS, teleconferencing, and rural education/ education broadcasting etc.  Disaster management, telemedicine, and recently Village  Resource Centre were added to the Gramsat networks.  Gramsat networks are operational in Gujarat, Karnataka,  M.P. Orissa and  Rajasthan (pilot), Andaman Nicobar,  Goa, H.P., Orissa, Chhattisgarh.  EDUSAT for education While the education institutions of the  country have continuously endeavoured to use the latest technology to support the process  of education, the demands have  been increasing, with the challenge of the day being to stay updated with the changing trends. To help  meet this challenge, ISRO has  taken up the ‘Tele-Education’ by launching EDUSAT, a satellite totally dedicated to the nation’s  need for education. It has a C-band national beam, a Ku-band national beam, and five Ku-band regional  beams facilitating imparting of education in regional languages. EDUSAT will strengthen education  efforts by augmenting curriculum  based teaching, providing effective teachers’ training, and community  participation. Networks based on EDUSAT consist of either receive only (one way communication)  terminals or interactive (two way communication) terminals or both  in national as well as in regionalnetworks. The networks are capable of facilitating live lectures/  power point presentations with student interaction, web based  learning, interactive training, virtual laboratory, video  conferencing, data/videobroadcast, database access for reference material/library/recorded  lectures etc., on line examination and admissions, distribution of administrative information, etc.  The Network is IP based and doesnot need expensive studio facility   end or hub as shown in the figure,consist of two cameras, two PCs, proper lighting, and DVD player (if needed) in addition to the indoor and outdoor units of the  hub hardware. The equipment needed at the interactive classroom  end, consist of webcam, PC, LCD projector, speakers, microphone,  UPS in addition to the satellite terminal. The classroom consisting  of receive only terminal requires a  PC, projector, speakers, UPS in addition to the satellite terminal. EDUSAT utilisation is divided into  three distinct phases: Pilot phase,  Semi operational phase, and Operational phase. Networks for education prior EDUSAT  Prior to the availability of EDUSAT, as a part of Pilot Phase, networks for education were.

At the beginning of a class session, relevant data is broadcast using EDUSAT to all the classrooms which print out these  data in Braille format using Braille printer. Theses are distributed to  the students. The teacher then commences his lecture to the  students who already have the  Braille print out of the lecture in their hands. These two put together makes the learning for the blind  students a much more effective and faster. The EDUSAT based  networks of many state governments, universities and  other institutions are in various stages of implementation. In the operational phase, overall  management, day to day operation,  and network upgradation etc. will be the responsibility of a selected  nodal agency and the role of ISRO will be in the advisory capacity.  Acknowledgements The author wishes to thank Mr. B.S. Bhatia, Director, DECU/ISRO for his help in providing material  for this paper and Dr. K.S. Dasgupta, Group Director,  ADCTG/SAC/ISRO for encouragement.

Applications of space technology in india in climate change

Climate change is one of the complex problems facing mankind today. The overriding complexity of the problem is attributed to its deeper global ramifications on a vast range of issues impacting the very survival of life on Earth. Understanding such a complex issue with vast and varied dimensions and implications, assumes greater significance for all stakeholders, especially for our policy makers. There are varieties of perceptions regarding the exact size and consequences of climate change.

India is spread across the warmer regions of the planet as compared to the developed countries in North America or Europe, which are in relatively cooler regions. If we look at data from Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, it shows that much of India is warming. The mean annual surface-air temperature has risen by an average of 0.4°C in the last 50 years. India is a large country which extends from 8° to 33°N. The variety in terrain, from the high mountains of the Himalayas in the north to tropical coastlands in the south, makes for a wide range of climatic conditions. In the northern mountain regions, winters are cool at lower levels, and increasingly cold at higher altitudes. In the summer, intermediate levels around 2000 m above sea level are pleasantly cool, but it can get quite hot at lower levels.

Space based remote sensing data helps in mapping earth resources, monitoring their changes and deriving bio-geophysical parameters. All this information helps in identifying the indicators and agents of climate change. The space-based inputs can also be integrated with physical simulation models to predict the impact of climate change. It provides information related to three aspects

  • The indicators of climate change
  • Assessment of agents of climate change, their sources and distribution pattern and
  • Modeling the impact of climate change in various fields and natural resources that would be of help in planning towards adaptation measures and preparedness

The programme on Climate change Research In Terrestrial environment (PRACRITI) -Phase programme presently consists of climate change/ climate based modelling and characterization studies of diverse habitats ranging from vital/ critical habitats like Indian coral reefs and mangrove swamps to high altitude Himalayan alpine ecosystems, Indian eco-hydrology and investigations on Indian monsoon teleconnection with the polar environment processes. The studies are carried out with synergistic use of ground measurements, space inputs and climate projection data. The detailed objectives of different projects are:

  • Modeling Eco-hydrology of India and Impact of Climate Change
    This study emphasizes on development of cell based integrated hydrological system model for National water balance. Water balance analysis and impact of climate change over major and medium rivers basins of India, snow melt from Indian Himalayan, hilly regions etc.
  • Alpine ecosystem dynamics and impact of climate change in Indian Himalaya
    This study is about experiment and modeling for the establishment of long term ecological records in alpine ecosystems of Indian Himalaya. Other objective includes development of seamless geospatial database, climate change impact on alpine landscape, understanding alpine eco-system response etc.
  • Bio-physical Characterization and Site Suitability Analysis for Indian Mangroves
    Major goal of this study is to characterize mangrove ecosystems of India using remote sensing data. Modelling of biophysical parameters, Estimation of gross primary productivity, Identification of mangrove afforestation/plantation conducive areas etc. will also be studied.
  • Impact of Global Changes on Marine Ecosystems with special emphasis on Coral Reefs
    This study highlights on developing region specific coral bleaching systems for five major Indian Reef regions of India. Study aims for Micro-habitat zonation of reefs, approach for reef substrate signatures, impact of climate change on coral reef ecosystem etc.
  • Investigations of Indian monsoon teleconnection with the polar environment processes
    The major objective of this study is to develop models for understanding of teleconnection between the polar environment and Indian monsoon using satellite derived data and indices.

Remote sensing- GIS and its application


Remote Sensing

Remote sensing is the acquisition of information about an object or phenomenon without making physical contact with the object and thus in contrast to on-site observation.

In current usage, the term “remote sensing” generally refers to the use of satellite- or aircraft-based sensor technologies to detect and classify objects on Earth, including on the surface and in the atmosphere and oceans, based on propagated signals.

Remote sensing is used in numerous fields, including geography, land surveying and most Earth Science disciplines for example, hydrology, ecology, oceanography, glaciology, geology.It also has military, intelligence, commercial, economic, planning, and humanitarian applications.


Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer based application of technology involving spatial and attributes information to act as a decision support tool.

It keeps information in different layers and generates various combinations pertaining to the requirement of the decision-making. In the recent times, GIS has emerged as an effective tool in management of disasters since, geo-spatial data and socio-economic information need to be amalgamated for the better decision making in handling a disaster or to plan for tackling a disaster in a better way.


Disaster Management

The different line departments and agencies who are stakeholders in the disaster management process could utilize GIS. Some basic hardware like computer system, printer, network systems, along with GIS software is required to set up the GIS in any organisation.


The prime objectives of developing the GIS database are to help disaster managers at State, District and Block level for:

  1. i) Pre-disaster planning and preparedness
  2. ii) Prediction and early warning

iii)                 Damage assessment and relief management

GIS combines layers of information on various themes to enable the managers to take the most appropriate decisions under the given circumstances. For disaster management, a GIS database could be a useful managerial tool for various reasons, some of which are as under:

  • Disaster Managers could generate maps both at micro and macro level indicating vulnerability to different extents under different threat perceptions.
  • Locations likely to remain unaffected or remain comparatively safe could be identified.
  • Alternate routes to shelters, camps, and important locations in the event of disruption of normal surface communication could be worked out.
  • Smooth rescue and evacuation operations could be properly planned.
  • Rehabilitation and post-disaster reconstruction works could be properly organized.
  • Locations suitable for construction of shelters, godowns, housing colonies, etc. can be scientifically identified.
  • Areas where no construction should be taken up or existing habitations require relocation could be identified.


Remote sensing of hydrologic processes can provide information on locations where in situ sensors may be unavailable or sparse. It also enables observations over large spatial extents. Many of the variables constituting the terrestrial water balance, for example surface water storage, soil moisture, precipitation, evapotranspiration, and snow and ice, are measurable using remote sensing at various spatial-temporal resolutions and accuracies. Sources of remote sensing include land-based sensors, airborne sensors and satellite sensors, which can capture microwave, thermal and near-infrared data or use LIDAR.

Weather forecasting and Ecology

Many ecological research projects would benefit from the creation of a GIS to explore spatial relationships within and between the data.  In particular, while some projects can be done without using a GIS, many will be greatly enhanced by using it (click here for some examples of research projects which have used GIS).

The very act of creating a GIS will make you think about the spatial relationships within your data, and will help you formulate hypotheses to test or suggest new ones to explore.  In addition, thinking about your data in a spatial manner will help you identify potential spatial issues and/or biases with your data.

GIS can also be used to make measurements and carry out calculations which would otherwise be very difficult.  For example, a GIS can be used to work out how much of your study area consists of a specific habitat type, or how much of it is over 1,000m high, or has a gradient greater than 5º, and so on.  Similarly, a GIS can be used to calculate the size of the home range of an individual or the total area occupied by a specific species or how long your survey tracks are, or how much survey effort was put into different parts of your study area.

GIS can also be used to link data together in the way that is needed for statistical analysis.  For example, many statistical packages require all your data to be in a single table, with one line per sample and then information about that sample and the location where it came from in different columns or fields.  A GIS provides you with a way to easily create such tables and populate it with information, such as the altitude at each location, the gradient of slope and the direction it faces, from other data sets.  This makes preparing your data for statistical analysis much simpler.


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