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Indian Space Programme

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

GSLV-Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle

Founded in 1969, with first satellite (launched by Soviet Union) in 1975, and own first launch in 1980 (Rohini satellite) by the SLV-3 launch vehicle.

A relative late entrant to the space technology age, India has demonstrated a great potential for technological and scientific achievement. Its ambitions are broad and embrace both its home industry and a high level of international cooperation. It generously transported free-of-charge many experiments from a range of international partners to the Moon on its stunningly successful maiden lunar orbiting mission (2008).

Its space agenda covers promoting knowledge in all fields of science, as well as supplying vital communications and geo-observational satellites for the sub-continent. It manages to design, build and operate ambitious projects at record low budgets.

The coming decade will see Indians in space, and new launchers, Moon and interplanetary probes, and a continuation of its solar measurement station, ingeniously locked in orbit around our star at a Lagrange point.

Launch Rockets

ISRO launcher PSLV-C25
ISRO launcher PSLV-C25

SLV Satellite Launch Vehicle

ASLV Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle

PSLV Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle

GSLV MkII Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle

GSLV MkIII Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark. III


  • Indian National Satellite System INSAT
  • Indian Remote Sensing satellite IRS
  • Radar Imaging Satellites
  • Geostationary GSAT
    • GSLV-III
    • Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (LVM3): for the placing of crewed and uncrewed vehicles and satellites in geostationary orbit. Includes a cryogenic third stage and enhanced payload.

  • Satellite Navigation Systems
    • GAGAN
    • IRNSS

Human Space Programme

A diagram of the planned Indian manned orbit mission, with capsule atop the GSLV Mk3

Indian is debating the commitment of 2 billion US$ for a human spaceflight programme, due to put a human in space within 7 years of the pending budget approval.

In 2014, a successful test was made of the GSLV Mk III launch vehicle, which will carry a 2 or 3-person crew and payload into low Earth orbit.



Chandrayaan-1 polar image. India's first lunar mission successfully impacted a sub-service analysing probe to reveal water on the Moon!

Launch: 22 October 2008 (PSLV-XL, Satish Dhawan Space Centre). In lunar orbit and operational from 8 November 2008 till 29 August 2009.

India's first lunar probe, successfully carrying Indian and international scientific instruments in orbit, and sending an impact lander to analyse the composition of the regolith.

Moon Impact Probe on 14 November 2008 revealed presence of water molecules in the Moon's south polar sub-surface regolith.

The mission was accomplished for the extremely contained budget of $61 M. Mass in orbit: 675 kg.

Although most of the mission's objectives had been successfully achieved, the planned geochemical mapping of the Moon's surface was incomplete at the time of the orbiter's failure.


Planned ISRO Moon mission 2016-17, orbiter and lander. Mission: to gain understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon.

Chandrayaan-2 will consist of an Orbiter Craft and a Lander Craft. The lander will be equipped with a rover.

Interplanetary Exploration


Mars Orbiter Mission MOM

MOM Mars Orbiter Mission

Launch: 5 November 2013

Hindi: मंगलयान (Mangalyaan: Sanskrit mangala = "Mars" and yāna, "vehicle")

Entered Mars orbit 24 September 2014.

Achievements: first country to achieve Mars orbit on first attempt. Record low budget of $74 million.

Orbit: inserted 24 September 2014, very elongated elliptical orbit. Periapsis (or perigee) = 421.7 km. Apoapsis (or apogee) = 76,993.6 km.

Mass of orbiter at take-off: 1,337 kg

Mission objectives: Primary: technology demonstration and testing. Secondary: scientific data collection of atmosphere, surface and moons.

Currently in orbit and sending data, MOM is India's first interplanetary mission. The spacecraft has an autonomous fault detection and recovery system. The Spacecraft Control Centre at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bangalore controls the mission, with support from Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennae at Byalalu.

The initial 6-month mission completed on 24 March 2015. Since it still has sufficient propellant and all systems are go, it will continue for a further 6 months, till October 2015. A test of its systems is the 2-week blackout in June 2015, as Mars passes behind the Sun.

Future Projects

Earth Orbit Satellites

ASTROSAT: successfully launched on 28 September 2015, ASTROSAT is India's first dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory

GSAT: series of geosynchronous orbiting satellites

NISAR: Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar. Remote sensing joint project with NASA.

Future Plans

Reusable launch vehicle

Human spaceflight

Solar study satellite


Interplanetary probes

Venus: 2017-18. An atmospheric analysis will be conducted by an orbiter releasing balloon suspended instruments.


Aditya-1 probe, 2017-18, to study the solar corona (CME corona mass ejection). Ultraviolet telescope to study solar disc for storms and x-ray imager to study flares. Mass = 400kg. The satellite will be positioned at the Lagrangian point L1, to ensure a fixed position.

Content © Andrew Bone. All rights reserved. Created : January 2, 2015 Last updated :January 5, 2016

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