Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) - History, Achievements, ISRO UPSC Notes

By K Balaji|Updated : November 17th, 2022

ISRO, Indian Space Research Organisation, is the space agency of the Indian government's Department of Space, based in Bengaluru, Karnataka. It was founded in 1969 and holds the mission to use space technology for national growth while conducting space science research and planetary exploration. ISRO is one of the essential Indian bodies that play a vital role in the country's development through the projects of defence, education, agricultural and educational sectors.

ISRO UPSC is an important concept from which questions are often asked in the Prelims and Mains exams. Below you will learn about the Indian space program, significant and recent achievements of ISRO, upcoming missions, objectives, challenges and much more.

Table of Content

What is ISRO?

ISRO is the world's sixth largest space agency that maintains the remote sensing and communication satellites serving India through research and development institutes, offices, a network of centres, etc.

ISRO UPSC Notes PDF

ISRO functions in different areas, including distance education satellites, telemedicine, cartography, navigation, geographic information system, disaster management, weather forecasting, broadcasting, etc., under the incumbent chairmanship of Shri. S. Somanath.

ISRO History

Let us check out the history of ISRO in this section which will help UPSC aspirants to get a brief overview of this body. In 1962, Jawaharlal Nehru established the Indian National Committee for Space Research under the Department of Atomic Energy. Along with Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the eminent scientist of India, contributed significantly to the development of the INCOSPAR. TERLS, the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station used to launch rockets, was established by INCOSPAR at Thumba, near Thiruvananthapuram, at the southern tip of the country.

In 1969, INCOSPAR was converted into the Indian Space Research Organisation, but the Department of Space was established in 1972 (Now, ISRO is a part of the Department of Science). The major events in ISRO history are as follows:

  • SITE, Satellite Instructional Television Experiment, the largest sociological experiment in the world, was conducted during 1975-76.
  • Kheda Communications Project was created in Gujarat. The project worked as a field laboratory.
  • Also, Aryabhata, the first Indian Spacecraft, was developed and launched by ISRO using a Soviet launcher.
  • SLV-3 had its first successful flight in 1980.
  • APPLE came out as the forerunner for Future communication satellite systems.
  • The marketing arm of ISRO, Antrix Corporation Limited (ACL), was created to promote and commercialize the exploitation of Space Products.
  • ISRO developed a few dedicated centres. These include- the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) in Hyderabad, Space Applications Centre (SAC) in Ahmedabad, Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC-SHAR) in Sriharikota, and Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) and Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) at Thiruvananthapuram.

Major Achievements of ISRO

Since the establishment of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), its workers have been trying hard to achieve its objectives. ISRO has successfully launched the following missions:

Communication Satellites:

Indian National Satellite (INSAT) system, which began operations in 1983 with the commissioning of INSAT-1B, is one of the largest domestic communication satellite systems in the Asia-Pacific region, with nine operational communication satellites in Geostationary orbit launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It ushered in a big transformation in India's communications market, which it maintained later. Telecommunications, television transmission, satellite newsgathering, societal applications, weather forecasting, disaster warning, and Search and Rescue operations are all served by the INSAT system. Here are the important communication satellites of ISRO:

Name of the Satellite

Launch Vehicle

Launch Date

Application

EDUSAT

GSLV-F01 / EDUSAT(GSAT-3)

Sep 20, 2004

Communication

GSAT - 8

Ariane-5 VA-202

May 21, 2011

Communication, Navigation

GSAT - 12

PSLV-C17/GSAT-12

Jul 15, 2011

Communication

GSAT - 9

GSLV-F09 / GSAT-9

May 05, 2017

Communication

GSAT - 19

GSLV Mk III-D1/GSAT-19 Mission

Jun 05, 2017

Communication

GSAT - 17

Ariane-5 VA-238

Jun 29, 2017

Communication

GSAT - 6A

GSLV-F08/GSAT-6A Mission

Mar 29, 2018

Communication

GSAT - 29

GSLV Mk III-D2 / GSAT-29 Mission

Nov 14, 2018

Communication

GSAT - 11 Mission

Ariane-5 VA-246

Dec 05, 2018

Communication

GSAT - 7A

GSLV-F11 / GSAT-7A Mission

Dec 19, 2018

Communication

GSAT - 31

Ariane-5 VA-247

Feb 06, 2019

Communication

Earth Observation Satellites:

ISRO has launched several operational remote sensing satellites since IRS-1A in 1988. India now operates one of the world's largest constellations of remote-sensing satellites. To provide necessary data in diversified temporal, spectral, and spatial resolutions, various instruments have been developed and flown onboard to serve different national and international purposes. The data collected by ISRO through these satellites is then used for various applications like disaster management, ocean resources, forestry, environment, mineral prospecting, rural development, urban planning, water resources, and agriculture.

The list of the important Earth observation Satellites of ISRO, along with their launch vehicle and the launch date, is given in the table below:

Name of the Satellite

Launch Vehicle

Launch Date

Application

Bhaskara-I

C-1 Intercosmos

Jun 07, 1979

Earth Observation, Experimental

Rohini Satellite RS-D1

SLV-3D1

May 31, 1981

Earth Observation

Oceansat (IRS-P4)

PSLV-C2/IRS-P4

May 26, 1999

Earth Observation

The Technology Experiment Satellite (TES)

PSLV-C3 / TES

Oct 22, 2001

Earth Observation

CARTOSAT - 1

PSLV-C6/CARTOSAT-1/HAMSAT

May 05, 2005

Earth Observation

RISAT - 2

PSLV-C12 / RISAT-2

Apr 20, 2009

Earth Observation

Oceansat - 2

PSLV-C14 / OCEANSAT - 2

Sep 23, 2009

Climate & Environment, Disaster Management System

CARTOSAT - 2B

PSLV-C15/CARTOSAT-2B

Jul 12, 2010

Earth Observation

RESOURCESAT-2

PSLV-C16/RESOURCESAT-2

Apr 20, 2011

Earth Observation

Megha - Tropiques

PSLV-C18/Megha-Tropiques

Oct 12, 2011

Climate & Environment, Disaster Management System

RISAT - 1

PSLV-C19/RISAT-1

Apr 26, 2012

Earth Observation

SARAL

PSLV-C20/SARAL

Feb 25, 2013

Climate & Environment, Disaster Management System

CARTOSAT-2 Series Satellite

PSLV-C34 / CARTOSAT-2 Series Satellite

Jun 22, 2016

Earth Observation

INSAT-3DR

GSLV-F05 / INSAT-3DR

Sep 08, 2016

Climate & Environment, Disaster Management System

SCATSAT-1

PSLV-C35 / Cartosat-2 Series Satellite

Sep 26, 2016

Climate & Environment

RESOURCESAT-2A

PSLV-C36 / Cartosat-2 Series Satellite

Dec 07, 2016

Earth Observation

Cartosat-2 Series Satellite

PSLV-C37 / Cartosat-2 Series Satellite

Feb 15, 2017

Earth Observation

Cartosat-2 Series Satellite

PSLV-C38 / Cartosat-2 Series Satellite

Jun 23, 2017

Earth Observation

Cartosat-2 Series Satellite

PSLV-C40/Cartosat-2 Series Satellite Mission

Jan 12, 2018

Earth Observation

HysIS

PSLV-C43 / HysIS Mission

Nov 29, 2018

Earth Observation

Navigation Satellites:

To meet the Civil Aviation requirements, ISRO is working jointly with the Airport Authority of India (AAI) in establishing the GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) system. To meet the user requirements of the positioning, navigation and timing services based on the indigenous system, ISRO is establishing a regional satellite navigation system called Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).

Experimental Satellites:

ISRO has launched a range of small satellites, mostly for research purposes. This experiment includes remote sensing, atmospheric studies, payload creation, orbit controls, and recovery technology.

A list of the essential experimental satellites launched by ISRO is as under:

Name of the Satellite

Launch vehicle

Launch Date

Application

Aryabhata

PSLV-C40/Cartosat-2 Series Satellite Mission

Apr 19, 1975

Experimental

Rohini Technology Payload (RTP)

PSLV-C16/RESOURCESAT-2

Aug 10, 1979

-

APPLE

Ariane-1(V-3)

Jun 19, 1981

Communication, Experimental

YOUTHSAT

SLV-3E1

Apr 20, 2011

Student Satellite

INS-1C

C-1 Intercosmos

Jan 12, 2018

Experimental

Small Satellites:

Within a short timeframe, the small satellite project will provide a forum for stand-alone payloads for earth imaging and science missions. Two types of buses, the Indian Mini Satellite -1 (IMS-1) and Indian Mini Satellite - 2 (IMS-2) have been designed by ISRO and built to provide a flexible platform for various payloads (IMS-2).

Here is the list of the Small Satellites launched by ISRO:

Name of the Satellite

Launch Vehicle

Launch Date

Application

YOUTHSAT

PSLV-C16/RESOURCESAT-2

Apr 20, 2011

Student Satellite

Microsat

PSLV-C40/Cartosat-2 Series Satellite Mission

Jan 12, 2018

Experimental

Space Science & Exploration Satellites:

Satellites come under this category: AstroSat, the first dedicated Indian astronomy mission to simultaneously study celestial sources in X-ray, optical and UV spectral bands. Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), the genuinely maiden interplanetary mission of ISRO, launched on November 5, 2013. Chandrayaan-1, India's first mission to the moon, and Chandrayaan-2, the second mission, comprised an Orbiter, Lander and Rover, etc.

Academic Institute Satellites:

ISRO's operations, such as creating connectivity, remote sensing, and astronomy satellites, have affected educational institutions. The launch of Chandrayaan-1 piqued universities' and institutions' interest in developing experimental student satellites.

Here is the table showing the Academic Institute Satellites launched by ISRO:

Satellite Name

Launch Vehicle

Launch Date

ANUSAT

PSLV-C12 / RISAT-2

Apr 20, 2009

STUDSAT

PSLV-C15/CARTOSAT-2B

Jul 12, 2010

Jugnu

PSLV-C18/Megha-Tropiques

Oct 12, 2011

SWAYAM

PSLV-C34 / CARTOSAT-2 Series Satellite

Jun 22, 2016

SATHYABAMASAT

PSLV-C34 / CARTOSAT-2 Series Satellite

Jun 22, 2016

PRATHAM

PSLV-C35 / SCATSAT-1

Sep 26, 2016

Kalamsat-V2

PSLV-C44

Jan 24, 2019

Scramjet (Supersonic Combusting Ramjet) Engine:

In August 2016, ISRO successfully conducted the Scramjet (Supersonic Combusting Ramjet) engine test. The Scramjet engine uses Hydrogen as fuel and Oxygen from the atmospheric air as the oxidizer. The new propulsion system will complement ISRO's reusable launch vehicle with a longer flight duration.

Upcoming Milestones of Indian Space Program

The upcoming missions of ISRO include the following:

  • Chandrayaan-3 Mission: ISRO will likely launch Chandrayaan-3 Mission in mid-2023 (earlier, it was the third quarter of 2022).
  • Three Earth Observation Satellites (EOSs): Using the ISRO's workhorse PSLV, EOS-4 (Risat-1A) and EOS-6 (Oceansat-3) will be launched. However, EOS-2 will be launched as SSLV (Small Satellite Launch Vehicle).
  • Shukrayaan Mission: After successfully launching the Satellite to Mars, ISRO is planning to launch a Satellite to Venus, tentatively named Shukrayaan.
  • Own Space Station: Joining China, Russia, and the US in the league, ISRO is planning to launch its first space station by 2030.
  • XpoSat: XpoSat, a Space observatory, is designed by ISRO to study the cosmic X-Rays.
  • Aditya L1 Mission: The Indian Space Program has a mission to launch a satellite able to go 1.5 million Kms to Lagrangian between Earth and the Sun.

Objectives of ISRO

ISRO hold the vision to harness, sustain and augment space technology for the nation's development and pursue research in space science and planetary exploration. The primary objectives of ISRO are as follows:

  • Operational flights of SSLV (Small Satellite Launch Vehicle), GSLV (Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, and PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle).
  • To design, develop and realize the communication and earth observation satellites.
  • Another key objective of ISRO is to design and create new solutions for space transportation.
  • To develop navigation satellite systems and the development of satellites for planetary exploration and space science.
  • To develop applications for observing the earth more precisely.
  • To create a system based on Space for societal applications.
  • One of the major objectives of ISRO is to come up with appropriate training, education, ans capacity building for students interested in space technology.

About ISRO: Challenges and Opportunities

Though the success stories of ISRO are preached throughout the world, it is facing challenges towards achieving its goals. The challenges and opportunities in front of the Indian Space Programme are as follows:

  • Since India is a developing country, it is not in a state that faces certain security and development issues. For example, ISRO becomes questionable and has to justify the allocations for the missions that involve a lot of effort and do not have a direct bearing on development.
  • A threat has been elevated by China after the testing of its ASAT, an Anti-satellite missile, in 2007. It can initiate an arms race in Space along with that on land.
  • Because India relied on satellites like MOM, there have been military vulnerabilities.
  • Though DRDO is developing a missile, it needs the US or other countries as its partners.
  • The satellite was launched by China against Sri-lanka and Pakistan in 2011 and 2012.
  • The government is more involved in discussing the code of conduct and other important documents with the US and the EU.
  • There have been internal disputes in ISRO.

ISRO UPSC

ISRO is one of the most important research organizations in the country that have been a boon to India in recent years. The Satellites launched by ISRO have been successful in getting desired information, thus, making them an important part of developing India. Being so crucial for the country, it is also an essential topic for the UPSC aspirants as a lot of questions are raised from ISRO UPSC notes in IAS Exam. You can also check your preparation by solving questions on this topic from the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers.

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FAQs on Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

  • ISRO, or the Indian Space Research Organisation, is the Indian space agency of the Department of Space, based in Bengaluru, Karnataka. The mission of the ISRO is to use space technology for national growth while conducting space science research and planetary exploration.

  • Dr Vikram A Sarabhai is considered the founding father of space programmes in India. He established the Indian Space Research Organisation in 1969 as the national space agency of the Republic of India.

  • ISRO was formed by Dr Vikram A Sarabhai on August 15, 1969. However, the Department of Science and the Space Commission was established by the Indian government in 1972. On June 1, 1972, ISRO was introduced under the Department of Science.

  • The primary object of the Indian Space Research Organisation is to fulfil various national needs by developing space technology. ISRO has developed INSAT and Indian Remote Sensing Satellite System to achieve this goal.

  • After its formation, the ISRO has been successful in launching the following satellites: Communication Satellites, Earth Observation Satellites, Navigation Satellites, Space Science & Exploration Satellites, Experimental Satellites, Small Satellites, Academic Institute Satellites, and Scramjet (Supersonic Combusting Ramjet) engine.

  • In ISRO, there are six major centres. These are National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) in Hyderabad, Space Applications Centre (SAC) in Ahmedabad, Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC-SHAR) in Sriharikota, and Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) and Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) at Thiruvananthapuram.

  • The first launch Vehicle of India was Satellite Launch Vehicle -3 (SLV-3). Its launch took place from SDSC SHAR on July 18, 1980.

  • As of October 23, 2022, India has launched 381 (foreign) satellites for 34 countries into orbit. As per the stats of 2019, only ISRO is capable of launching all the research and commercial projects. The foreign launches are negotiated through ISRO's commercial arm, NSIL.

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