Indian National Satellite System Information Technology Essay

“Our region is unlikely to achieve a degree of stability in the near future. Practically speaking, there will always be social, political and economic turmoil, at least for some time to come. Such a situation remains conducive to all forms of unrest and violence. The natural implication is that there would always be unforeseen emergent situations. I think that aerospace power is the only instrument that possesses the required speed and flexibility, when military intervention would be required.”

Air Chief Marshall FH Major [1] 

1. It is the capacity of getting others to do what we want, without coercing them because they will then admire our achievements and 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. India chose space to address the real problems of society and took initiative to develop space technology for the benefit of the nation and the common man, contrary to the path of countries like Soviet Union, US, China and European Union who developed space capabilities having origin in strategic and military domain. Today, India has a robust and self reliant space infrastructure and technological prowess with capability to design and build satellites for providing space services and to launch them using indigenously designed and develop launch vehicles. India has been able to achieve the present capability encompassing IRS, INSAT, PSLV, GSLV and mission to moon in just about forty years. The progress, present capability and future plans of ISRO are discussed briefly in succeeding paragraphs.

Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) System

2. India established National Natural Resources Management System (NNRMS) in late 1970s under Department of Space (DOS) with an aim to develop indigenous remote sensing satellite system. The major elements of NNMRS encompass conceptualization and implementation of space segments with the necessary ground based data reception, processing and interpretation systems integrating the satellite based remotely sensed data with conventional data for resource management applications. Starting with IRS-1A in March 1988, there are eight remote sensing satellites in operation at present. The details of these satellites are tabulated below.

Table 1: Details of Operational IRS Satellite




sat-1and 2








Launched in



Sep 09






Jul 10














PAN Res 1m


Res 5.8m

Two PAN Cameras Res 2.5m

Two steerable Cameras Res 80cm


Res 70cm

MSC Res 37m, HySI Res 506m

3. The data from IRS satellites is utilised for applications including land use/ cover mapping, crop acreage and production estimate, wasteland mapping, forest cover mapping, wetland mapping, coastal zone regulation mapping etc. The TES and CARTOSAT series satellites have limited military applications as well with high resolution imagery.

4. The future programmes involve land and water resources series, Resourcesat-2 and 3, Imaging radar application through RISAT-1, DM SAR-1, RISAT-3 and RISAT-4L, Ocean biology and sea state application through Oceansat-2 and 3, cadastral and infrastructure mapping and analysis through Cartosat-3 and 4, TES-HYS and HyS-OP with hyperspectral sensors for application in forestry, agriculture, coatal zone and inland waters, soil and mineral/ rock mapping etc. [2] 

Indian National Satellite System (INSAT)

5. INSAT co-ordination Committee (ISS) was created as an apex body to address the development of Space Communication, Broadcasting and Meteorology and planning their utilization to meet the social needs of India. Due to the non-availability of appropriate launch vehicle for placing a satellite in Geostationary orbit, the INSAT series of satellites had been launched by commercially available launch vehicles till 2001 when India tested GSLV. With 211 transponders onboard 11 active INSAT series satellites, it is the largest domestic satellite communication infrastructure in Asia. It is used for variety of applications such as telecommunication, broadcasting, meteorology and search & rescue. The details of operational INSAT satellites are tabulated below.

Table2: Details of Operational INSAT Satellites




Weight in Kg






17 C band transponder, VHRR with 2 km and CCD with 1 km resolution





12 C Band and 3 Ku band transponder. S Band mobile satellite service payloads.





30 C band and 2 S Band transponder.





Exclusive weather satellite with VHRR and data relay transponder.





18 C band, 6 Ku Band transponders. VHRR with 2 km resolution and CCD camera with 1 km resolution. Dedicated transponder for satellite aided search and rescue.





4 C Band, 2 Ku Band transponder. Other experimental payloads.





36 C Band transponder.





6 Ku Band, 6 C band transponder. 1 Ku Band beacon to help ground users for accurate antenna pointing and uplink power control.





12 C Band, 12 Ku Band transponder for DTH, broadcasting and other community services.





12 C Band, 12 Ku Band transponder for DTH, broadcasting and other community services.





12 Ku Band transponder and 1 KU Band beacon for tracking the satellite. Provides DTH, video picture transmission and digital signal gathering services.

6. With increased demand on bandwidth due to services like 3G, HD TV, Wi-FI and Wi-Max systems, more number of transponders are required which would mean more INSAT satellites. ISRO has been launching INSAT satellites in 2 Ton class which would have to be enhanced to 5-6 Tons. The launch of such satellites would be limited by the present capability of GSLV which is about 4 Ton for GSLV MK-3. ISRO intends to enhance the transponders to 500 by 2012 under 11th plan. [3] 

Satellite Launch Vehicles

7. Unlike the US, USSR and China, India’s launch vehicle development has been strictly a civilian programme like Japan and EU. Under the aegis of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, India developed the first indigenous launch vehicle SLV (four stage rocket with solid propellant) with the object of placing a 40 Kg satellite into 400 km orbit. Three launches were carried out during early eighties carrying Rohini satellites, two of them being successful. With the expertise gained, ISRO expanded it a PSLV programme was initiated. ASLV (five stage solid propellant) programme was also undertaken simultaneously as a low cost intermediate vehicle for trying critical technologies such as strap-on booster and new guidance system required for PSLV. The payload capability was thus enhanced to 150 Kg.

8. With the success of ASLV, work further progressed on PSLV (four stage rocket alternately solid and liquid propellant stage with six strap on boosters), which was basically meant to be able to place a 1000 Kg IRS series satellite in sun synchronous polar orbit. With continuous upgrades the payload capacity has been increasing (1600 Kg now), 12 out of 14 launches have been successful including the launch of Chandrayan-1. ISRO is further developing PSLV-HP with 2000 Kg payload capacity, which would be used to launch seven navigational satellites. [4] 

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9. GSLV programme was started in 1990 to end India’s dependence on the former Soviet Union for launch of heavy satellites. Essentially, to be able to launch a satellite to geostationary orbit, a cryogenic engine rocket stage is required in addition to the liquid propellant stage and solid propellant stage. India’s GSLV programme encountered a roadblock when the technology of cryogenic engine was denied to ISRO in the name of MTCR, stating that the same technology can be used for ICBM. ISRO did get access to the cryogenic engines from Russia without the technology and finally was able to successfully use it in 2001 when GSAT-1 was placed in geostationary orbit on board the first indigenously developed GSLV. Since then several successful launches of GSLV have been conducted placing GSAT-2, EDUSAT and INSAT-4CR in to orbit.

10. With this capability India has achieved the full complement of capabilities needed for the country in space infrastructure creation, including the scientific satellites in near earth orbit, the IRS in polar orbit and INSAT in geostationary orbit. Meanwhile ISRO continues to develop indigenous cryogenic engine and finally in 2007 completed the successful ground trials of the fully indigenous cryogenic engine. The research is further on to develop GSLV MK-3 capable of launching 4400 Kg initially and stepping it up to 6000 Kg. [5] 

Other Developmental Programme

11. Chandrayaan. India became the fifth nation to launch a moon orbiter after US, Russia, EU, Japan and China in 2008. The launch of Chandrayaan-1 onboard the core alone configuration of PSLV-C11 demonstrates the technological capability of ISRO. The most significant success among many is the fact that compared to Chinese and Japanese moon missions launched in 2007, India’s mission costed only half and one fifth respectively, while beaming far better pictures of moon compared to their missions. Another mission to moon Chandrayaan-2 with a land-rover with robotic instruments is planned to be launched in 2011. A manned mission to moon is likely to be planned by the end of next decade. [6] 

12. Satellite Navigation. India has felt the need for an independent navigation system after being dependent on US GPS and the Russian GLONASS for long. A two pronged strategy of developing a wide area GPS augmentation system (GAGAN) and a regional system known as the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) has been started. GAGAN is conceived by ISRO and Airport Authority of India to aid civil air traffic in India to enable precise landing. In effect, GAGAN will augment the capabilities of GPS by enhancing the accuracy and reliability presently provided by GPS. Compared to the existing accuracy of 30 m at 50 bits/ sec, accuracy of 6-8 m at 500 bits/ sec would be available. This would be possible with three geostationary satellites having dual frequency GAGAN payload. The final system acceptance has already been done in 2007. The IRNSS project as a fully indigenous effort was started in 2006. It would have seven satellites and would give 2 m accuracy, all weather 24 hour operation over India and the region extending to about 1500-2000 km around it. [7] 

13. Bhuvan. With the capability of excellent imagery, ISRO has planned an Indianised version of Google maps. It would provide a zoom up to 10 m compared to 200 m available through Google Earth. Incorporation of GPS into the online tool is also planned with yearly image up date. [8] 

14. Space capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE). The objective of SRE is to demonstrate the capability to recover an orbiting capsule back to earth. With successful recovery of SRE-1 from Bay of Bengal, which was launched on board PSLV-C7 in Jan 2007 certain critical technologies such as reusable thermal protection system, deceleration and floating system, reentry control and propulsion system, space qualified parachute system, locating aids etc. were tested. It is major milestone in India’s Space Programme. A fully operational recovery capsule will pave the way for indigenous manned flights by India. [9] 

15. Space Situational Awareness. The ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Bangalore provides situational awareness and tracking of LEO satellites as well as launch vehicle missions. ISTRAC has its headquarters at Bangalore with network of ground stations at Bangalore, Lucknow, Sriharikota, Port Blair and Thiruvanantpuram in India besides stations at Mauritius, Bearslake (Russia), Brunei and Biak (Indonesia). The Master Control Facility (MCF) of ISRO is at Hassan (Karnataka) and Bhopal (MP) which monitors and controls all GEO satellites. The operations involve continuous tracking, telemetry and commanding, special operations like eclipse management, station keeping manoevres and recovery etc. In addition for Chandrayaan mission, Indian Deep Space Tracking Network (DSTN) is established at Bangalore. It is likely to enhance India’s space situational awareness which would be required especially in the light of China’s ASAT and micro-satellite capability. [10] 

16. India’s Ballistic Missile Program. The Indian Ballistic Missile Defense Program is an initiative to develop and deploy a multi-layered ballistic missile defense system to protect India from ballistic missile attacks. Introduced in light of the ballistic missile threat from Pakistan, it is a double-tiered system consisting of two interceptor missiles, namely the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) missile for high altitude interception, and the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) Missile for lower altitude interception. The two-tiered shield should be able to intercept any incoming missile launched 5,000 kilometers away. PAD was tested in November 2006, followed by AAD in December 2007. With the test of the PAD missile, India became the fourth country to have successfully developed an Anti-ballistic missile system, after United States, Russia and Israel. On March 6, 2009, India again successfully tested its missile defense shield, during which an incoming “enemy” missile was intercepted at an altitude of 75 km. Development of the anti-ballistic missile system began in 1999. Around 40 public and private companies were involved in the development of the systems. They include Bharat Electronics Ltd and Bharat Dynamics Ltd, Astra Microwave, ASL, Larsen & Toubro, Vem Technologies Private Limited and Kel Tech. Development of the LRTR and MFCR (Multi-function Fire Control Radar) was led by Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE). Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) developed the mission control software for the AAD missile. Research Centre, Imarat (RCI) developed navigation, electromechanical actuation systems and the active radar seeker. Advanced System Laboratory (ASL) provided the motors, jet vanes and structures for the AAD and PAD. High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL) supplied the propellants for the missile.

18. Swordfish is the indigenous target acquisition and fire control radar for the BMD system. The LRTR currently has a range of 600 km (370 mi) to 800 km (500 mi) and can spot objects as small as a cricket ball. The DRDO plans to upgrade the capacity of Swordfish to 1,500 km by 2011. Two new anti ballistic missiles that can intercept IRBM/ICBMs are being developed. These high speed missiles (AD-1 and AD-2) are being developed to intercept ballistic missiles with a range of around 5,000 km (3,100 mi). The test trials of these two systems are expected to take place in 2011. The new missile will be similar to the THAAD missile deployed by the U.S.A. These missiles will travel at hypersonic speeds and will require radars with scan capability of over 1,500 km (930 mi) to successfully intercept the target.

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19. India is also planning to develop a laser based weapon system as part of its defense to intercept and destroy missiles soon after they are launched towards the country. DRDO’s Air Defence Programme Director V. K. Saraswat says that it’s ideal to destroy a ballistic missile carrying nuclear or conventional warheads in its boost phase. Saraswat further added that it will take another 10-15 years for the premier defence research institute to make it usable on the ground. In 2009, reports emerged of a new missile named the PDV. The PDV is said to be a two solid stage hypersonic anti-ballistic missile similar in class to the THAAD. The PDV is intended to replace the existing PAD in the PAD/AAD combination. It will have an IIR seeker for its kill vehicle as well. The PDV will replace the PAD with a far more capable missile and will complete the Phase 1 of the BMD system, allowing it to be operational by 2013. Phase 2 development will take over for protection against missiles of the 5,000 km (3,100 mi) range class. The PDV is designed to take out the target missile at altitudes above 150 km (93 mi). Buoyed by recent successes DRDO is accelerating the pace of development of the BMD. Finally, with all the previous failures acting as a stepping stone and learning valuables lessons from them, India’s technological prowess has come to the fore and this gives a new confidence and boost to other projects hanging in limbo and some of them can incorporate the technologies developed for this project. [11] 

20. India’s Dedicated Military Satellite Program. DRDO Chief Saraswat’s stated in Oct 2010 about India’s decision not to be coy about its military satellite program. The shift in policy probably stems from the knowledge that its military satellite program will not attract US sanctions against ISRO as would have happened in the past. “We are looking at launching one or two satellites every year to fulfill the requirements of all three military formations,” Saraswat said. “Once these satellites are operational, we will be able to see troop movements along the borders. The key requirement is high-resolution images with precision. The army, the navy and the air force have varied requirements, and it won’t be appropriate to give the exact numbers. Data and commands can be sent through these satellites to cruise missiles.” he added.

21. The satellites will be developed and launched by ISRO based on requirements projected by the armed forces. Some of the latest developments are as under:-

Communication-Centric Intelligence Satellite (CCI-Sat). The satellite is being developed with a budget of Rs 100 crore by theDefense Electronics Research Laboratory (DLRL) under the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). The existence of the project was revealed in February 2010 by DLRL director G. Bhoopathy. “We are in the process of designing and developing a spacecraft fitted with an intelligent sensor that will pick up conversations and communications across the borders,” he told reporters in Bangalore before the start of the first international conference on electronic warfare (EWCI 2010).The satellite will feature a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and be used for imaging and communication. It will be capable of detecting conversations and espionage activities in the region.The satellite will be launched in the lower earth orbit – about 500 km above the earth – on board the polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV).The satellite, which will be operational by 2014, will also serve as a test bed for anti-satellite weapon development. [12] 

Navy Satellite. A dedicated satellite to facilitating Naval communication and network centric warfare will be launched into geostationary orbit by ISRO in 2010, Indian Defense Minister, AK Antony announced during Senior Naval Officers Conference in New Delhi on October 22, 2009. The satellite will facilitate networking of IN warships, submarines and aircraft among themselves as well as with operational centres ashore through high-speed data-links, allowing Maritime threats to be detected and shared in real-time to ensure swift reaction. The multi-band satellite will weigh 2,330 kg. (5,137 lb.). The satellite will provide coverage over a 600 x 1,000 nm area of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), which India considers to be its primary area of responsibility in terms of maritime security. The project cost is Rs 950 crore.

IAF Satellite. The first dedicated IAF satellite is scheduled for launch in FY 2011-12, after the Navy satellite scheduled for launch in FY 2010-11.The satellite will serve as the air force’s eye in the skies. It will link up the six AWACS, that the IAF plans acquiring, with each other as well as other ground and air-based radars.


17. For many in India, militarisation and weaponisation are synonymous and, hence, one can attribute the present state of Indian militarisation of space to this fact. Reacting to the need of the Indian Air Force (IAF) for an Aerospace Command likely to be set up at Akkulam, in Tiruvanathapuram, the then External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, stated at the inauguration of the international seminar hosted by the IAF as part of its Platinum Jubilee celebrations on February 5, 2007, “There is merit in asking for the creation of separate institutions to oversee the assets that take warfare into space… it does not mean that India will go back on international commitments and weaponise space-based assets. Recent developments have shown that we are treading a thin line between current defence related uses of space and its actual weaponisation.” While the reaction of the former defence minister underscores the fine line separating the issue of militarisation and weaponisation, the same cannot be said of the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Madhavan Nair. Reacting to the Chinese ASAT test of January 11, 2007, and on the possibility of India doing an encore, he said the country was “against militarising space.”

18. These statements only underline the fact that there is still a lot of ground to be covered in India on dispelling the myth about militarization and weaponisation being synonymous. However, for the world at large, the common understanding has been that weaponisation is a sub-set of militarisation and there is but a subtle difference between the two. If one envisions a continuum running from space systems being used for civil purposes to satellites providing services to support terrestrial military operations to satellites being integral parts of terrestrial weapon systems, to weapons themselves being deployed in space, weaponisation occurs when the upper range of the spectrum is reached. At its most extreme, space weaponisation would include the deployment in quantity of a full range of space weapons, including satellite-based systems for ballistic missile defence (BMD), space based anti-satellite weapons (ASATs), and a variety of space-to-earth weapons (STEW), and these would play a central role in any type of military operation. [13] 

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19. There are some 500 operating satellites of various types orbiting the Earth at present. While most communication and military satellites for early warning are in geostationary orbits, there are several satellites in low and medium orbit. Most prominent amongst them is the International Space Station (ISS) (340 km). The use of satellites for the enhancement of security and defence has become ubiquitous, and India is no exception. As an emerging space power with wide-ranging strategic interests, and with a military establishment undergoing large-scale modernisation in order to meet the security challenges of the 21st century, India’s reliance on space systems for its security and defence needs is gradually set to increase.

20. With budding strategic and economic ties with Europe, Russia and the United States, India is well placed to leverage international efforts in a number of aspects of space security and defence. This will not only facilitate meeting its own growing requirements, but will also establish long-term and mutually advantageous programmes with its allies. The environment is absolutely ripe for international policy and industrial collaboration – with India at the hub of all activity.

21. Space-based technologies play an increasingly critical role in the maintenance and development of national and international infrastructures. With the benefits of the widespread application of peaceful outer space technology, comes the urgent need for the international community to understand, communicate and cooperatively regulate activities in the outer space. Potential dangers such as the dissemination of dual use technologies, the shift from the militarization of space to the weaponization of space, and the growing problem of space debris are threatening to undermine security in outer space as well as prospects for its peaceful use by humanity as a whole. More than 130 States have interests at stake either as space-faring nations or indirectly benefiting from the use of commercial satellites. There is an international consensus on the general principle of “the importance and urgency of preventing an arms race in outer space,” as shown by the regular adoption by the UN General Assembly, without any negative vote, of a number of resolutions since 1990. However, there has been a lack of political and diplomatic action, whereas existing frameworks such as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the 1979 Moon Agreement are insufficient for dealing with the challenges that we now foresee. Today, the Space Issue has become an integral part of the Global Security discourse. Almost every country is concerned about certain developments that are taking place in this field as any kind of offensive technological Development can make space security for every nation – or for most of them – vulnerable. Space Security being a universal issue, it is necessary that there should be an international understanding and cooperation. One can say that the use of Space has become almost indispensable for the world community. It has to be noted that in the civilian arena, the space market is emerging as a big player with lots of scope for business. That is something good for the world economy, the sole threat to it being weaponisation of space.

22. The Anti-Satellite Test (ASAT) by China on 11 January 2007 for instance, in which it shot one of its own satellites to demonstrate its anti-satellite capability. It was an act reminiscent of the 1960s James Bond’s films in which disgruntled Chinese Generals destroy satellites by the US and Russia towards world dominance. The facts are still far from that fiction but the ASAT demonstration nonetheless sent shivers in various world capitals. The old Chinese satellite was monitoring weather since 10 May 1999, and its destruction created hundreds of shrapnel, of varying sizes, that are now also orbiting the earth and posing tremendous dangers to satellites. That this kind of technology has existed is known. But its demonstration has brought the issueof weaponization of space to the forefront and has shown that what a country, with destructive technological superiority, can do in Space. Can a country with ASAT technology render the defence mechanisms of other countries almost helpless? Perhaps yes. Can the consequences mean some kind of space war, with its debris literally falling on earth? The answer to that also is perhaps yes. The Chinese test was unanimously criticized as a threat to peace by all the participants, a clear indication of the world community’s desire for peace in the space. Considering all these aspects the need for a focused attention on the various aspects of the Space Security is not far -fetched.

23. There is a need for space faring nations to put their efforts together to launch time-bound, financially-shared programmers to take up societal missions on a large scale, pooling their capabilities in launch vehicles, spacecraft and applications. Such major cooperation itself will act a great measure towards space security, benefiting all without exception. Additionally, it would also help empower the most underprivileged, minimizing communication gaps and reducing threats for conflicts. The use of commercial off-the-shelf technologies widely available from the industrial and indeed leisure industries has enabled the development of a new class of space assets which are low-cost, rapid response and yet highly capable small satellites. The cost, nature of technology and scale of these small satellites brings access to the high ground of space within the reach of virtually every nation. While this can be perceived as a potential threat by some ‘super power’, which may view this development as erosion of their historical dominance of space, it can also be argued that increased situational awareness from space and the opportunity for wider participation by developing nations in the exploration of space and its applications should help in a decrease in international tensions.

24. The recent trends and developments in commercial space sector indicated significant growth prospects for this industry. It was insisted that the countries are increasingly looking at the commercial space sector as a critical infrastructure for national security. The wider growth of this industry is possible only with the adaptation of innovative but economical technologies, for otherwise it would remain limited to the countries that have the capability to invest in capital intensive projects. The budding countries like India, should invest in technologies like the Near Space technology which can become an alternative to the many existing high cost space platforms. The country’s indigenous industry needs to look into investments in technologies like the nano-technology and scramjet which can help reduce the cost of various space projects. The main challenge of the 21st century in the advancement of space law is to balance the competing complementary interests of the military, intelligence, civil and commercial space communities. [14] 

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