It is the capacity to get others to do what we want without coercing them because
they admire our achievements and want to emulate us.
India's Space Programme
needs to be viewed as the most thus. It is an important factor that has contributed
immensely towards giving India its Soft Power status. However, this success in
the space arena is a long tail of domestic and international struggle. Today,
when the aerospace command is going to be a reality in India's defence architecture,
it is important to trace the journey of India's space programme.
Space Programme has a long history.
Subsequent to the launch of first artificial
satellite Sputnik 1 in 1957, by the erstwhile Soviet Union, the technological
vision of the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru gave birth to this programme
which now has accomplished many laurels for its professionalism. Scientists like
Dr Vikram Sarabhai and MGK Menon were instrumental in making Nehru's dream turn
into a reality.
Initially, space research was started as a part of India's
atomic energy programme. This programme started in the year 1962 as the Indian
Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) under the leadership of Vikram Sarabhai.
most notable aspect of India's space programme is that it is not born out of any
military programme, like ballistic missiles, but out of a dream of actually being
able to launch satellites.
Even though the first team of Indian space scientists
received their training in the United States and India did take help form the
US and France to launch first few of their sounding rockets, in general though
the Indian space vision revolved around the doctrine of building indigenous capability
first significant space milestone to be developed by INCOSPAR was the Rohini Sounding
Rocket (RSR) programme. It was associated with the firing of indigenously developed
and fabricated sounding rockets. The first single-stage Rohini (RH-75) rocket
weighing 32 Kg with an additional 7 Kg payload was successfully fired to an altitude
of around 10 km. in 1967.
A two-stage Rohini rocket followed this with 100
kg payload to over 320 km altitude. These launches were conducted from Thumba,
located in India's southern state of Kerala.
Understanding the need for
a separate and independent agency to look at the country's growing space ambitions,
the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was born in 1969.
separate Department of Space was created in 1972.
With a long-term vision
for launching large rockets and subsequently satellites into various orbits, Sriharikota,
a site close to Chennai (Madras) was chosen in 1969 as a launch station.
then, this site is fully operational and now even has a facility of multiple launch
In the early 1970s, apart from building expertise and infrastructure
for satellite launch vehicle (SLV), ISRO also started developing satellite technology.
India launched its first satellite named Aryabhata in 1975 from a Soviet booster.
that, overcoming one launch failure in 1979, ISRO fired its first indigenous satellite
in 1980, calling it Rohini 1.
Over the years now, the Indian space programme
has maturated. India has its own launch vehicles capable of sending satellites
into polar orbits.
The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is reputed
as India's most time tested workhorse today.
There were some failures during
the late 1980s in mastering the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) technology.
But ISRO gained valuable experience about strapon boosters and new guidance systems
which has ultimately helped them towards the full production of PSLVs.
success story of PSLV began in 1994, and in January 10, 2007 for the first time,
India succeeded in putting four satellites together into orbit with this launch
The same vehicle was also used to put Kalapna 1 weather satellite
into the geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) and now ISRO proposes to use the same
workhorse for the proposed Chandrayan 1 mission in 2008.
For launching heavy
satellite (2000kg variety), ISRO has developed Geosynchronous Satellite Launch
Its developmental flights, which took place during 2001
and 2003, have been successful. Also, in 2004, it successfully put EDUSAT into
There was a GSLV failure though on 10 July 2006, which indicates
that India is not yet fully independent is some satellite launches, particularly
of the INSAT variety (Geo-stationary orbit, 36000 km above the earth) are concerned.
ISRO has established two major space systems, INSAT for communication, television
broadcasting and meteorological services, and Indian Remote Sensing Satellites
(IRS) for resources monitoring and management.
The progress in both these
programmes has been noteworthy.
During last decade particularly, satellite
technology has been put in use in many areas including weather forecasting, education,
disaster management and civil aviation etc.
Today, India is emerging as
a major player in the arena of space technologies and has got many ambitious plans
for the future.
India suffered from a basic handicap of technology transfer
from other countries post- 1974 because of its nuclear ambitions. The again, during
the early 1990s, India was stopped from procuring cryogenic engines from the Russia
due to US pressure.
However, with US President George Bush signing the Indo-US
nuclear deal now, it appears that India's technological apartheid is likely to
be over and the space philosophy of the country will get a major boost with many
international players being allowed to collaborate. Major international companies
like Raytheon, Boeing, GE and Ariane are already offering space - and nuclear
- technologies to India.
ISRO's recent Cartosat satellites launche has brought
India at par with the second best in the business as far as imagery resolution
Cartosat I, successfully launched in May 2005, is playing
a crucial role in several applications and has boosted India's remote sensing
services with high-resolution images. It has a resolution of 2.5 meters.
successful launching of Cartosat II on 10 January 2007 with one meter resolution
has brought India at par with the Ikonos of the US. With this satellite, the cost
of obtaining imagery has come down by at least five times, and also, better resolution
helps in better planning.
The imagery it provides helps in digital elevation
maps for urban and rural development, land and water resources management, disaster
and environmental impact assessment.
Notably, the best resolution in the
world is provided by the US Quickbird satellite system that offers an unbelievably
low 60-cm resolution. That has to be target of Indian scientists some day.
space aspects essentially do not have any military rationale.
technology is inherently a dual-use technology, and any space assets would naturally
perform many military tasks.
Communication, surveillance, reconnaissance
etc. are the routine functions for any armed force and IRS and INSAT series satellites
are capable of performing such functions. The Cartosat imagery is particularly
expected to help the armed forces in a big way. Other offshoots, like the knowledge
gained in rocket science for missile developments etc., are obvious.
Indian space programme achieved a major global dimension when, at the end of 2006,
the Indian scientific community made a unanimous suggestion that the time was
appropriate now for India to undertake a manned space mission as well as an unmanned
It emerges that after many years of experimentations, the
scientific community has become more confident about the potential of carrying
out such projects successfully. Also, this is an indication of India's confidence
in itself and in its economy. After all it is an investment of Rs 10,000 crores
($ 2.5 billion) over a period of eight years for such projects.
remarkable aspect of India's moon-dream is that it marks a fundamental policy
change in respect of its space programme.
Dr Vikram Sarabhai, who envisioned
this programme four decades ago, wanted to harness the space for India's economic
and social development. He had said that India did not have the fantasy of competing
with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of moon or the planets
or manned spaceflights.
But now India believes that pushing forward human
presence in space has become important for planetary exploration. It is part of
the Vision 2025 for ISRO.
Also, there could be one more important but less
talked about factor to all this thinking and that is the Chinese challenge.
2003, China became the third nation in the world after the US and erstwhile USSR
to put a man in a space. After this, China has moved forward and even conducted
an unthinkable anti-satellite test, adding unnecessarily to the debris in space
and starting a new kind of military race in shooting down satellites.
killed one of its own satellites on 11 Jan 2007 with a kinetic kill vehicle launched
on board a ballistic missile. Although no one wants it, some countries are bound
to build this capability.
India understands the strategic significance of
conquering the outer space and the moon. Even countries like Pakistan and Malaysia
are planning to send people into space. In fact Malaysia has not ruled out the
possibility of one of its astronauts going to the moon by 2020, probably on some
India's proposed manned mission to moon would make
it a force to reckon with and count among the select few countries in the space
club. It is expected that tomorrow somebody will put the flag on the moon and
would claim its ownership - the threat which Antarctica had faced once.
is important because in future it could become a convenient and cheap option for
carrying out repairs of satellites which may go faulty in the outer space. Facilities
could be built on the surface of the moon.
Also, another important factor
is the presence of Helium-3. It is predicted that Helium-3 could become a great
source for energy generation and will turn out to be a much better option than
nuclear energy. The gas is available in abundance only over the moon and that
is why the race for conquering it.
During last few years, ISRO has emerged
as a useful agency for the developing countries to launch their satellites.
has so far provided countries like Argentina and Indonesia etc to launch their
satellites. This activity is also helping India in revenue generation and it is
expected that in the years to come, India may be able to manage 10% share of this
fast growing market.
Recently, India's first commercial rocket was fired
into space, carrying a 776-pound Italian satellite that collects data on the origins
of universe. The success of this launch is likely to give a major boost to India's
brand image in the launch sector.
Today, a major transition is taking place
in respect of India globally.
India is being considered as a major driver
of the global economy in the future.
Strategically, India is also bound
to play a major role in the global geopolitics. The presence of a space infrastructure
should play a major role towards establishing an Aerospace Command by the three
services to ensure the country's security.
But overall, ISRO has already
given India a Brand Image in space research and capabilities.