With a humble beginning in early 60s, Indian space program has matured as a symbol of the country’s sophisticated technological capabilities and its growing regional and global prestige. Over the last four decades, Indian Space program has made remarkable progress towards building the space infrastructure as the community resource to accelerate various developmental processes and harness the benefits of space applications for socio-economic development.
The Indian Space programme has the primary objective of developing space technology and application programmes to meet the developmental needs of the country. Towards meeting this objective, two major operational systems have been established – the Indian National Satellite (INSAT) for telecommunication, television broadcasting, and meteorological services and the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) for monitoring and management of natural resources and Disaster Management Support.
The Indian Remote sensing programme is driven by the user needs. In fact, the first remote sensing based pilot project was carried out to identify coconut root-wilt disease in Kerala way back in 1970. This pilot project led the development of Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites. These IRS satellites have been the workhorse for several applications - encompassing the various sectors such as agriculture, land and water resources, forestry, environment, natural disasters, urban planning and infrastructure development, rural development, and forecasting of potential fishing zones.
A well knit network “Natural Resources Management System (NNRMS)” involving central & state Governments, private sectors, academia and Non-Governmental Organizations is in place for enabling the integration of Remote Sensing, contemporary technologies and conventional practices for management of natural resources.
The communication satellite series, which started with the APPLE satellite, grew into a very large constellation of satellites in the INSAT and GSAT series. These satellites revolutionized the technological and economic growth of the country. The INSAT satellite system is one of the largest domestic communication satellite systems providing regular services in the areas of telecommunications, business & personal communication, broadcasting, and weather forecasting & meteorological services. Today, newer initiatives have been taken to expand the INSAT applications to newer areas like Tele-education, Tele-medicine, Village Resource Centre (VRC), Disaster Management Support (DMS) etc., have enabled the space technology to reach the common man in India. The INSAT system has extended the outreach to less accessible areas like North- East, other far-flung areas and islands.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has made remarkable progress towards building the space infrastructure - as the community resource to leapfrog the developmental processes. The launch of INSAT system has been the major catalyst in the rapid expansion of television coverage in India apart from growing applications like DTH, Satellite News Gathering, VSATs, Internet services etc. Use of INSAT for e-governance and developmental communication applications is also fast expanding.
Disaster management support, in terms of space based critical infrastructure and services, is yet another community centric deliverable. One of the elements on which the space based Disaster Management Support (DMS) systems have been built is emergency communications systems. The DMS programme of ISRO/DOS, a convergence of space communications and remote sensing capabilities, is an effort to have technologically robust and a compatible system, which could strengthen India’s resolves towards disaster management.
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).
ISRO has designed and developed indigenous systems for ground based observations of weather parameters. It includes (i) Automatic Weather Station (AWS) to providing hourly information on critical weather parameters such as pressure, temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind and radiation from remote and inaccessible areas; (ii) Agro Metrological (AGROMET) Towers to measure soil temperature, soil moisture, soil heat and net radiation, wind speed, wind direction, pressure and humidity; (iii) Flux Tower for multi-level micrometeorological observation as well as subsurface observations on soil temperature and moisture over the vegetative surfaces; (iv) Doppler Weather Radar (DWR) to monitor severe weather events such as cyclone and heavy rainfall; (v) GPS Sonde and Boundary Layer LIDAR (BLL) for observing vertical profiles of atmospheric parameters.