The Cosmic Chronicles of India

Pushing the frontiers of human imagination, the country is all ready to unveil the new horizons in space exploration

By Anam Khan

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Lifting-off the PSLV-C58 rocket carrying the X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. — AFP FILE PHOTOS
Lifting-off the PSLV-C58 rocket carrying the X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. — AFP FILE PHOTOS

Published: Tue 25 Jun 2024, 11:04 AM

India's space programme has witnessed significant advancements and strategic initiatives aimed at positioning the country as a key player in the global space arena. From expanding satellite launches to ambitious lunar missions, India's space endeavours have made remarkable strides, setting the stage for future explorations and scientific achievements.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has prioritised the advancement of India's space capabilities through robust investments, strategic partnerships, and ambitious missions. One of the notable achievements during this period has been the consistent expansion of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO's) satellite launch capabilities. ISRO has conducted numerous successful launches, deploying satellites for communication, navigation, remote sensing, and scientific research purposes. These efforts have not only strengthened India's satellite infrastructure but also contributed to various socio-economic sectors such as telecommunications, agriculture, disaster management, and environmental monitoring.

In addition to satellite launches, India has made significant strides in interplanetary exploration under Modi's leadership. The most prominent mission in this regard has been the Chandrayaan-2 mission, launched in July 2019. Although the mission faced challenges during its lunar landing attempt, the orbiter continues to provide valuable data on the Moon's surface and composition, contributing to global scientific knowledge. Chandrayaan-2 demonstrated India's technological prowess in space exploration and laid the foundation for future lunar missions.

Furthermore, India has continued its focus on developing indigenous satellite navigation capabilities with the successful launch of the NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation) system. NavIC provides accurate positioning information over Indian territory and surrounding regions, enhancing navigation services for both civilian and military applications. The development of NavIC underscores India's commitment to technological self-reliance in space-based services.


Looking ahead, India under Modi's leadership has articulated a comprehensive vision for its space programme aimed at achieving greater scientific discoveries, technological innovation, and international collaborations. Several key initiatives and missions highlight India's ambitious plans for the future:

Gaganyaan Mission: India's first manned space mission, "Gaganyaan", aims to send Indian astronauts into space. Scheduled for launch in the near future, "Gaganyaan" will mark a historic milestone for India's space program and pave the way for human spaceflight capabilities. Three of the men will form the crew for the first "Gaganyaan" mission, expected in 2025. This will see a crewed spacecraft spend three days in orbit at 400km above Earth. "Gaganyaan" is the Sanskrit word for celestial vehicle.

Mars Orbiter Mission-2 (Mangalyaan-2): Building on the success of the first Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan), India plans to launch Mangalyaan-2 to further explore Mars and study its atmosphere, surface features, and potential for microbial life.

Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft seconds before its successful lunar landing on the south pole of the Moon.
Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft seconds before its successful lunar landing on the south pole of the Moon.


On February 10, 2023, India celebrated a significant leap in its space capabilities with the successful launch of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D2) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR in Sriharikota. This developmental flight marked a pivotal moment as SSLV-D2 efficiently delivered the EOS-07, Janus-1, and AzaadiSAT-2 satellites into a precise 450 km circular orbit within just 15 minutes of liftoff.

The SSLV-D2 is designed to provide affordable and flexible access to space, capable of deploying satellites weighing up to 500 kg into Low Earth Orbits (LEO) on a "launch-on-demand" basis. Its streamlined operations and minimal infrastructure requirements underscore India's commitment to expanding its indigenous launch capabilities while catering to diverse mission requirements efficiently.

In tandem with the SSLV-D2 launch, India unveiled its updated Space Policy in 2023, emphasizing innovation, collaboration, and strategic partnerships to propel its space sector forward. Approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security and released for public scrutiny, the policy reflects extensive consultations with industry stakeholders.

NISAR Programme: India's space program under Modi has actively pursued collaborations with international space agencies, most notably NASA. The collaboration between ISRO and NASA includes joint missions, data-sharing agreements, and scientific collaborations aimed at advancing space exploration and technology.

One of the prominent collaborations between ISRO and NASA is the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission. Scheduled for launch in the near future, NISAR will study Earth's surface deformation, ice sheet dynamics, and ecosystem changes with unprecedented detail. The mission highlights the synergies between India and the US in space science and technology.

NISAR) mission represents a significant milestone in the collaboration between ISRO and NASA, slated for launch in the near future. This ambitious mission aims to deploy a dual-frequency radar satellite that will study Earth's surface dynamics with unprecedented accuracy and detail. NISAR will monitor global environmental changes, including shifts in Earth's crust, ice sheet dynamics, and vegetation cover, providing valuable insights into climate change and natural hazards.

Scheduled to launch aboard an Indian GSLV Mk II rocket, NISAR's development has progressed steadily with contributions from both NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and ISRO's Space Applications Centre (SAC).

The collaboration underscores the shared commitment of India and the United States to leverage their respective expertise in space technology for global benefit. NISAR is expected to enhance our understanding of Earth's complex systems and contribute to informed decision-making in areas such as disaster management, agriculture, and climate adaptation strategies worldwide.


Simultaneously, India's space policy underwent a transformative update in 2023, underlining its commitment to fostering innovation and collaboration in the space sector. Approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security and released for public scrutiny, the policy reflects extensive consultations with industry stakeholders and inter-ministerial bodies. It aims to propel India towards becoming a global leader in space technology and exploration.


Under India's G20 Presidency, the 4th Space Economy Leaders Meeting (SELM) showcased India's growing influence in global space diplomacy. Held in two phases - a precursor event in Shillong and the main event in Bengaluru - SELM brought together ambassadors, heads of space agencies, and representatives from 18 G20 nations and eight friendly countries. The gathering served as a platform to discuss critical issues and opportunities in the global space economy.

Under PM Modi's leadership, India's space programme has evolved significantly, achieving milestones in satellite technology, interplanetary exploration, and space applications. The progressive growth witnessed in India's space capabilities reflects the country's commitment to harnessing space science for societal development, national security, and global scientific advancements.


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