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India's remakable multi-satellite launch

India is well known today for its software and information technology industry. It is also a real force to reckon with when it comes to top class rocket and satellite technology. On Monday 28th April, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) created a world record by successfully launching 10 satellites in one go. That shattered the previous record of a Russian rocket that successfully launched eight satellites last year.

Dr. Vikram Sarabhai was the founding father of the Indian space program, and is considered a scientific visionary by many, as well as a national hero. After the launch of Sputnik in 1957, he recognized the potential that satellites provided. India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who saw scientific development as an essential part of India's future, placed space research under the jurisdiction of the Department of Atomic Energy in 1961. The DAE director Homi Bhabha, who was father of India's atomic programme, then established the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) with Dr. Sarabhai as Chairman in 1962. The prime objective of ISRO is to develop space technology and its application to various national tasks. ISRO has established two major space systems, INSAT for communication, television broadcasting and meteorological services, and Indian Remote Sensing Satellites (IRS) system for resources monitoring and management. ISRO has developed two satellite launch vehicles, PSLV and GSLV, to place INSAT and IRS satellites in the required orbits.

ISRO was set up in 1974, much younger as compared to the world's space-faring nations. This was the 26th launch of a rocket from India's only space centre, Sriharikota, situated on the Bay of Bengal coast in southern India. Today there are 16,000 employees, with $1 billon budget an year, compared to $17 billion that NASA spends. India has a whopping 11 national communications satellites in orbit at present. That is the largest constellation for any country in the Asia-Pacific region. Today there are seven Indian-made and operated remote sensing satellites in orbit, the largest number of any country in the civilian domain. Almost one-third of the global market for remote sensing images at a resolution of 5-6 metres has already been captured by India.

The new mapping satellite of the Cartosat series put into orbit on Monday will provide even higher resolution images to the global community as it joins its Indian twin that has already been functioning since early last year. The Indian rocket used on Monday was the smaller Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). It weighed a whopping 230 tons - as much as 50 elephants - and stands as high as a 12-storey building. The launch earned India more than $500,000.

India's next big challenge is the launch of Chandrayaan-1 (Moon Craft), the country's maiden shot at the Moon to be launched later this year using the PSLV. A $100m mission, it is meant to map the Moon surface in detail like never before and will undertake the most intense search for water on our nearest neighbour. India's mark on space-faring is now indelible, with a mission for robotic landing on the Moon already scheduled for 2012 and space crafts to Mars, an asteroid and the Sun already being planned. The Indian space agency is already looking at sending an Indian up on an Indian rocket from Indian soil within the next few years. As Dr G Madhavan Nair, chairman of ISRO put it to me: "Twenty years from now, when space travel is likely to become mundane like airline travel today, we don't want to be buying travel tickets on other people's space vehicles."

Here are the milestones by ISRO chronologically (Courtesey:

PSLV-C10 successfully launches TECSAR satellite under a commercial contract with Antrix Corporation (January 21, 2008).


Successful launch of of GSLV (GSLV-F04) with INSAT-4CR on board from SDSC SHAR (September 2, 2007).

ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C8, successfully launched Italian astronomical satellite, AGILE from Sriharikota (April 23, 2007).
Successful launch of INSAT-4B by Ariane-5 from Kourou French Guyana, (March 12, 2007).
Successful recovery of SRE-1 after manoeuvring it to reenter the earth’s atmosphere and descend over the Bay of Bengal about 140 km east of Sriharikota (January 22, 2007).
ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C7 successfully launches four satellites - India’s CARTOSAT-2 and Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-1) and Indonesia’s LAPAN-TUBSAT and Argentina’s PEHUENSAT-1 (January 10, 2007).


Second operational flight of GSLV (GSLV-F02) from SDSC SHAR with INSAT-4C on board. (July 10, 2006). Satellite could not be placed in orbit.


Successful launch of INSAT-4A by Ariane from Kourou French Guyana, (December 22, 2005).

ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C6, successfully launched CARTOSAT-1 and HAMSAT satellites from Sriharikota(May 5, 2005).


The first operational flight of GSLV (GSLV-F01) successfully launched EDUSAT from SDSC SHAR, Sriharikota (September 20, 2004)


ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C5, successfully launched RESOURCESAT-1 (IRS-P6) satellite from Sriharikota(October 17, 2003).

Successful launch of INSAT-3E by Ariane from Kourou French Guyana, (September 28, 2003).
The Second developmental launch of GSLV-D2 with GSAT-2 on board from Sriharikota (May 8, 2003).
Successful launch of INSAT-3A by Ariane from Kourou French Guyana, (April 10, 2003).


ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C4, successfully launched KALPANA-1 satellite from Sriharikota(September 12, 2002).

Successful launch of INSAT-3C by Ariane from Kourou French Guyana, (January 24, 2002).


ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C3, successfully launched three satellites -- Technology Experiment Satellite (TES) of ISRO, BIRD of Germany and PROBA of Belgium - into their intended orbits (October 22, 2001).

The first developmental launch of GSLV-D1 with GSAT-1 on board from Sriharikota (April 18, 2001)


INSAT-3B, the first satellite in the third generation INSAT-3 series, launched by Ariane from Kourou French Guyana,
(March 22, 2000).


Indian Remote Sensing Satellite, IRS-P4 (OCEANSAT), launched by Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C2) along with Korean KITSAT-3 and German DLR-TUBSAT from Sriharikota
(May 26, 1999).

INSAT-2E, the last satellite in the multipurpose INSAT-2 series, launched by Ariane from Kourou French Guyana, (April 3, 1999).


INSAT system capacity augmented with the readiness of INSAT-2DT acquired from ARABSAT (January 1998).


INSAT-2D, fourth satellite in the INSAT series, launched (June 4, 1997). Becomes inoperable on  October  4, 1997.
(An in-orbit satellite, ARABSAT-1C, since renamed INSAT-2DT, was acquired in November 1997 to partly augment the INSAT system).

First operational launch of PSLV with IRS-1D on board
(September 29, 1997). Satellite placed in orbit.


Third  developmental  launch  of  PSLV with IRS-P3 on board (March  21, 1996). Satellite placed in polar sunsynchronous orbit.


Launch of third operational Indian Remote Sensing Satellite, IRS-1C (December 28, 1995).

INSAT-2C, the third satellite in the INSAT-2 series, launched (December 7, 1995).


Second  developmental  launch of PSLV with IRS-P2 on board (October  15, 1994). Satellite successfully placed in polar sunsynchronous orbit.

Fourth  developmental  launch  of ASLV with SROSS-C2 on board (May 4, 1994). Satellite placed in orbit.


First  developmental  launch of PSLV with IRS-1E on board (September 20, 1993). Satellite could not be placed in orbit.

INSAT-2B, the second satellite in the INSAT-2 series, launched (July 23, 1993).


INSAT-2A,   the  first  satellite  of  the indigenously-built second-generation INSAT series, launched (July 10, 1992).

Third  developmental  launch  of  ASLV with SROSS-C on board (May  20, 1992). Satellite placed in orbit.


Second operational Remote Sensing satellite, IRS-1B, launched (August 29, 1991).


INSAT-1D launched (June 12, 1990).


INSAT-1C launched (July 21, 1988). Abandoned in November 1989.

Second  developmental  launch  of ASLV with SROSS-2 on board (July  13, 1988). Satellite could not be placed in orbit.
Launch of first operational Indian Remote Sensing Satellite, IRS-1A (March 17, 1988).


First developmental launch of ASLV with SROSS-1 satellite on board (March 24, 1987). Satellite could not be placed in orbit.


Indo-Soviet manned space mission (April 1984).


INSAT-1B, launched (August 30, 1983).

Second developmental launch of SLV-3. RS-D2 placed in orbit (April 17, 1983).


INSAT-1A launched (April 10, 1982).
Deactivated on September 6, 1982.


Bhaskara-II launched (November 20, 1981).

APPLE,  an  experimental geo-stationary communication satellite successfully launched  (June 19, 1981).
RS-D1 placed in orbit (May 31, 1981)
First developmental launch of SLV-3.


Second Experimental launch of SLV-3, Rohini satellite successfully placed in orbit. (July 18, 1980).


First  Experimental  launch of SLV-3 with Rohini Technology Payload on board (August  10, 1979). Satellite could not be placed in orbit.

Bhaskara-I, an experimental satellite for earth observations, launched (June 7, 1979).


Satellite Telecommunication Experiments Project (STEP) carried out.


Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) conducted.


ISRO First Indian Satellite, Aryabhata, launched (April 19, 1975).

Becomes Government Organisation (April 1, 1975).


Air-borne remote sensing experiments.


Space Commission and Department of Space set up
(June 1, 1972). ISRO brought under DOS.


Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) formed under Department of Atomic Energy (August 15, 1969).


TERLS dedicated to the United Nations (February 2, 1968).


Satellite Telecommunication Earth Station set up at Ahmedabad.


Space Science & Technology Centre (SSTC) established in Thumba.


First sounding rocket launched from TERLS
(November 21, 1963).


Indian  National  Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) formed by the Department of Atomic Energy  and work on establishing  Thumba Equatorial Rocket  Launching Station (TERLS) started.

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