Indian Achieves Height of Excellent in Space Tech
- Boasts Indigenous Capability for Launch Vehicle -
By DR. R. Kasturirangan, Secretary, Department of Space, Government of India.
About forty years ago a startled world was ushered into the space age by Sputnik-1, the world's first artificial satellite. Since then, world's space activities have grown manifold in magnitude and diversity. The new frontier continues to beckon the romantics with vision of space colonies and interplanetary travel, and the scientists with new discoveries about the universe. However, economic and other considerations have increasingly forced a more pragmatic utilization of space. The commercial drive which has been increasingly influencing space activities has contributed to rapid adoption of space in several spheres of development. This development, spearheaded by satellite communications, has drawn in many civilian users of space services and products from industry and many other walks of civilian life. Space activities are now characterized by a wider and growing spectrum of applications spanning from weather observations to generation of information relevant to sustainable development of natural resources.
India was among the first few countries to realize the potential of space technology and its application to solve real problems of man and society. The Indian space pioneer Dr. Vikram Sarabhai under whose chairmanship, the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was formed in 1962, dreamt that India should be second to none in the application of advanced technologies. In 1972, the Indian space program was formally organized with the setting up of Space Commission and the Department of Space.
The potential of space technology for communication and mass education through its powerful characteristics in terms of immediacy, omnipotence, visual power and wide reach was recognized by India in the early 70s. Keeping in view the larger aspects of education, especially rural education, India undertook in 1975-76 the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) to telecast a series of educational programs on health, family planning, agriculture and the like to over 2,500 Indian villages via the U.S. satellite, ATS-6. It was the largest sociological experiment ever carried out in the world. The Satellite Telecast Experimental Project (STEP), conducted using Franco-German Symphonie satellite during 1977-79, was another major demonstration of communication applications of space. India also launched its own APPLE (Ariane Passenger Payload Experiment), an experimental communication satellite, in June 1981, using the opportunity offered by the European Space Agency (ESA) to launch this satellite on board the third developmental flight of Ariane.
A major development took place during the 80s through establishment of operational space system, INSAT, for services in telecommunications, television broadcasting, meteorology and disaster warning services. INSAT, commissioned in 1983 has today become one of the largest domestic satellite systems in the world, comprising five satellites. The last satellite f the second generation INSAT-2 series, INSAT-2E, was launched on April 3, 1999.
INSAT is unique in its design combining telecommunication, television and radio broadcasting and meteorological services on a single platform. The involvement of various users like Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and India Meteorological Department enabled proper tuning of INSAT system towards identified national developmental needs.
Work on INSAT-3 series of satellites has already begun. Five satellites in the INSAT-3 series have been planned, and the first two, INSAT-3A and INSAT-3B, are planned for launch in 1999-2000.
The space application demonstrations like SITE and STEP of the 70s were transformed to practical and operational systems through INSAT. …