The Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) clout in the international space research arena shot up in during 2015. Out of the 21 satellites it launched in the calender year, 17 were foreign and four were Indian. Further more, the organisation is expected to launch one mission per month on an average next year, according to ISRO officials.
Launches during the year started with the launch of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), the PSLV - C27 on March 28, on-board had the IRNSS-1D, the fourth navigation satellite of the seven satellite constellation Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) , an independent regional navigation satellite system being developed by India designed to provide accurate position information service to users in India as well as the region extending up to 1500 km from its boundary.
In the next launch, in its thirtieth flight (PSLV-C28), ISRO launched three identical DMC3 optical earth observation satellites built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), United Kingdom (UK) and also two auxiliary satellites from UK. On August 27, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) GSLV-D6 was launched with the 2,117 kg advanced communication satellite GSAT-6.
On September 28, PSLV-C30 was launched with 1513 kg Astrosat along with six satellites from international customers including from Indonesia, Canada and four of USA. On November 11, the communication satellite GSAT-15 was launched in an Ariane-5 VA-227 launch vehicle from Kourou, French Guiana. Astrosat, the space observatory, has took India to the select group of nations which have such observatory, including US, Russia, Japan and Europe. Launch of GAGAN (GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation Satellite System) has also made the country one of the few countries which has a satellite-based air navigation service.
In its thirty-second flight of PSLV and 11th flight of PSLV in core alone configuration (without the use of solid strap-on motors), PSLV-C29 has alucnhed six satellites of Singapore into the orbit, including the Singapore's earth observation satellite TeLEOS-1. With this, ISRO has also completed 50 launches from the Satellite Launching Station in Sriharikota Range, known as SHAR. Situated on an island off Sullurupeta - a small town in Nellore district, of the state Andhra Pradesh the launch centre located at Sriharikota, was named as Satish Dhawan Space Centre, SHAR in September 2002, in memory of Professor Satish Dhawan, who was Chairman of ISRO from 1972 to 1984.
The successful completion of satellite launches on commercial basis is also expected to gain momentum, according to sources. With a major share of the total satellites launched successfully from the country, more business is expected to come to Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of ISRO. The successful launch of satellites in PSLV-C29 took ISRO's total flights of foreign satellites to 57 from 20 countries. It was also the second fully commercial mission for ISRO's commercial arm Antrix in 2015.
The success of Mars Orbiter Mission and extension of its life in the orbit of Mars, along with the upcoming prestigious missions including the Chandrayaan II, would bring in more reputation to the Organisation, they added.
Budget expectation for the Department of Space during the year 2015-16 was of Rs 7,388.19 crore, as against the revised estimate of Rs 5,826 crore during 2014-15. The budget estimates for the year 2014-15 was Rs 7238 crore, of which Rs 1412 crore was returned while 2.55 crore was left unutilised. This was the lowest in unutilised amount, compared to previous years, as in 2013-14, of the budget estimate of Rs 6792 crore, Rs 1620 was surrendered by the department and Rs 3.05 crore was left unutilised. In 2012-13 the unutilised amount was Rs 23.75 crore out of the Rs 6715 crore budget estimate, while Rs 1,835 crore was surrendered. In 2011-12, the unutilised amount was Rs 647.77 crore out of the Rs 6626 crore, whille the surrendered amount was Rs 2194 crore.
PSLV-C29 is a take off for a sequel of monthly launches from Sriharikotta, starting with three remaining missions of the navigation satellites to complete the IRNSS Constellation, said P Kunhikrishnan, director of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota.
The space projects initiated by Department of Space during the last five years include six communication satellites GSAT-14, GSAT-15, GSAT-16, GSAT-17, GSAT-18 and GSAT-19; eight remote sensing satellites including GISAT, Resourcesat-2A, Cartosat-2E, SCATSAT-1, NISAR (NASA ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar), Cartosat-3, Oceansat-3 & 3A; continuation flights of PSLV (C36-C50); Chandrayaan-2, Aditya-L1 and India's first mission to planet Mars - Mars Orbiter Mission.
Out of these projects, GSAT-14, GSAT-15, GSAT-16 and Mars Orbiter Mission has been completed. The projects pending completion in the last five years include Chandrayaan-2, Aditya-L1, Geo-Stationary Imaging Satellite (GISAT) and Resourcesat-2A.
The process for the mission to send man to the Moon would be taken up by 2017 or during the middle of 2018, according to media reports. The reusable launch vehicles are expeceted to see the designs completed in 2016, says another report. For Chandrayaan-2 the allocated project cost is around Rs 603 crore, of which Rs 252.45 crore was expected to be disbursed by 2015-16, and around Rs 212 crore of this has been utilised till the end of March, 2015. Aditya L1 has a project allocation of Rs 378.53 crore, of which 22.77 crore has been spent till March, 2015, while for GISAT the project amount is Rs 392 crore of which Rs 83.62 crore was spent till that date. Resourcesat-2A, which is also pending, has a sanctioned cost of Rs 200 crore, of which Rs 50 crore was spent till the end of March, 2015.
The ISRO also celebrated the two years completion of Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), India's first ever interplanetary mission, launched in November 5, 2013. It has reached its path on September 22, 2014 and complete an year in the orbit in September, 2015. MOM went through a communication blackout as a result of solar conjunction from June 2, 2015 to July 2, 2015. Telemetry data was received during most of the conjunction period except for 9 days from 10-18 June, during superior conjunction and came out without any major damage and ISRO has announced that the orbiter is expected to live more now.
During the year, the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) has ordered Antrix Corporation to pay $672 million (Rs 4,360 crore) to Devas Multimedia as compensation for cancelling a satellite leasing contract by India. In September, this year, the President of India has bestowed the Space Research Oranisation with the Gandhi Peace Prize for the year 2014, an annual award is given to individuals and institutions for their contributions towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violence and other Gandhian methods.
The year 2016 for ISRO would see more launches, starting from the remaining three satellites (IRNSS-1E, 1F and 1G) in the constellation, which are targeted for launch during January 2016 to March 2016. Self reliance in the strategically important area of position related information will be achieved with the use of indigenously built constellation of seven IRNSS satellites and a network of required ground segment. It has also successfully tested its homegrown cryogenic rocket engine to power its heaviest rocket GSLV Mk-III, to carry four tonne communication satellites into space, on ground during the year.
According to reports, A S Kiran Kumar, chairman of ISRO has said that the next satellite in the IRNSS constellation will be launched in January 20. The satellite for SAARC Countries, which was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier, is getting ready and is waiting for clearance from various member countries, it is said.
"The IRNSS constellation is to be completed by March 31, 2016. By design, the service area of IRNSS constellation encompasses the SAARC countries. Like GPS, the Standard Positioning Services of IRNSS is made available to all the users. The SAARC member countries, therefore, can adopt the IRNSS system for the navigational services. However, at present there is no plan of taking it over the entire globe," said Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the Ministry of Personnel, PG and Pensions and in the Prime Minister's Office recently.
The satellite GSAT-11 will be another heavy weight to be launched for Indian services in 2016.