Indian Space Research Organisation

Indian Space Research Organisation
Bhāratīya Antarikṣ Anusandhān Saṅgaṭhan
Indian Space Research Organisation Logo.svg
ISRO logo (adopted in 2002) [1] [2]
Agency overview
Abbreviation ISRO
Formed 15 August 1969; 51 years ago (1969-08-15)
Preceding agency
Type Space agency
Headquarters Bangalore, Karnataka, India
12°57′56″N 77°41′53″E / 12.96556°N 77.69806°E / 12.96556; 77.69806Coordinates: 12°57′56″N 77°41′53″E / 12.96556°N 77.69806°E / 12.96556; 77.69806
Kailasavadivoo Sivan (ex-officio)[3]
Primary spaceports
Employees 17,099 as of 2021[4]
Annual budget Increase 13,949 crore (US$2.0 billion) (2021–22) [5]

The Indian Space Research Organisation[a] (ISRO /ˈɪsr/) or (IAST : Bhāratīya Antrikṣ Anusandhān Saṅgaṭhan) is the national space agency of India, headquartered in Bengaluru. It operates under Department of Space (DOS) which is directly overseen by the Prime Minister of India, while Chairman of ISRO acts as executive of DOS as well. ISRO is the primary agency in India to perform tasks related to space based applications, space exploration and development of related technologies.[6] It is one of six government space agencies in the world which possess full launch capabilities, deploy cryogenic engines, launch extraterrestrial missions and operate large fleets of artificial satellites.[7][8][b]

The Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was established by Jawaharlal Nehru under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in 1962, on the urging of scientist Vikram Sarabhai recognising the need in space research. INCOSPAR grew and became ISRO in 1969, within DAE.[9] In 1972, the Government of India had set up a Space Commission and the Department of Space (DOS), bringing ISRO under the DOS. The establishment of ISRO thus institutionalised space research activities in India.[10][11] It since then has been managed by the DOS, which governs various other institutions in India in domain of astronomy and space technology.[12]

ISRO built India's first satellite, Aryabhata, which was launched by the Soviet Union on 19 April 1975.[13] In 1980, ISRO launched satellite RS-1 onboard its own SLV-3 making India the sixth country to be capable of undertaking orbital launches. SLV-3 was followed by ASLV which was subsequently succeeded by development of many medium-lift launch vehicles, rocket engines, satellite systems and networks enabling agency to launch hundreds of domestic and foreign satellites and various deep space missions for space exploration.

ISRO was the world's first space agency to find water on the moon[14] and insert a probe in orbit of Mars in its maiden attempt. It has the world's largest constellation of remote-sensing satellites and operates two satellite navigation systems namely GAGAN and NAVIC.

Goals in near future include expanding satellites fleet, landing a rover on Moon, sending humans into space, development of a semi-cryogenic engine, sending more unmanned missions to moon, Mars, Venus and Sun and deployment of more space telescopes in orbit to observe consmic phenomena and outerspace beyond solar system. Long term plans include development of reusable launchers, heavy and super heavy launch vehicles, deploying a space station, sending exploration missions to external planets like Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and asteroids and manned missions to Moon and planets.

ISRO's programs have played a significant role in the socio-economic development of India and have supported both civilian and military domains in various aspects including disaster management, telemedicine and navigation and reconnaissance missions. ISRO's spin off technologies also have founded many crucial innovations for India's engineering and medical industries.


Formative years

An Arcas rocket being loaded into launch tube at Thumba Launching Station. In the early days of ISRO, rocket parts were often transported on bicycles and bullock carts. [15]

Modern space research in India is traced to the 1920s, when scientist S. K. Mitra conducted a series of experiments leading to the sounding of the ionosphere by applying ground-based radio methods in Kolkata.[16] Later, Indian scientists like C.V. Raman and Meghnad Saha contributed to scientific principles applicable in space sciences.[16] However, it was the period after 1945 that saw important developments being made in coordinated space research in India.[16] Organised space research in India was spearheaded by two scientists: Vikram Sarabhai—founder of the Physical Research Laboratory at Ahmedabad—and Homi Bhabha, who established the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in 1945.[16] Initial experiments in space sciences included the study of cosmic radiation, high altitude and airborne testing, deep underground experimentation at the Kolar mines—one of the deepest mining sites in the world—and studies of the upper atmosphere.[17] Studies were carried out at research laboratories, universities, and independent locations.[17][18]

In 1950, the Department of Atomic Energy was founded with Bhabha as its secretary.[18] The department provided funding for space research throughout India.[19] During this time, tests continued on aspects of meteorology and the Earth's magnetic field, a topic that was being studied in India since the establishment of the observatory at Colaba in 1823. In 1954, the Uttar Pradesh state observatory was established at the foothills of the Himalayas.[18] The Rangpur Observatory was set up in 1957 at Osmania University, Hyderabad. Space research was further encouraged by the government of India.[19] In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 and opened up possibilities for the rest of the world to conduct a space launch.[19]

The Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was set up in 1962 by PM Nehru on the urging of Vikram Sarabhai.[11] There was no dedicated ministry for space program initially and all activities of INCOSPAR relating to space technology continued to function within DAE.[9][10] H.G.S. Murthy was appointed as the first Director of Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station.[20] Sounding rockets from Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station were fired marking the start of upper atmospheric research in India.[21] Indigenous series of sounding rockets named Rohini was subsequently developed and started undergoing launches from 1967 onwards.[22]

1970s and 1980s

Under the administration of Indira Gandhi, INCOSPAR was superseded by ISRO. Later in 1972, a space commission and Department of Space (DOS) were set up to overview space technology development in India specifically and ISRO was brought under DOS, institutionalising space research in India and forging Indian space program into its existing form.[10][12]

India joined the Soviet Interkosmos program for space cooperation[23] and got its first satellite Aryabhatta in orbit through a Soviet rocket.[13]

Efforts to develop an orbital launch vehicle begun after mastering sounding rocket technology. Concept was to develop a launcher capable of providing sufficient velocity to a mass of 35 kg (77 lb) to enter LEO. It took 7 years for ISRO to develop Satellite Launch Vehicle capable of putting 40 kg (88 lb) into a 400 km (250 mi) orbit. SLV Launch Pad, ground stations, tracking networks, radars and other communications were set up for launch campaign. Its first launch in 1979 carried a Rohini technology payload but couldn't inject satellite into its desired orbit. It was followed by a successful launch in 1980 carrying Rohini Series-I satellite making India the seventh country to reach earth's orbit after USSR, USA, France, United Kingdom, China and Japan. RS-1 was third Indian satellite to reach orbit as Bhaskara had been launched from USSR in 1979. Efforts to develop a medium-lift launch vehicle capable of putting 600 kg (1,300 lb) class spacecrafts into 1000 km sun-synchronous orbit had already begun in 1978[24] which would later lead to development of PSLV.[25] SLV-3 later had two more launches before discontinual in 1983.[26] ISRO's Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) was set up in 1985 and started working on a more powerful engine Vikas based upon French Viking.[27] In 1987, facilities to test liquid fueled rocket engines was established and development and testing of various rocket engines thrusters began.[28]

Parallelly, another solid fueled rocket Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle based upon SLV-3 was being developed technologies to launch satellites into geostationary orbit. ASLV had limited success and multiple launch failures was discontinued soon.[29] Alongside, technologies for Indian National Satellite System for communication satellites[30] and Indian Remote Sensing Programme for earth observation satellites[31] were developed and launches from overseas initiated. Number of satellites eventually expanded and systems were established as among largest satellite constellations in the world with a number of multi-band communication, radar imaging, optical imaging and meteorological satellites.[32]

1990s and early 21st century

Arrival of PSLV in 1990s became a major boost for Indian space program. With the exception of its first flight in 1994 and two partial failures later, PSLV had a streak of more than 50 successful flights. PSLV enabled India to launch all of its LEO satellites, small payloads to GTO and hundreds of foreign satellites.[33] Along with the flights of PSLV, development of a new rocket namely Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) was going on. India tried to obtain upper-stage cryogenic engines from Russian Glavkosmos but was blocked by United States from doing so. As a result, KVD-1 engines were imported from Russia under new agreement which had limited success[34] and a project to develop indigenous cryogenic technology was launched in 1994, which took two decades to mature.[35] A new agreement was signed with Russia for 7 KVD-1 cryogenic stages and 1 ground mock-up stage with no technology transfer, instead of 5 cryogenic stages along with the technology and design as per the earlier agreement.[36] These engines were used for the initial flights and were named GSLV Mk.1.[37] ISRO was under US government sanctions between 6 May 1992 to 6 May 1994.[38]

After US refused to help India with Global Positioning System (GPS) during Kargil war, ISRO was induced to develop its own satellite navigation system IRNSS which is now expanding further.[39]

In 2003, when China sent humans into space, prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee urged scientists to develop technologies to land humans on Moon[40] and Indian programs to send missions to Moon, other planets and sending humans to space came into existence soon. ISRO launched Chandrayaan-1 in 2008, which was world's first probe to verify the presence of water on the Moon[14] and Mars Orbiter Mission in 2013 which was first Asian spacecraft to enter Martian orbit and India being first country to do so in maiden attempt.[41] Subsequently, cryogenic upper stage for GSLV rocket operationalised making India sixth country to have full launch capabilities[7] and a new heavier-lift launcher GSLV Mk III was introduced in 2014 for heavier satellites and enabling human space missions.[42] Since then, development of bigger rockets, more advanced satellites and spacecrafts has been going on.

ISRO did not have an official logo unlike other space agencies until 2002. The adopted logo is consisted of an orange aero shooting upwards attached with two blue colored satellite panels with the name of ISRO written in two sets of text. One in orange color in Devanagari on left side and another in blue color in English in Prakrta font.[1][2]

Goals and objectives

Vikram Sarabhai, first chairperson of INCOSPAR, which would later be called ISRO

ISRO is the national space agency of India for the purpose of all space-based applications like reconnaissance & communications and doing research. It undertakes the design and development of space rockets, satellites, explores upper atmosphere and deep space exploration missions. ISRO also has incubated its technologies in India's private space sector boosting its growth.[6][43] The Indian space programme was founded and pushed ahead by the vision of Vikram Sarabhai, considered the father of the Indian space programme.[44][45] As he said in 1969:

There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the Moon or the planets or manned space-flight. But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society, which we find in our country. And we should note that the application of sophisticated technologies and methods of analysis to our problems is not to be confused with embarking on grandiose schemes, whose primary impact is for show rather than for progress measured in hard economic and social terms.

Former president of India, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, said:

Very many individuals with myopic vision questioned the relevance of space activities in a newly independent nation which was finding it difficult to feed its population. But neither Prime Minister Nehru nor Prof. Sarabhai had any ambiguity of purpose. Their vision was very clear: if Indians were to play a meaningful role in the community of nations, they must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to their real-life problems. They had no intention of using it merely as a means of displaying our might.

India's economic progress has made its space programme more visible and active as the country aims for greater self-reliance in space technology.[48] In 2008, India launched as many as eleven satellites, including nine foreign and went on to become the first nation to launch ten satellites on one rocket.[48] ISRO has put into operation two major satellite systems: the Indian National Satellites (INSAT) for communication services, and the Indian Remote Sensing Programme (IRS) satellites for management of natural resources.

Organisation structure and facilities

The organisational structure of the Department of Space of the Government of India

ISRO is managed by the Department of Space (DoS) of the Government of India. DoS itself falls under the authority of the Space Commission and manages the following agencies and institutes:[49][50][51]

Research facilities

Facility Location Description
Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre Thiruvananthapuram The largest ISRO base is also the main technical centre and the venue of development of the SLV-3, ASLV, and PSLV series.[53] The base supports India's Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station and the Rohini Sounding Rocket programme.[53] This facility is also developing the GSLV series.[53]
Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre Thiruvananthapuram and Bangalore The LPSC handles design, development, testing and implementation of liquid propulsion control packages, liquid stages and liquid engines for launch vehicles and satellites.[53] The testing of these systems is largely conducted at IPRC at Mahendragiri.[53] The LPSC, Bangalore also produces precision transducers.[54]
Physical Research Laboratory Ahmedabad Solar planetary physics, infrared astronomy, geo-cosmo physics, plasma physics, astrophysics, archaeology, and hydrology are some of the branches of study at this institute.[53] An observatory at Udaipur also falls under the control of this institution.[53]
Semi-Conductor Laboratory Chandigarh Research & Development in the field of semiconductor technology, micro-electro mechanical systems and process technologies relating to semiconductor processing.
National Atmospheric Research Laboratory Tirupati The NARL carries out fundamental and applied research in atmospheric and space sciences.
Space Applications Centre Ahmedabad The SAC deals with the various aspects of the practical use of space technology.[53] Among the fields of research at the SAC are geodesy, satellite based telecommunications, surveying, remote sensing, meteorology, environment monitoring etc.[53] The SAC also operates the Delhi Earth Station, which is located in Delhi and is used for demonstration of various SATCOM experiments in addition to normal SATCOM operations.[55]
North-Eastern Space Applications Centre Shillong Providing developmental support to North East by undertaking specific application projects using remote sensing, GIS, satellite communication and conducting space science research.

Test facilities

Facility Location Description
ISRO Propulsion Complex Mahendragiri Formerly called LPSC-Mahendragiri, was declared a separate centre. It handles testing and assembly of liquid propulsion control packages, liquid engines, and stages for launch vehicles and satellites.[53]

Construction and launch facilities

Facility Location Description
U R Rao Satellite Centre Bangalore The venue of eight successful spacecraft projects is also one of the main satellite technology bases of ISRO. The facility serves as a venue for implementing indigenous spacecraft in India.[53] The satellites Aaryabhata, Bhaskara, APPLE, and IRS-1A were constructed at this site, and the IRS and INSAT satellite series are presently under development here. This centre was formerly known as ISRO Satellite Centre.[54]
Laboratory for Electro-Optics Systems Bangalore The Unit of ISRO responsible for the development of altitude sensors for all satellites. The high precision optics for all cameras and payloads in all ISRO satellites are developed at this laboratory, located at Peenya Industrial Estate, Bangalore.
Satish Dhawan Space Centre Sriharikota With multiple sub-sites the Sriharikota island facility acts as a launching site for India's satellites.[53] The Sriharikota facility is also the main launch base for India's sounding rockets.[54] The centre is also home to India's largest Solid Propellant Space Booster Plant (SPROB) and houses the Static Test and Evaluation Complex (STEX).[54] The Second Vehicle Assembly Building (SVAB) at Sriharikota is being realised as an additional integration facility, with suitable interfacing to a second launch pad.[56][57]
Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station Thiruvananthapuram TERLS is used to launch sounding rockets.

Tracking and control facilities

Facility Location Description
Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) Bangalore This network receives, processes, archives and distributes the spacecraft health data and payload data in real-time. It can track and monitor satellites up to very large distances, even beyond the Moon.
National Remote Sensing Centre Hyderabad The NRSC applies remote sensing to manage natural resources and study aerial surveying.[53] With centres at Balanagar and Shadnagar it also has training facilities at Dehradun acting as the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing.[53]
ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network Bangalore (headquarters) and a number of ground stations throughout India and the world.[55] Software development, ground operations, Tracking Telemetry and Command (TTC), and support is provided by this institution.[53] ISTRAC has Tracking stations throughout the country and all over the world in Port Louis (Mauritius), Bearslake (Russia), Biak (Indonesia) and Brunei.
Master Control Facility Bhopal; Hassan Geostationary satellite orbit raising, payload testing, and in-orbit operations are performed at this facility.[58] The MCF has Earth stations and the Satellite Control Centre (SCC) for controlling satellites.[58] A second MCF-like facility named 'MCF-B' is being constructed at Bhopal.[58]
Space Situational Awareness Control Centre Peenya, Bangalore A network of telescopes and radars are being set up under the Directorate of Space Situational Awareness and Management to monitor space debris and to safeguard space-based assets. The new facility will end ISRO's dependence on Norad. The sophisticated multi-object tracking radar installed in Nellore, a radar in NE India and telescopes in Thiruvananthapuram, Mount Abu and North India will be part of this network.[59][60]

Human resource development

Facility Location Description
Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) Dehradun The Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) is a premier training and educational institute set up for developing trained professionals (P.G. and PhD level) in the field of remote sensing, geoinformatics and GPS technology for natural resources, environmental and disaster management. IIRS is also executing many R&D projects on remote sensing and GIS for societal applications. IIRS also runs various outreach programs (Live & Interactive and e-learning) to build trained skilled human resources in the field of remote sensing and geospatial technologies.
Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) Thiruvananthapuram The institute offers undergraduate and graduate courses in Aerospace Engineering, Electronics and Communication Engineering (Avionics), and Engineering Physics. The students of the first three batches of IIST were inducted into different ISRO centres.
Development and Educational Communication Unit Ahmedabad The centre works for education, research, and training, mainly in conjunction with the INSAT programme.[53] The main activities carried out at DECU include GRAMSAT and EDUSAT projects.[54] The Training and Development Communication Channel (TDCC) also falls under the operational control of the DECU.[55]
Space Technology Incubation Centres (S-TICs) at: Agartala, Bhopal, Jalandhar, Nagpur Rourkela, Tiruchirappalli The S-TICs opened at premier technical universities in India to promote startups to build applications and products in tandem with the industry and would be used for future space missions. The S-TIC will bring the industry, academia and ISRO under one umbrella to contribute towards research and development (R&D) initiatives relevant to the Indian Space Programme.[63]
Space Innovation Centre at Veer Surendra Sai University of Technology Burla, Sambalpur In line with ongoing effort to promote R&D in space technology through the industry as well as academia, ISRO in collaboration with Veer Surendra Sai University of Technology (VSSUT), Burla, Sambalpur, Odisha, has set up Veer Surendra Sai Space Innovation Centre (VSSSIC) within its campus at Sambalpur. The objective of this Space Innovation Research Lab is to promote and encourage the students in research and development in the domain of Space Science and Technology at VSSUT and other Institutes within this region.[64][65]
Regional Academy Centre for Space (RAC-S) at:

Varanasi, Guwahati, Kurukshetra, Jaipur, Mangalore, Patna All these centres are set up in tier-2 cities to create awareness, strengthen academic collaboration and act as incubators for space technology, space science and space applications. The activities of RAC-S will be to maximise the use of research potential, infrastructure, expertise, experience and facilitate capacity building.

Antrix Corporation Limited (Commercial Wing)

Set up as the marketing arm of ISRO, Antrix's job is to promote products, services and technology developed by ISRO.[67][68]

NewSpace India Limited (Commercial Wing)

Set up for marketing spin-off technologies, tech transfers through industry interface and scale up industry participation in the space programmes.[69]

Space Technology Incubation Centre

ISRO has opened Space Technology Incubation Centres (S-TIC) at premier technical universities in India which will incubate startups to build applications and products in tandem with the industry and would be used for future space missions. The S-TIC will bring the industry, academia and ISRO under one umbrella to contribute towards research and development (R&D) initiatives relevant to the Indian Space Programme. S-TICs are at the National Institute of Technology, Agartala serving for east region, National Institute of Technology, Jalandhar for the north region, and the National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli for the south region of India.[63]

Advance Space Research Group

Like NASA funded Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) managed by California Institute of Technology (Caltech), ISRO with Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) implemented a joint working framework in 2021 in which an Empowered Overseeing Committee (EOC) under Capacity Building Programme Office (CBPO) of ISRO located in Bengaluru will approve all short, medium and long term space research projects of common interest. In return, an Advance Space Research Group (ASRG) formed at IIST under the guidance of EOC will have full access to ISRO facilities. The primary aim is to transform IIST into a premier space research and engineering institute by 2028-2030 that can lead future space exploration missions of ISRO.[70]

Other facilities

General satellite programmes

Since the launch of Aryabhata in 1975,[13] a number of satellite series and constellations have been deployed by Indian and foreign launchers. At present, ISRO operates one of the largest constellations of active communication and earth imaging satellites for military and civilian uses.[32]

The IRS series

The Indian Remote Sensing satellites (IRS) are the series of India's earth observation satellites. The IRS series provides remote sensing services and is the largest collection of remote sensing satellites for civilian use in operation today in the world.[32] All the satellites are placed in polar Sun-synchronous orbit (except GISATs) and provide data in a variety of spatial, spectral and temporal resolutions to enable several programmes to be undertaken relevant to national development. The initial versions are composed of the 1 (A, B, C, D) nomenclature while the later versions were divided into sub-classes named based on their functioning and uses including Oceansat, Cartosat, HySIS, EMISAT and ResourceSat etc.. The names although again were unified into prefix "EOS" again regardless of functioning again in 2020.[71] These satellites hold a wide range of applications including optical, radar and electronic reconnaissance for Indian agencies, city planning, oceanography and environmental studies.

The INSAT series

INSAT-1B satellite: The broadcasting sector in India is highly dependent on INSAT system.

The Indian National Satellite System (INSAT) are the family of communication satellites of India. It is a series of multipurpose geostationary satellites built and launched by ISRO to satisfy the telecommunications, broadcasting, meteorology and search-and-rescue needs of the country. Since the introduction of first satellite in 1983, INSAT has become the largest domestic communication system in the Asia-Pacific Region. It is a joint venture of the Department of Space, Department of Telecommunications, India Meteorological Department, All India Radio and Doordarshan. The overall coordination and management of INSAT system rests with the Secretary-level INSAT Coordination Committee.[72] The nomenclature of satellite series was shifted to "GSAT" from "INSAT" which was further changed to "CMS" from 2020 onwards.[73] These satellites have been in use by Indian Armed Forcesas well.[74][75] GSAT-9 or "SAARC Satellite" is a notable example for serving communication services for India's smaller neighbors.[76]

Gagan Satellite Navigation System

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has decided to implement an indigenous Satellite-Based Regional GPS Augmentation System also known as Space-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) as part of the Satellite-Based Communications, Navigation, Surveillance and Air Traffic Management plan for civil aviation. The Indian SBAS system has been given an acronym GAGAN – GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation. A national plan for satellite navigation including implementation of Technology Demonstration System over the Indian air space as a proof of concept has been prepared jointly by Airports Authority of India and ISRO. Technology Demonstration System was completed during 2007 by installing eight Indian Reference Stations at eight Indian airports and linked to the Master Control Centre located near Bangalore.[77]

Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC)

Coverage of the IRNSS in blue, as of 2020

IRNSS with an operational name NavIC is an independent regional navigation satellite system developed by India. It is designed to provide accurate position information service to users in India as well as the region extending up to 1500 km from its borders, which is its primary service area. IRNSS provides two types of services, namely, Standard Positioning Service (SPS) and Restricted Service (RS) and provides a position accuracy of better than 20 m in the primary service area.[78] It is an autonomous regional satellite navigation system developed by Indian Space Research Organisation, which is under total control of Indian government. The requirement of such a navigation system is driven by the fact that access to global navigation systems like GPS is not guaranteed in hostile situations.

Other satellites

Kalpana-1 (MetSat-1) was ISRO's first dedicated meteorological satellite.[79][80] Indo-French satellite SARAL on 25 February 2013. SARAL (or "Satellite with ARgos and AltiKa") is a cooperative altimetry technology mission, used for monitoring the oceans' surface and sea levels. AltiKa measures ocean surface topography with an accuracy of 8 mm, against 2.5 cm on average using altimeters, and with a spatial resolution of 2 km.[81][82]

Launch vehicles

Comparison of Indian carrier rockets. Left to right: SLV, ASLV, PSLV, GSLV, GSLV Mark III

During the 1960s and 1970s, India initiated its own launch vehicles owing to geopolitical and economic considerations. In the 1960s–1970s, the country developed a sounding rocket, and by the 1980s, research had yielded the Satellite Launch Vehicle-3 and the more advanced Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV), complete with operational supporting infrastructure.[83] ISRO further applied its energies to the advancement of launch vehicle technology resulting in the realisation of the successful PSLV and GSLV vehicles.

Satellite Launch Vehicle

Stamp depicting SLV-3 D1 carrying RS-D1 satellite to orbit

Satellite Launch Vehicle (known as SLV-3) was the first space rocket to be developed by India. The initial launch in 1979 was a failure followed by a successful launch in 1980 making way for India into the club of countries with orbital launch capabilities. The development of bigger rockets was pushed ahead thereafter.[25]

Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle

Augmented or Advanced Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) was another small launch vehicle realised in 1980s to develop technologies required to place satellites into geostationary orbit. ISRO did not have adequate funds to develop ASLV and PSLV at once. Since ASLV suffered repeated failures, it was dropped in favour of a new project.[84][29]

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle

PSLV-C11 lifts off carrying Chandrayaan-1, first Indian mission to the moon.

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV is the first medium-lift launch vehicle from India which enabled India to launch all its remote-sensing satellites into Sun-synchronous orbit. PSLV had a failure in its maiden launch in 1993. Besides other two partial failure, PSLV has become primary workhorse for ISRO with more than 50 launches placing hundreds of Indian and foreign satellites into orbit.[85]

Decade-wise summary of PSLV launches:

Decade Successful Partial success Failure Total
1990s 3 1 1 5
2000s 11 0 0 11
2010s 33 0 1 34
2020s 3 0 0 3
Total 50 1 2 53

Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)

GSLV-F08 launches GSAT-6A into geostationary transfer orbit (2018).

Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle is envisaged in 1990s to transfer significant payloads to geostationary orbit. ISRO initially had great problem in development of GSLV as development of CE-7.5 in India took a decade. US had blocked India from obtaining cryogenic technology from Russia which induced India to develop its own cryogenic engines.[34]

Decade-wise summary of GSLV Launches:

Decade Successful Partial success Failure Total
2000s 2 2 1 5
2010s 6 0 2 8
Total 8 2 3 13


GSLV Mk III D1 being moved from assembly building to the launch pad

Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III), also known as LVM3, is the heaviest rocket in operational service with ISRO. Equipped with a more powerful cryogenic engine and boosters than GSLV, it has significantly higher playload capacity and allows India to launch all its communication satellites.[86] LVM3 is expected to carry India's first manned mission to space[87] and will be the testbed for SCE-200 engine which will power India's heavy lift rockets in future.[88]

Decade-wise summary of GSLV Mark III launches:

Decade Successful Partial success Failure Total
2010s 4 0 0 4[89]

Human Spaceflight Programme

First proposal to send humans in space was discussed in ISRO in 2006 which subsequently led to the beginning of work on required infrastructure and spacecrafts.[90][91] The trials for crewed space missions began in 2007 with the 600 kg Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE), launched using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, and safely returned to earth 12 days later.[92]

In 2009, the Indian Space Research Organisation proposed a budget of 124 billion (equivalent to 250 billion or US$3.5 billion in 2019) for its human spaceflight programme. An uncrewed demonstration flight was expected after seven years from the final approval and a crewed mission to be launched after seven years of funding.[93] Manned mission initially wasn't a priority and was left on backburner for several years.[94] A space capsule recovery experiment in 2014[95][96] and a pad abort test in 2018[97] were followed by PM Modi's announcement on Independence Day address 15 August 2018 that India will send astronauts into space by 2022 on the new Gaganyaan spacecraft.[98] Till date, ISRO has developed most of the technologies needed such as crew module and crew escape system, space food and life support systems. The project would cost less than 100 billion and would include sending 2 or 3 Indians to space, 300–400 km (190–250 mi) above in a spacecraft for at least seven days using a GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle.[99][100]

Astronaut training and other facilities

The newly established Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) will coordinate the IHSF campaign.[101][102] ISRO will set up an astronaut training centre in Bangalore to prepare personnel for flights on board the crewed vehicle. The centre will use simulation facilities to train the selected astronauts in rescue and recovery operations and survival in zero gravity, and will undertake studies of the radiation environment of space. ISRO had to build centrifuges to prepare astronauts for the acceleration phase of the launch. Existing launch facilities in Satish Dhawan Space Centre would have to be upgraded for the Indian Human Spaceflight campaign.[103] Human Space Flight Centre and Glavcosmos signed an agreement on 1 July 2019 for the selection, support, medical examination and space training of Indian astronauts.[104] An ISRO Technical Liaison Unit (ITLU) was to be set up in Moscow to facilitate the development of some key technologies and establishment of special facilities which are essential to support life in space.[105] The training of four Indian Air Force personnel was undertaken in Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center and was completed in March 2021.[106]

Crewed spacecraft

ISRO is working towards an orbital crewed spacecraft that can operate for seven days in a low Earth orbit. The spacecraft, called Gaganyaan, will be the basis of the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme. The spacecraft is being developed to carry up to three people, and a planned upgraded version will be equipped with a rendezvous and docking capability. In its maiden crewed mission, ISRO's largely autonomous 3-tonne spacecraft will orbit the Earth at 400 km (250 mi) in altitude for up to seven days with a two-person crew on board. As of February 2021, the crewed mission is planned to be launched on ISRO's GSLV Mk III in 2023.[107]

Space station

India plans to build a space station as a follow-up programme of the Gaganyaan mission. ISRO chairman K. Sivan has said that India will not join the International Space Station programme and will instead build a 20 tonne space station on its own.[108][109] It is expected to be placed in a low Earth orbit of a 400-kilometre (250 mi) altitude and be capable of harbouring three humans for 15–20 days. Rough time-frame is five to seven years after completion of Gaganyaan project.[110][111]

Planetary sciences and astronomy

There is a national balloon launching facility at Hyderabad jointly supported by TIFR and ISRO. This facility has been extensively used for carrying out research in high energy (i.e., X- and gamma-ray) astronomy, IR astronomy, middle atmospheric trace constituents including CFCs & aerosols, ionisation, electric conductivity and electric fields.[112]

The flux of secondary particles and X-ray and gamma-rays of atmospheric origin produced by the interaction of the cosmic rays is very low. This low background, in the presence of which one has to detect the feeble signal from cosmic sources is a major advantage in conducting hard X-ray observations from India. The second advantage is that many bright sources like Cyg X-1, Crab Nebula, Scorpius X-1 and Galactic Centre sources are observable from Hyderabad due to their favourable declination. With these considerations, an X-ray astronomy group was formed at TIFR in 1967 and development of an instrument with an orientable X-ray telescope for hard X-ray observations was undertaken. The first balloon flight with the new instrument was made on 28 April 1968 in which observations of Scorpius X-1 were successfully carried out. In a succession of balloon flights made with this instrument between 1968 and 1974 a number of binary X-ray sources including Cyg X-1 and Her X-1, and the diffuse cosmic X-ray background were studied. Many new and astrophysically important results were obtained from these observations.[113]

ISRO played a role in the discovery of three species of bacteria in the upper stratosphere at an altitude of between 20–40 km (12–25 mi). The bacteria, highly resistant to ultra-violet radiation, are not found elsewhere on Earth, leading to speculation on whether they are extraterrestrial in origin.[114] These three bacteria can be considered to be extremophiles. The bacteria were named as Bacillus isronensis in recognition of ISRO's contribution in the balloon experiments, which led to its discovery, Bacillus aryabhata after India's celebrated ancient astronomer Aryabhata and Janibacter hoylei after the distinguished astrophysicist Fred Hoyle.[115]


Astrosat-1 in deployed configuration

Launched in 2015, Astrosat is India's first dedicated multi wavelength space observatory. Its observation study includes active galactic nuclei, hot white dwarfs, pulsations of pulsars, binary star systems, and supermassive black holes located at the centre of the galaxy.[116]

Extraterrestrial exploration

Lunar exploration

Chandryaan (lit.'Mooncraft') are the series of India's lunar exploration spacecrafts. Initial mission included orbiter and controlled impact probes while further missions include landers, rovers and sampling missions also.[88][117]

Rendering of Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft

Chandrayaan-1 was India's first mission to the Moon. The robotic lunar exploration mission included a lunar orbiter and an impactor called the Moon Impact Probe. ISRO launched the spacecraft using a modified version of the PSLV on 22 October 2008 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. The vehicle was inserted into lunar orbit on 8 November 2008. It carried high-resolution remote sensing equipment for visible, near infrared, and soft and hard X-ray frequencies. During its 312 days operational period (2 years planned), it surveyed the lunar surface to produce a complete map of its chemical characteristics and 3-dimensional topography. The polar regions were of special interest, as they possibly had ice deposits. The spacecraft carried 11 instruments: 5 Indian and 6 from foreign institutes and space agencies (including NASA, ESA, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Brown University and other European and North American institutes/companies), which were carried free of cost. Chandrayaan-1 became the first lunar mission to discover existence of water on the Moon.[118] The Chandrayaan-166 team was awarded the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SPACE 2009 award,[119] the International Lunar Exploration Working Group's International Co-operation award in 2008,[120] and the National Space Society's 2009 Space Pioneer Award in the science and engineering category.[121][122]

Vikram lander mounted on top of the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter

Chandrayaan-2 is the second mission to the Moon, which included an orbiter, a lander and a rover. Chandrayaan-2 was launched on a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV-MkIII) on 22 July 2019, consisted of a lunar orbiter, the Vikram lander, and the Pragyan lunar rover, all of which were developed in India.[123][124] It was the first mission meant to explore the little-explored lunar south pole region.[125] The main objective of the Chandrayaan-2 mission is to demonstrate ISRO's ability to soft-land on the lunar surface and operate a robotic rover on the surface. Some of its scientific aims are to conduct studies of lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, the lunar exosphere, and signatures of hydroxyl and water ice.[126]

The Vikram lander, carrying the Pragyan rover, was scheduled to land on the near side of the Moon, in a south polar region at a latitude of about 70° south at approximately 1:50 am(IST) on 7 September 2019. However, the lander deviated from its intended trajectory starting from an altitude of 2.1 kilometres (1.3 mi), and telemetry was lost seconds before touchdown was expected.[127] A review board concluded that the crash-landing was caused by a software glitch.[128] The lunar orbiter was efficiently positioned in an optimal lunar orbit, extending its expected service time from one year to seven years.[129] There will be another attempt for soft landing on moon in early 2022, but without an orbiter.[130]

Mars exploration

Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or (Mangalyaan-1)
Artist's rendering of the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft, with Mars in the background

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), informally known as Mangalyaan, was launched into Earth orbit on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and has entered Mars orbit on 24 September 2014.[131] India thus became the first country to enter Mars orbit on its first attempt. It was completed at a record low cost of $74 million.[132]

MOM was placed into Mars orbit on 24 September 2014 at 8:23 am IST. The spacecraft had a launch mass of 1,337 kg (2,948 lb), with 15 kg (33 lb) of five scientific instruments as payload.

The National Space Society awarded the Mars Orbiter Mission team the 2015 Space Pioneer Award in the science and engineering category.[133][134]

Future projects

Along with a number of communication and earth observation satellites in future, ISRO aims to send humans into space and later establish a space station to facilitate a few weeks long stay of astronauts. Agency aims to develop and operationalise more powerful and less pollutive rocket engines to eventually develop much heavier rockets, develop electric and nuclear propulsion for satellites and spacecrafts for reduced weight and longer lives, landing a rover on the moon, sending missions to Sun, Venus, Mars, asteroids, comets and outer solar system, deploying more telescopes in space and developing satellite navigation systems with global coverage.[135] Long term plans may include manned landings on moon and other planets as well.[136]

Launch vehicles and engines

SCE-200 is a rocket grade kerosene (dubbed "ISROsene") and LOX based semi-cryogenic rocket engine inspired from RD-120. The engine will be less pollutive and far more powerful. When mated with GSLV Mark III, the engine will boost its payload capacity and will be used in clusters in future to power India's heavy rockets.[137]

Methane and LOX based engines are being developed to ensure reusability of engines. Methane is less pollutive, leaves no residue and hence engine needs no refurbishment.[137] LPSC has already undertaken cold flow tests of engine prototypes in 2020.[28]

A number of concepts of heavy and super-heavy lift launch vehicles are currently being studied by the agency. Launchers are being designed to be modular to facilitate interchangeability of parts and reduce the time of production. There have been multiple mentions of a 10 tonnes capacity "HLV" and an "SHLV"capable of delivering 50-100 tonnes into orbit in various reports, statements and presentations from ISRO officials.[138][139]

ISRO has a target to develop a launcher in the 2020s which will be capable of carrying nearly 16 tonnes to geostationary transfer orbit which would be nearly four times that of the existing GSLV Mark III.[137] ISRO has also been confirmed to be conducting preliminary research for the development of a Super heavy-lift launch vehicle which is planned to have a lifting capacity of over 50–60 tonnes into earth's orbit.[140]

RLV-TD HEX01 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre First Launch Pad (SDSC SHAR) on 23 May 2016.

There have been two reusable launcher projects ongoing at ISRO. One is ADMIRE test vehicle, conceived as a VTVL system and another is RLV-TD programme, being run to develop a spacecraft similar to American space shuttle which will be launched vertically but land like a plane.[141]

For realising a two-stage-to-orbit (TSTO) fully re-usable launch vehicle, a series of technology demonstration missions have been conceived. For this purpose, the winged Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) has been configured. The RLV-TD is acting as a flying testbed to evaluate various technologies such as hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight, and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion. First in the series of demonstration trials was the Hypersonic Flight Experiment (HEX). ISRO launched the prototype's test flight from the Sriharikota spaceport in February 2016. The prototype, called RLV-TD, weighs around 1.5 tonnes and flew up to a height of 70 km (43 mi).[142] The test flight, known as HEX, was completed on 23 May 2016. A scaled up version of could serve as fly-back booster stage for their winged TSTO concept.[143] The test is to be followed by a landing experiment (LEX) and return flight experiment (REX).[144]

Small Satellite Launch Vehicle

Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) is a compact small-lift launch vehicle primarily aimed at tapping small satellites market. This launcher can be quickly assembled with low power and hence facilitates far higher launch frequency. SSLV can place 500 kg (1,100 lb) in 500 km (310 mi) low earth orbit and 300 kg (660 lb) in Sun-synchronous orbit.[145]

Spacecraft propulsion and power

Electric thrusters

India has been working on replacing conventional chemical propulsion with hall effect and plasma thrusters which would help in cutting down spacecrafts' mass.[137] GSAT-4 was first Indian spacecraft to carry electric thrusters but failed to reach orbit.[146] GSAT-9 launched later in 2017 had partial electric propulsion. GSAT-20 is expected to be first fully electric satellite from India.[147][148]

Alpha source thermoelectric propulsion technology

Radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), also called alpha source thermoelectric technology by ISRO is a type of atomic battery which uses nuclear decay heat of radioactive material to power the spacecraft.[149] In January 2021, U R Rao Satellite Centre issued an Expression of Interest (EoI) for design and development of a 100 W RTG. RTGs ensure much longer spacecraft life and have less mass than solar panels on satellites. Development of RTGs will allow ISRO to undertake long endurance deep space missions to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.[150][151]

Extraterrestrial probes

Destination Craft name Launch vehicle Year
Moon Chandrayaan-3 GSLV Mk III 2022[130]
Sun Aditya-L1 PSLV-XL 2022
Venus Shukrayaan-1
GSLV Mk II 2025
Mars Mars Orbiter Mission 2
(Mangalyaan 2)
GSLV Mk III 2024
Lunar exploration

Chandryaan-3 is India's planned second attempt to soft land on the moon after failure of Chandrayaan-2 in doing so. The mission will only include a lander-rover set and will communicate with the orbiter of previous mission. The technology demonstrated in a successful moon landing will be used in joint Indo-Japanese Lunar Polar Exploration Mission for sampling and analysis of lunar soil.[152]

Mars exploration

The next Mars mission, Mars Orbiter Mission 2 or Mangalyaan 2 has been proposed for launch in 2024.[153] The newer spacecraft will be significantly heavier and better equipped than its predecessor.[88]

Venus exploration

ISRO is assessing an orbiter mission to Venus called Shukrayaan-1, that could launch as early as 2023 to study its atmosphere.[154] Some budget has been allocated to perform preliminary studies as part of 2017–18 Indian budget under Space Sciences,[155][156][157] and solicitations for potential instruments were requested in 2017[158] and in 2018. Mission to Venus is scheduled for 2025 that will include a payload instrument called Venus Infrared Atmospheric Gases Linker (VIRAL) which is co-developed with Laboratoire atmosphères, milieux, observations spatiales (LATMOS) under French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Roscosmos.[159]

Solar probes

ISRO is scheduled to carry out a mission to study the Solar corona, due for launch in 2022.[160][161] The probe is named Aditya-L1 and will have a mass of about 400 kg (880 lb).[162] It is the first Indian space-based solar coronagraph to study the corona in visible and near-IR bands. Launch of the Aditya mission was planned during the heightened solar activity period in 2012, but was postponed to 2021 due to the extensive work involved in the fabrication, and other technical aspects. The main objective of the mission is to study coronal mass ejections (CMEs), their properties (the structure and evolution of their magnetic fields for example), and consequently constrain parameters that affect space weather.

Asteroids and outer solar system

Conceptual studies are underway to launch spacecrafts to asteroids and Jupiter as well in long term. The ideal launch window to send a spacecraft to Jupiter occurs every 33 months. If the mission to Jupiter is launched, a flyby of Venus would be required.[163] Development of RTEG might facilitate agency to further undertake deeper space missions like to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.[150]

Space telescopes and observatories


AstroSat-2 is the successor of Astrosat mission.[164]


The X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) is a planned mission to study polarisation. It is planned to have a mission life of five years and is planned to be launched in 2021.[165] The spacecraft is planned to carry the Polarimeter Instrument in X-rays (POLIX) payload which will study the degree and angle of polarisation of bright astronomical X-ray sources in the energy range 5–30 keV.[166]


Exoworlds is a joint proposal by ISRO, IIST and the University of Cambridge for a space telescope dedicated for atmospheric studies of exoplanets. The proposal is aiming for readiness by 2025.[167][168]

Forthcoming satellites

Satellite name Launch vehicle Year Purpose Notes
EOS-03/GISAT 1 GSLV Mk II - F10 12 August 2021[169] Earth observation Geospatial imagery to facilitate continuous observation of Indian sub-continent, quick monitoring of natural hazards and disaster.
EOS-4/RISAT-1A PSLV - C52 September 2021[170] Radar imaging
EOS-2/Microsat-2A SSLV -D1 October 2021
EOS-6 /Oceansat-3 PSLV - C53 October 2021 Earth observation
NVS-01 GSLV Mk II - F14 November 2021 Navigation
GSAT-20 GSLV Mk III 2021–2022 Communications
GISAT 2 GSLV Mk II 2022 Earth observation Geospatial imagery to facilitate continuous observation of Indian sub-continent, quick monitoring of natural hazards and disaster.
IDRSS GSLV Mk II 2022 Data relay and satellite tracking constellation Facilitates continuous real-time communication between Low Earth orbit bound spacecraft to the ground station as well as inter-satellite communication. Such a satellite in geostationary orbit can track a low altitude spacecraft up to almost half of its orbit.
NISAR GSLV Mk II January 2023 Earth observation NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) is a joint project between NASA and ISRO to co-develop and launch a dual frequency synthetic aperture radar satellite to be used for remote sensing. It is notable for being the first dual band radar imaging satellite.
DISHA PSLV 2024–25[171] Aeronomy Disturbed and quite-type Ionosphere System at High Altitude (DISHA) satellite constellation with two satellites in 450 km (280 mi) LEO.[153]
AHySIS-2 PSLV 2024 Earth observation Follow-up to HySIS hyperspectral Earth imaging satellite.[172]



India uses its satellite communication network – one of the largest in the world – for applications such as land management, water resources management, natural disaster forecasting, radio networking, weather forecasting, meteorological imaging and computer communication.[173] Business, administrative services, and schemes such as the National Informatics Centre (NIC) are direct beneficiaries of applied satellite technology.[174] Dinshaw Mistry, on the subject of practical applications of the Indian space program, writes:

"The INSAT-2 satellites also provide telephone links to remote areas; data transmission for organisations such as the National Stock Exchange; mobile satellite service communications for private operators, railways, and road transport; and broadcast satellite services, used by India's state-owned television agency as well as commercial television channels. India's EDUSAT (Educational Satellite), launched aboard the GSLV in 2004, was intended for adult literacy and distance learning applications in rural areas. It augmented and would eventually replace such capabilities already provided by INSAT-3B."

Resource management

The IRS satellites have found applications with the Indian Natural Resource Management program, with Regional Remote Sensing Service Centres in five Indian cities, and with Remote Sensing Application Centres in twenty Indian states that use IRS images for economic development applications. These include environmental monitoring, analysing soil erosion and the impact of soil conservation measures, forestry management, determining land cover for wildlife sanctuaries, delineating groundwater potential zones, flood inundation mapping, drought monitoring, estimating crop acreage and deriving agricultural production estimates, fisheries monitoring, mining and geological applications such as surveying metal and mineral deposits, and urban planning.


Integrated Space Cell, under the Integrated Defence Staff headquarters of the Indian Ministry of Defence,[175] has been set up to utilise more effectively the country's space-based assets for military purposes and to look into threats to these assets.[176][177] This command will leverage space technology including satellites. Unlike an aerospace command, where the air force controls most of its activities, the Integrated Space Cell envisages cooperation and coordination between the three services as well as civilian agencies dealing with space.[175] With 14 satellites, including GSAT-7A for the exclusive military use and the rest as dual use satellites, India has the fourth largest number of satellites active in the sky which includes satellites for the exclusive use of Indian Air Force and Indian Navy respectively.[178] GSAT-7A, an advanced military communications satellite exclusively for the Indian Air Force,[179] is similar to Indian Navy's GSAT-7, and GSAT-7A will enhance Network-centric warfare capabilities of the Indian Air Force by interlinking different ground radar stations, ground airbase and Airborne early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft such as Beriev A-50 Phalcon and DRDO AEW&CS.[179][180] GSAT-7A will also be used by Indian Army's Aviation Corps for its helicopters and UAV's operations.[179][180] In 2013, ISRO launched GSAT-7 for the exclusive use of the Indian Navy to monitor the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) with the satellite's 2,000-nautical-mile (3,700 km; 2,300 mi) 'footprint' and real-time input capabilities to Indian warships, submarines and maritime aircraft.[178] To boost the network-centric operations of the IAF, ISRO launched GSAT-7A on 19 December 2018.[181][178] The RISAT series of radar-imaging earth observation satellites is also meant for Military use.[182] ISRO launched EMISAT on 1 April 2019. EMISAT is an electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellite which has a weight of 436-kg. It will help improve the situational awareness of the Indian Armed Forces by providing information and location of hostile radars.[183]

India's satellites and satellite launch vehicles have had military spin-offs. While India's 150–200-kilometre (93–124 mi) range Prithvi missile is not derived from the Indian space programme, the intermediate range Agni missile is drawn from the Indian space programme's SLV-3. In its early years, when headed by Vikram Sarabhai and Satish Dhawan, ISRO opposed military applications for its dual-use projects such as the SLV-3. Eventually, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) based missile programme borrowed human resources and technology from ISRO. Missile scientist A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (elected president of India in 2002), who had headed the SLV-3 project at ISRO, moved to DRDO to direct India's missile programme. About a dozen scientists accompanied Kalam from ISRO to DRDO, where he designed the Agni missile using the SLV-3's solid fuel first stage and a liquid-fuel (Prithvi-missile-derived) second stage. The IRS and INSAT satellites were primarily intended and used for civilian-economic applications, but they also offered military spin-offs. In 1996 New Delhi's Ministry of Defence temporarily blocked the use of IRS-1C by India's environmental and agricultural ministries to monitor ballistic missiles near India's borders. In 1997, the Indian Air Force's "Airpower Doctrine" aspired to use space assets for surveillance and battle management.[184]


Institutions like the Indira Gandhi National Open University and the Indian Institutes of Technology use satellites for scholarly applications.[185] Between 1975 and 1976, India conducted its largest sociological programme using space technology, reaching 2400 villages through video programming in local languages aimed at educational development via ATS-6 technology developed by NASA.[186] This experiment—named Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE)—conducted large scale video broadcasts resulting in significant improvement in rural education.[186] Education could reach far remote rural places with the help of above programs.


ISRO has applied its technology for telemedicine, directly connecting patients in rural areas to medical professionals in urban locations via satellites.[185] Since high-quality healthcare is not universally available in some of the remote areas of India, the patients in remote areas are diagnosed and analysed by doctors in urban centers in real time via video conferencing.[185] The patient is then advised medicine and treatment.[185] The patient is then treated by the staff at one of the 'super-specialty hospitals' under instructions from the doctor.[185] Mobile telemedicine vans are also deployed to visit locations in far-flung areas and provide diagnosis and support to patients.[185]

Biodiversity Information System

ISRO has also helped implement India's Biodiversity Information System, completed in October 2002.[187] Nirupa Sen details the program: "Based on intensive field sampling and mapping using satellite remote sensing and geospatial modeling tools, maps have been made of vegetation cover on a 1: 250,000 scale. This has been put together in a web-enabled database that links gene-level information of plant species with spatial information in a BIOSPEC database of the ecological hot spot regions, namely northeastern India, Western Ghats, Western Himalayas and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This has been made possible with collaboration between the Department of Biotechnology and ISRO."[187]


The Indian IRS-P5 (CARTOSAT-1) was equipped with high-resolution panchromatic equipment to enable it for cartographic purposes.[44] IRS-P5 (CARTOSAT-1) was followed by a more advanced model named IRS-P6 developed also for agricultural applications.[44] The CARTOSAT-2 project, equipped with single panchromatic camera that supported scene-specific on-spot images, succeeded the CARTOSAT-1 project.[188]


ISRO's research has been diverted into spin-offs to develop various technologies for other sectors. Examples include bionic limbs for people without or amputated limbs, silica aerogel to keep Indian soldiers warm who are serving in extremely cold areas, distress alert transmitters for accidents, Doppler weather radar and various sensors and machines for inspection work in engineering industries.[189][190]

International cooperations

ISRO has signed various formal cooperative arrangements in the form of either Agreements or Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) or Framework Agreements with Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Norway, Peru, Portugal, South Korea, Russia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Oman, Sweden, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, the Netherlands, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Vietnam. Formal cooperative instruments have been signed with international multilateral bodies including European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), European Commission, European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), European Space Agency (ESA) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).[191]

Notable collaborative projects

Indo-French satellite missions

ISRO has two collaborative satellite missions with CNES, namely Megha-Tropiques to study water cycle in the tropical atmosphere[193] and SARAL for altimetry.[194] A third mission consisting of an earth observation satellite with thermal infrared imager, TRISHNA (Thermal infraRed Imaging Satellite for High resolution Natural resource Assessment) is being planned between two countries.[195]


Lunar Polar Exploration Mission is a joint Indo-Japanese mission to study the surface of polar moon where India is tasked with providing soft landing technologies.[196]


NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) is a joint Indo-US radar project carrying an L Band and an S Band radar. It will be world's first radar imaging satellite to use dual frequencies.[197]

Some other notable instances include:


Last updated: 4 March 2021[200]

  • Total number of foreign satellites launched by ISRO: 342 (35 countries)[200]
  • Spacecraft missions: 117
  • Launch missions: 77
  • Student satellites: 10 [201]
  • Re-entry missions: 2

Budget for the Department of Space


S-band spectrum scam

In India, electromagnetic spectrum, being a scarce resource for wireless communication, is auctioned by the Government of India to telecom companies for use. As an example of its value, in 2010, 20 MHz of 3G spectrum was auctioned for 677 billion (US$9.5 billion). This part of the spectrum is allocated for terrestrial communication (cell phones). However, in January 2005, Antrix Corporation (commercial arm of ISRO) signed an agreement with Devas Multimedia (a private company formed by former ISRO employees and venture capitalists from the US) for lease of S band transponders (amounting to 70 MHz of spectrum) on two ISRO satellites (GSAT 6 and GSAT 6A) for a price of 14 billion (US$200 million), to be paid over a period of 12 years. The spectrum used in these satellites (2500 MHz and above) is allocated by the International Telecommunication Union specifically for satellite-based communication in India. Hypothetically, if the spectrum allocation is changed for utilisation for terrestrial transmission and if this 70 MHz of spectrum were sold at the 2010 auction price of the 3G spectrum, its value would have been over 2,000 billion (US$28 billion). This was a hypothetical situation. However, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India considered this hypothetical situation and estimated the difference between the prices as a loss to the Indian Government.[202][203]

There were lapses on implementing Government of India procedures. Antrix/ISRO had allocated the capacity of the above two satellites to Devas Multimedia on an exclusive basis, while rules said it should always be non-exclusive. The Cabinet was misinformed in November 2005 that several service providers were interested in using satellite capacity, while the Devas deal was already signed. Also, the Space Commission was kept in the dark while taking approval for the second satellite (its cost was diluted so that Cabinet approval was not needed). ISRO committed to spending 7.66 billion (US$110 million) of public money on building, launching, and operating two satellites that were leased out for Devas.

In late 2009, some ISRO insiders exposed information about the Devas-Antrix deal,[203][204] and the ensuing investigations resulted in the deal being annulled. G. Madhavan Nair (ISRO Chairperson when the agreement was signed) was barred from holding any post under the Department of Space. Some former scientists were found guilty of "acts of commission" or "acts of omission". Devas and Deutsche Telekom demanded US$2 billion and US$1 billion, respectively, in damages.[205] Government of India's Department of Revenue and Ministry of Corporate Affairs initiated an inquiry into Devas shareholding.

The Central Bureau of Investigation concluded investigations into the Antrix-Devas scam and registered a case against the accused in the Antrix-Devas deal under Section 120-B, besides Section 420 of IPC and Section 13(2) read with 13(1)(d) of PC Act, 1988 on 18 March 2015 against the then Executive Director of Antrix Corporation, two officials of USA-based company, Bangalore based private multimedia company, and other unknown officials of Antrix Corporation or Department of Space.[206][207]

Devas Multimedia started arbitration proceedings against Antrix in June 2011. In September 2015, the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce ruled in favour of Devas, and directed Antrix to pay US$672 million (Rs 44.35 billion) in damages to Devas.[208] Antrix opposed the Devas plea for tribunal award in the Delhi High Court.[209][needs update]

See also