Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, as it’s popularly known, is quite a lot in the news these days. And why not – it has been making India proud with its innovative and successful space missions. But ISRO has not come to this level of expertise overnight – it has happened after a lot of achievements. So in this article we’ll take a look on all those records and achievements of ISRO that propelled it to these heights of success. And in the end we’ll also take a look on its future projects. With so much to discuss let’s not waste anymore time and get started:
Indian Space Research Organization: Brief History
The history of ISRO began in 1962 with formation of Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR). It was established by the collective efforts of India’s First Prime Minister Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru and his close aide and scientist Mr. Vikram Sarabhai. 7 years later in 1969 INCOSPAR was superseded by Indian Space Research Organization, which is today known as ISRO in short. ISRO then set out on a mission to provide space based technology and services for our country’s development.
ISRO has its name on a number of great records in the world of space. They include:
- First space company in the world to reach Mars orbit in first attempt. Also the first space agency in Asia to reach Mars, and fourth in the world.
- ISRO also created a history last year by launching 104 satellites with a single rocket.
- Before this launch of 104 satellites ISRO had also sent a record number of 20 satellites in single payload.
Now let’s take a look on ISRO’s achievements in detail.
Throughout its 49 years long history, ISRO has achieved a number of historic milestones. From its first satellite Aryabhata to its heaviest rocket GSLV Mark-3, the list of ISRO’s achievements is a long one. Given below is a brief list of some of its major achievements:
- Aryabhatta: This was ISRO’s (and India’s) first satellite, launched in 1975. Made indigenously, it was developed to conduct a number of experiments in solar physics, X-ray astronomy and aeronomics. But more importantly, its purpose was to help ISRO gain experience in building and launching satellites. Aryabhata was launched into space from a Russian rocket launch site named Kapustin Yar and the launch rocket was Kosmos-3M of Russia.
- Space Launch Vehicle: Space Launch Vehicle (SLV) was ISRO’s first indigenously built rocket to launch satellites into space. It was developed between 1970 – 1980, and the project was headed by none other than Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, whose name needs no introduction.
- Rohini: 5 years after its first satellite launch ISRO launched its Rohini series satellites between 1979 – 1983. The RS-1 satellite of Rohini series became India’s first satellite to be launched with indigenous rocket SLV. The first successful launch of satellite with indigenously built rocket gave ISRO much needed shot in the arm for further development of its space programs.
- PSLV and GSLV: After success of SLV, ISRO inducted two more indigenously built rockets into its fleet of space launch vehicles – PSLV and GSLV. PSLV stands for Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, and GSLV stands for Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. As their names suggest, both these rockets are meant for launching satellites into different parts of space. While PSLV has been developed to launch satellites into polar orbits, GSLV is for launching them into geostationary orbits. PSLV was successfully launched in 1993, and GSLV in 2001.
- GAGAN and IRNSS: With GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) and Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System ISRO gifted India with itsown satellite navigation systems. While GAGAN is a regional satellite based augmentation system that aims to improve the accuracy of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), IRNSS is our own regional navigation system consisting of 7 satellites.
- Chandrayaan-1: The infamous Chandrayaan-1 was ISRO’s first moon mission. Launched by ISRO in October 2008, it operated till August 2009. The mission resulted in a number of key findings, like water discovery on moon, insights into water production process of moon and details about past tectonic activity on moon surface. Due to its critical contributions to space discovery Chandrayaan-1 received a number of awards, including an award from American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and another award from USA’s National Space Society.
- Mangalyaan or Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM): Mangalyaan, another infamous project of ISRO, was India’s first Mars probe mission. Launched on 5thof November 2013, it has been orbiting Mars since 24th of September 2014. The Mangalyaan has been taking full-disk color images of Mars, which are scarce in quantity. The full disk images taken by it will help planetary scientists a lot, and therefore, Mangalyaan has been awarded by USA’s National Space Society in 2015.
- GSLV MK-3: The most recent major success for ISRO is the launch of GSLV MK-3, its heaviest rocket till date. The rocket has been developed indigenously, and it was launched successfully on 5thof June 2017. With its successful launch ISRO became capable of launching even 4 ton heavy satellites into space.
ISRO’s Upcoming Projects
After this much success and achievements, the future projects of ISRO include:
- Unified Launch Vehicle: Currently ISRO has PSLV, GSLV and GSLV MK-3 launch vehicles in its fleet. But in the long term our elite space agency plans to replace this entire fleet with a family of modular rockets that can be used to launch almost any type of satellites into orbit. This project has been named Unified Launch Vehicle (ULV) project, and it’s one of the most ambitious projects for ISRO.
- Reusable Rocket: ISRO is also developing a single-stage unmanned reusable rocket ‘Avatar’for reducing the cost of commercial and military satellites.
- Human spaceflight: ISRO also plans to launch a two-person crew into Low Earth Orbit. No time-frame has been set for this project, specifically because it’s not a program approved by the Government of India. That means ISRO doesn’t have any budget from government for this project, and currently it also doesn’t have any human-rated launch vehicle to complete this mission. So it’s safe to assume that this project will take quite some time before getting wings.
- Chandrayaan-2: As its name suggests, this is the successor of Chandrayaan mission. It includes indigenously built lander, rover and orbiter and with this mission ISRO plans to achieve success in soft lunar landing. Soft landings are those in which no damage happens to the lander, unlike hard landings in which lander is damaged/destroyed. In Chandrayaan-1 the Moon Impact Probe had made a hard landing on the surface of moon – it crashed into lunar south pole and released the debris for analysis of orbiter. Chandrayaan-2, on the other hand, plans to release a rover on the surface on moon for further examination of moon surface. It will be released by ISRO’s indigenously built lander, which will conduct a soft landing on the surface of moon to release the rover. The data collected by rover will then be relayed to earth by orbiter included in the mission.
- Interplantary probes: The space agency is also planning to launch Mangalyaan 2, the successor of its Mangalyaan project by 2020, which will carry even more scientific payloads to Mars orbit.
- Solar Spacecraft: ISRO is also planning its own solar spacecraft mission named ‘Aditya-L1’. The mission of this project is to study the Sun and to do that it will carry 7 different payloads. It will be launched either in 2019 or 2020.
These’re a few of the many interesting ISRO projects that will be launched in the years to come.
A lot has been achieved, a lot is remaining. But with current leadership at the helm, sky is the limit for ISRO. In the recent years it has been consistently in the news for a number of successful launches, and hopefully its winning streak will also continue in the years coming ahead.