Dr. K. Kasturirangan *The Indian space programme continues to progress towards development and application of space science and technology for socio-economic development. The launch of INSAT - 3B on March 22, 2000 and its successful commissioning after post-launch operations including the orbit-raising operations, deployment of the solar arrays and antennas, 3-axis stabilisation and testing of the transponders has further expanded the capacity of the INSAT system. The follow-on satellite in the INSAT-3 series, namely, INSAT-3C is in an advanced stage of fabrication and testing and it is planned for launch in 2001. INSAT-3A, INSAT-3D and INSAT-3E that will follow, are in various stages of development and testing.
Another satellite, METSAT, is also being built for providing, meteorological and data relay services. Besides, the GSAT-1 and GSAT-2 which will be launched by the developmental flights of Indias Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), will provide opportunities to test advanced satellite communication technologies like digital audio broadcasting, Internet services, and distance education. Thus, the INSAT system is poised for further expansion of its capabilities to provide enhanced services in communication, broadcasting and meteorology.
As part of a countrywide GRAMSAT pilot, Swarn Jayanti Vidya Vikas Antariksh Upagraha Yojana (Vidyavahini) has been inaugurated in Orissa using INSAT-3B. Vidyavahini will be used by Orissa to provide developmental communications to about 800 villages in the Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput (KBK) region. A transponder of INSAT-3B has been provided to Andhra Pradesh for promoting distance education, tele-medicine, agricultural extension, e-governance and community Internet centres. The GRAMSAT pilot project is planned to cover other states also in a progressive manner. The Jhabua Development Communication Project (JDCP) in Madhya Pradesh, started in November 1996, is being expanded to cover all panchayats of Jhabua district and 200 villages in the neighbouring Dhar and Barwani districts are going to be its beneficiaries. The training and development communication channel, which is operational since February 1995, continues to be used by several agencies for interactive, training and education. Thus India has further reiterated its commitment to use space-based communication for the benefit of society at the grassroots level.
The announcement of norms, guidelines and procedures for satellite communications that envisages allocation of INSAT system capability for non-governmental users and registration of Indian satellite systems like private companies, signifies that the Indian space programme has taken cognisance of the economic liberalisation while, preparing itself to compete with the industries in the field at the same time.
Space-based Remote Sensing
In the area of space-based remote sensing, India continues to use its IRS satellites, the worlds biggest constellation comprising IRS-IB, IRS-IC, IRS-ID, IRS-P3 and OCEANSAT (IRS-P4), to provide data for applications in agriculture, forestry, surface and ground water harnessing, geology, urban planning, land use and land cover mapping, flood mapping and ocean resources survey. Data from IRS-P4 (OCEANSAT), which was launched in May 1999, is being used for retrieval of oceanic parameter. Development, fabrication and testing of follow-on satellites in the IRS series, namely, RESOURCESAT and CARTOSAT-1 are progressing well. Significant progress has also been made in developing a Technology Experiment Satellite ( TES ), which is aimed at testing and validating advanced spacecraft bus and payload technologies. Work on an advanced cartographic satellite, CARTOSAT-2, has also been initiated and thus India is determined to retain its leadership in the development and application of space-based remote sensing.
Significant progress has been achieved in the development of Indias Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) that will be capable of launching 2000-2500 kg class satellites in geo-stationary transfer orbit. The vehicle assembly is now in progress and the first developmental test flight is planned to take place shortly. Having already achieved self-reliance to launch IRS class of satellites using PSLV, realisation of GSLV will be a significant step towards achieving self-reliance in launching INSAT class of communication satellites. Preparations are also under way for the next launch of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C3), which will launch TES. It is to be noted that PSLV is now offered for launching satellites of other space agencies also. PROBA, a satellite of a Belgian company and BIRD of the German space agency, DLR, are already slated for launch on board PSLV. It is also planned to use PSLV for a geo-synchronous mission for launching Indias METSAT.
India continues to pursue advanced research in space sciences. The launch of 40 Rohini- sounding rockets on successive days in March-April 2000 along with ground-based observations using low altitude balloons and Mesosphere-Stratosphere-Troposphere Radar was a major scientific campaign to study atmospheric waves. Preliminary studies have been initiated for undertaking an unmanned lunar mission using PSLV and GSLV and making use of the capabilities. These are currently being analysed by a team of scientists and technologists. That three Indian students were among nine selected as student scientists by the Planetary Society, USA to participate in the "Red Rover Goes to Mars" mission , is an indication of the immense potential that exists in the country to take up advanced space exploration.
Academic institutions and universities continue to be involved in the Indian space programme. Several projects have been initiated in the universities under Sponsored Research Scheme (RESPOND). The space technology cells set up at reputed institutions continue to carry out research activities in selected areas relevant to the space programme.
With a view to promoting space technology and ensure its benefits for the population in the northeastern region, the North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NE-SAC) has been started. NE-SAC will address natural resources management and developmental communication and encourage space science research in the region.
On the commercial front, India continues to make headway for marketing space services and hardware to international customers. India is well poised to provide launch services to international customers having already bagged a few launch services contracts against global competition. There are several ground stations all over the world today that receive data from the Indian remote sensing satellites under commercial agreements.
Thus, India continues to forge ahead in its space programme thereby providing increasing benefits to its people.