2006: A memorable year for ISRO

By Venkatachari Jagannath | 30 Dec 2006


Chennai: The year 2006 will go down in the Indian space sector's annals as a memorable year. For the country's space agency, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has started discussing Indian manned space mission at a cost of around Rs10,000 crore.

During the year ISRO achieved a major milestone in the development of indigenous cryogenic upper stage for geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) when the stage was tested for a duration of 50 seconds. The indigenous cryogenic stage is planned to be flight tested in GSLV- D3 mission in 2007-08.

The only negative development was the failure of one of ISRO's space missions. In July 2006, and for the first time in the country's space history, ISRO was compelled to destroy its own spacecraft shortly after its launch.

Otherwise the Indian space programme continued to make forays in the development of new technologies during the year 2006. It also made good progress made in the GSLV-Mk III project and demonstration of supersonic combustion ramjet (SCRAMJET).

The commercial activities picked up momentum with the winning of two contracts for building communication satellites for European customers jointly with EADS, France. Space exploration received another fillip with Chandrayaan-1 mission making substantial progress and ISRO agreeing to carry two US-NASA instruments on board the spacecraft in addition to its own five primary instruments and three instruments of European Space Agency and one from Bulgaria.

As an important strategy for establishing an indigenous and independent satellite navigation system, the government approved in May 2006, the establishment of Indian regional navigational satellite system (IRNSS).

Space applications continued to expand, reaching the benefits of space technology to a wider cross section of society. The EDUSAT network has expanded to 33 nodes connecting about 10.000 classrooms. ISRO's satellite based telemedicine network has expanded to connect 182 hospitals - 148 remote and rural hospitals including those in Jammu & Kashmir, North Eastern region and Andaman and Nicobar Islands and 34 super specialty hospitals in major cities.

So far, 130 'village resource centres' (VRCs) have been established to facilitate access to spatial information on important aspects like land use / land cover, soil and ground water prospects and enable the farmers in taking important decisions based on their query.

The space programme continued to look towards even more challenging missions; studies conducted by ISRO for a manned space mission were discussed by scientists in November 2006.

Some highlights of space research during 2006:

January, 2006: ISRO achieves breakthrough in supersonic combustion technology:
As part of advanced technology initiatives, ISRO demonstrated supersonic combustion ramjet (SCRAMJET) through a series of ground tests achieving a stable supersonic combustion for nearly seven seconds with an inlet Mach number of 6 (i.e., six times the speed of sound).

February 2006: Contract to build communication satellites for European customers:
Antrix / ISRO and EADS Astrium, Paris, signed a memorandum of agreement in June 2005, to jointly address the commercial market for communications satellites, achieved the first success with the award of W2M satellite contract by Eutelsat Communications.

Another contract won during the year under this memorandum of agreement was to build 'highly adoptable satellite' (HYLAS) for Avanti Screen Media. The satellites will be built by ISRO while EADS, Astrium, will build the communication payloads.

May 9, 2006: ISRO-NASA MOU on Chandrayaan-1:
ISRO and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US signed memoranda of understanding (MOU) according to which India will include two US Scientific instruments on board Chandrayaan-1. These are in addition to three instruments from European Space Agency and one from Bulgaria. The primary Indian scientific instruments on board Chandrayaan-1 include: Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC), Hyper Spectral Imager (HySI), High-Energy X-ray spectrometer (HEX), Lunar Laser Ranging Instrument (LLRI) and Moon Impact Probe (MIP). Chandrayaan-1 is India's first mission to moon, planned in early 2008.

May 2006: Government approves establishment of Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS):
The government approved the establishment of an Indian 'regional navigational satellite system' (IRNSS) with a constellation of seven satellites to be realised over the next six to seven years to provide navigation and timing services over the Indian subcontinent.

The satellites are to be launched using Indian launch vehicles. IRNSS is an important component of the Indian strategy for establishing an indigenous and independent satellite navigation system.

July 10, 2006: GSLV- F02/ INSAT 4C Mission:
The launch of GSLV- F02, carrying the communication satellite, INSAT- 4C, took place from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota. However, at around 45 seconds into flight, the vehicle started deviating significantly from its flight path resulting in the vehicle experiencing severe aerodynamic loads and its subsequent breakup at about 65 seconds. A failure analysis committee (FAC), constituted to review the reasons for the failure, concluded that the primary cause for the failure was the sudden loss of thrust in one out of the four liquid propellant strap-on stages (S4) immediately after lift-off resulting from the malfunctioning of a propellant regulator. FAC concluded that the design of GSLV is robust and recommended implementation of strict control on fabrication, inspection and acceptance procedures.

October 28, 2006. Testing of indigenous cryogenic stage:
ISRO achieved a major milestone in the development of indigenous 'cryogenic upper stage' for GSLV when the stage was tested for duration of 50 seconds. The indigenous cryogenic stage is planned to be flight tested in GSLV- D3 mission in 2007-08.

November 7, 2006. Scientists discuss Indian manned space mission:
About 80 senior scientists from across the country gathered in Bangalore to discuss ISRO's studies on the possibility of an Indian manned space mission. The scientists were unanimous in suggesting that the time was appropriate for India to undertake a manned mission.

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