Birth of ISRO

On August 15, 1969, the Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, was established. Its primary goal is to advance space technology and use it to benefit the nation. The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) oversees this research programme, which has its headquarters in Bangalore at Antariksh Bhavan. ISRO headquarters coordinate programs such as satellite communication, Earth observation, launch vehicles, space science, disaster management support, and sponsored research schemes.

ISRO is India’s primary space agency and one of the world’s six largest government space agencies, along with NASA, RKA, ESA, CNSA and JAXA

Why was ISRO established?

ISRO’s primary goal is to promote the use of space technology for the benefit of the common man and national development. ISRO has completed the development of two major satellite systems: Indian National Satellites INSAT- for communication services and Indian Remote Sensing -IRS- satellites for natural resource management. ISRO has also developed a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) for launching IRS-type satellites and a Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) for launching INSAT-type satellites. It is committed to self-sufficiency. These also have  the ability to build and launch communication satellites for television broadcast, telecommunications, and meteorological applications, as well as remote sensing satellites for natural resource management.

India's first Satellite

On April 19, 1975, India’s first satellite, Aryabhata, was successfully launched into near-Earth orbit from a USSR cosmodrome. The satellite was built near Bangalore but launched from the Soviet Union using a Russian-made rocket. The majority of the satellite’s components were imported. Aryabhata weighed 360 kilograms, and its instruments were designed to investigate conditions in the Earth’s ionosphere, measure neutrons and gamma rays from the Sun, and conduct X-ray astronomy research. In addition, a ground station was established at Sriharikota for command and tracking purposes. 

Aryabhata

During the fifth day in orbit, the scientific instruments had to be turned off, but much valuable information had been gathered in the meantime. The satellite is  named after an ancient Indian astronomer and mathematician.

ISRO's satellite launch vehicle development

Satellites or spacecraft are transported and launched into space using launch vehicles. Indian space scientists, led by Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, recognized the value of using satellites in a variety of fields. As a result, in the early 1970s, ISRO began developing launch vehicles. SLV-3, the first experimental satellite launch vehicle, was developed in 1980. Since then, India has made tremendous advances in launch vehicle technology, achieving self-sufficiency in satellite launch vehicles with the PSLV and GSLV

Why was Sriharikota selected for launching rockets?

As the Rohini series of sounding rockets was being developed under of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, it was decided to set up a rocket launching center as well. The center had to be far away from densely populated areas in the interests of safety, along with certain other requirements. Sriharikota met all the requirements perfectly. It is a spindle shaped coastal island, which separates Pulicat Lake from the Bay of Bengal. The climate is sunny, and suitable for rocket launchings, while the area around the island is largely uninhabited. In October 1971, the first Rohini sounding rocket was launched from SHAR.

Development of Indian-made propellants

Propellants supply energy to the rocket. They can be either solid or liquid. Sounding rockets generally use solid propellants, while heavier rockets use a mixture of solid and liquid propellants. The technology to manufacture propellants especially liquid propellants, is  complex. Hence the countries that have developed it keep this technology a closely guarded secret. Scientists in India quickly realized that they would have to develop this technology on their own. Basically, a substance can be called a rocket propellant if it burn easily, and can produce hot gases which give the force required by rocket. This was a big task. It is to the credit of Indian scientists that they rose to the challenge, and Indian-made sounding rockets were using Indian-made propellants to soar higher and higher.

Which is the biggest ISRO Centre?

Of the 19 centers of ISRO, the Vikram Sarabhai Space Research Centre, or VSSC, is the biggest. VSSC is the primary development center for satellite launch vehicles and associated technologies. The design and development of satellite launch vehicles and sounding rockets is carried out here, and the vehicles are prepared for launch operations. Research and development activities for technologies such as launch vehicle design, propellant solid propulsion technology, aerodynamics, aero structural and aero thermal aspects among others, also play a key role at the center. The Space Physics Laboratory at VSSC carries out research and studies in atmospheric science and other related space science activities. The Ammonium Perchlorate Experimental Plant at Aluva in Kerala, is also a part of the organization.

Black day

30th December 1971 was a black day for Indian science. Vikram Sarabhai died in a quiet room of the resort in Kovalam, after witnessing the launch of a Russian rocket. His passing away was a major setback for the program in particular. Satish Dhawan, Director of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, took charge of the program. Under him, a series of successful missions were carried out, the first one being the SLV-3 project. The first flight of the SLV-3 was not successful, but the second flight from Sriharikota, a newly-developed satellite launch facility, succeeded in putting a Rohini satellite into orbit, and the Indian space program was back on track.

Vikram Sarabhai

How did ISRO become one of the leading space organizations in the world?

ISRO has maintained a steady and impressive rate of growth throughout the years. India successfully developed and launched its own sounding rockets in the 1960s and 1970s. On 19th April 1975, the first artificial satellite, Aryabhata, was launched with the aid of the Russian ‘Inter-cosmos.’ A giant leap forward was also made in the field of long distance communication, with the launch of Bhaskara and II. PSLV and GSLV technologies were the other feathers in ISRO’s cap. It is a matter of pride that India today is self-sufficient in the field of rocket construction. ISRO is now considered to be one of the leaders in the space race.

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