Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), headquartered in Bangalore, is the space agency of the Indian government.

ISRO was formed in 1969 to develop an independent Indian space program and superseded the erstwhile Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR), which was established in 1962 by the efforts of independent India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and his close aide and scientist Vikram Sarabhai. The establishment of ISRO thus institutionalized space activities in India. It is managed by the Department of Space, which reports to the Prime Minister of India.

ISRO operates through a countrywide network of centers. Sensors and payloads are developed at the Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad. Satellites are designed, developed, assembled, and tested at the ISRO Satellite Centre in Bangalore. Launch vehicles are developed at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram.

Launches take place at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Sriharikota Island, near Chennai. The Master Control Facilities for geostationary satellite station keeping are located at Hassan and Bhopal. Reception and processing facilities for remote-sensing data are at the National Remote Sensing Centre in Hyderabad. ISRO’s commercial arm is Antrix Corporation, which has its headquarters in Bangalore.

ISRO’s first satellite, Aryabhata, was launched by the Soviet Union on April 19th, 1975. Rohini, the first satellite to be placed in orbit by an Indian-made launch vehicle (the Satellite Launch Vehicle 3), was launched on July 18th, 1980. ISRO has launched several space systems, including the Indian National Satellite (INSAT) system for telecommunication, television broadcasting, meteorology, and disaster warning and the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites for resource monitoring and management. The first INSAT was launched in 1988, and the program expanded to include geosynchronous satellites called GSAT. The first IRS satellite was also launched in 1988, and the program developed more-specialized satellites, including the Radar Imaging Satellite-1 (RISAT-1, launched in 2012) and the Satellite with Argos and Altika (SARAL, launched in 2013), a joint Indian-French mission that measures ocean wave heights.

ISRO subsequently developed three other rockets: the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) for putting satellites into polar orbit, the Geostationary Space Launch Vehicle (GSLV) for placing satellites into geostationary orbit, and a heavy-lift version of the GSLV called the GSLV Mark III or LVM. Those rockets launched communications satellites, Earth-observation satellites, and, in 2008, Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to the Moon. ISRO plans to put astronauts into orbit in 2021.

History of ISRO

Scientist S. K. Mitra conducted a series of experiments leading to the sounding of the ionosphere by application of ground based radio methods in Calcutta back in the 1920’s. Later, Indian scientists contributed to scientific principles applicable in space sciences but it was the period after 1945 which saw important developments being made in coordinated space research in India.

Organized 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. Initial experiments in space sciences included the study of cosmic radiation, high altitude and airborne testing of instruments, deep underground experimentation at the Kolar mines, one of the deepest mining sites in the world and studies of the upper atmosphere. Studies were carried out at research laboratories, universities, and independent locations.

In 1950, the Department of Atomic Energy was founded with Homi Bhabha as its secretary. The Department provided funding for space research throughout India. During this time, tests continued on aspects of meteorology and the Earth's magnetic field, a topic which 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. The Rangpur Observatory was set up in 1957 at Osmania University in Hyderabad. Space research was further encouraged by the technically inclined Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik and opened up possibilities for the rest of the world to conduct a space launch.

The Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was set up in 1962 by India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.The first rocket launch into space from Indian soil took place on 21 November 1963. INCOSPAR eventually transformed into ISRO in 1969.