Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space programme, once said that there are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation.
Indeed, until recently, India never dreamed of competing with more economically-advanced nations at exploration of the moon or the planets or manned space-flight. But the space fraternity was always confident about India’s potential in playing a meaningful role nationally and internationally, and now this confidence is bearing fruit, with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) reaching out to the global market.
About 35 years ago, ISRO was a child among space organisations. However, it’s an entirely different story today. ISRO stands high with its dedicated space research and development programmes that not only help India but also other smaller nations that cannot afford to have a space organisation of their own.
In December 2005, the Indian national satellite (INSAT)-4A was launched by Ariane-5G, the European launch vehicle of Arianespace, and is still ISRO’s latest INSAT series satellite. INSAT- 4A has 12 high-power Ku-band transponders that make it the first satellite to meet the requirements of direct-to-home (DTH) television services, and also carries12 C-band transponders to enhance the INSAT capacity for communication and television services. In September 2007, INSAT 4CR was launched, the third and the latest one in the INSAT 4 series.
The master control facility (MCF) at Hassan in Karnataka monitors and controls INSAT-4A, and utilises the ground stations at Beijing (China), Fucino (Italy) and Lake Cowichan (Canada). The ISRO telemetry, tracking and command network (ISTRAC) ground station at Biak in Indonesia also monitors the satellite. The satellite’s orbit is precisely determined by continuous ranging from the participating ground stations.
In an interview given to the IT Examiner, ISRO scientific secretary and director, A Bhaskaranarayana, emphasised the importance of ISRO’s two satellite systems – Indian remote sensing satellite systems (IRS) and the INSAT series.
On the telecommunications front, Bhaskaranarayana says that about 210 transponders of the INSAT series of satellites were in orbit. The INSAT applications include broadcasting, communication, meteorological and developmental services such as tele-education and telemedicine. The telemedicine facility has allowed more than 30,000 schools and colleges to become connected, benefiting nearly 300,000 patients.
And there are commercial applications, too. Way back in 1992, the Department of Space (DoS) established its commercial arm, Antrix Corporation, to market and explore the Indian space programme’s products and services in the global arena.
Bhaskaranarayana says that Antrix has made the most of the IRS system and achieved global success, with a business of Rs 10 billion ($231.9 million). He claims that the IRS is the best remote sensing satellite system, with ground stations across 23 nations. The IRS provides services in establishing international ground stations (IGS) and the international reseller network to receive, process and market IRS data products and IRS image processing.
Bhaskaranarayana says that Antrix provided these services only on a commercial or civilian basis, and not for defence purposes. The defence services may use the data, he says, but Antrix doesn’t have any specific services for them.
Antrix recently launched CARTOSAT-2, which offers the facility to receive data products to international users. It has already launched a series of commercial satellites – Kitsat (Korea), Tubsat (DLR – Germany), BIRD (DLR – Germany), PROBA (Verhaert, Belgium), Lapan Tubsat (Indonesia), Pehuensat-1 (Argentina) aboard ISRO’s polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) in addition to the dedicated launch of Agile (Italy).
As for future plans, the senior official of ISRO says that remote sensing projects will continue. Keeping in mind the increasing demand of DTH services, ISRO is looking forward to increase the number of transponders from 210 to 500, enhancing internet services and data services in remote places.
The Indian telecoms industry has always owed its success to space technology. Industry players in both the public and private sectors have also played a great role behind the success of INSAT-4A. The DoS has always been the force behind the country’s successful space projects.
With third generation services (3G) knocking at Indian telecom’s door, more and more foreign and global telecom players are likely to join the booming Indian market. Advances in space sciences are vitally necessary to keep pace with the growth of the telecom sector in India, delivering enhanced satellite capacities in power and bandwidth. The DoT has benefited a lot already.
More than 550 telecommunications terminals of various sizes and capabilities are operating in the INSAT telecom network, providing 5,100 two-way speech circuits or equivalent over 166 routes. About 400 earth stations have been implemented over the last few years in the department of telecommunications (DoT) network.
Bhaskaranarayana says it isn’t in ISRO’s power to prevent the spillover of mobile signals to neighbouring countries. Concerned government authorities like the DoT have to intervene, as the development has to go hand in hand with the security of the country. He adds that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and private players have to draw out a plan to stop signals from spilling over.
The DoS has signed a number of memoranda and agreements with several nations and agencies worldwide, including an agreement with the European Space Agency. Indian space programmes stand high globally, but still have some competitors amongst those nations with dedicated space organisations. Of these, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) is notable for its management of space activities for civilian use, and is increasing its cooperation with other countries.
By the end of 2005, China had more than 80 international and domestic telecommunications and broadcasting earth stations, with 34 satellite broadcasting and TV link stations. Dozens of departments and some large corporations have established a total of around 100 satellite specialised communication networks and more than 50,000 very small aperture terminals (VSATs).
China has cooperation deals with smaller countries and agencies with Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Malaysia, Pakistan, Ukraine, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission.
Among the other nations involved in bilateral cooperation are Brazil, France, Russia and Ukraine. China and France have been involved in peaceful space exchanges and cooperation. Apart from this, nations like Russia and China have been providing services to the smaller nations, which cannot afford to have dedicated space programmes.
Courtesy :- IT Examiner