Ministry-wise Initiatives 2019: Department of Space

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Prelims: Current events of national and international importance.
Mains: GS III-

  • Science and technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievement of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

About the Department:

  • The Department of Space (DoS)  is an Indian government department responsible for the administration of the Indian space program.
  • It manages several agencies and institutes related to space exploration and space technologies.
  • The Indian space program under the DoS aims to promote the development and application of space science and technology for the socio-economic benefit of the country.
  • It includes two major satellite systems,
    • INSAT for communication, television broadcasting and meteorological services, and
    • Indian Remote Sensing Satellites (IRS) system for resource monitoring and management.
  • It has also developed two satellite launch vehicles, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), to place IRS and INSAT class satellites in orbit.

The Department of Space manages the following agencies and institutes:

  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) – The primary research and development arm of the DoS.
  • Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram.
  • Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), Thiruvananthapuram.
  • Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC-SHAR), Sriharikota.
  • ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC), Bangalore.
  • Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad.
  • National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Hyderabad.
  • ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU), Thiruvananthapuram.
  • ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC), Bangalore.
  • Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS), Dehradun.
  • Antrix Corporation – The marketing arm of ISRO.
  • Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad.
  • National Atmospheric Research Laboratory (NARL), Gadanki.Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST), Thiruvananthapuram – India's space university

Missions and Project Related Activities:

  • PSLV-C44: Microsat-R and Kalamsat-V2
  • GSAT-31
  • PSLV-C46: RISAT-2B
  • GSLV-MK III M1: Chandrayaan-2 mission
  • PSLV-C47: Cartosat-3
  • PSLV-C48: RISAT-2BR1
  • Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) 
  • Astrosat
  • Navigation in Indian Constellation
  • Gaganyaan
  • NewSpace India Limited (NSIL)


ISRO has successfully accomplished 13 missions including 06 launch vehicle missions and07 satellite missions during the year 2019.

50 foreign satellites from 07countries were launched on a commercial basis during this period.

PSLV-C44: Microsat-R and Kalamsat-V2
  • PSLV-C44 successfully launched Microsat-R and Kalamsat-V2 on January 24, 2019, from Sriharikota.
  • Significance of the Mission
  • Microsat-R:
    • Microsat-R is a military imaging satellite, weighing 130 kilograms, was made by Defence Research and Development Organization(DRDO).
    • This was launched in low orbit. It is the first time an Indian satellite was being placed by ISRO in a low orbit at an altitude of 274 km. 
  • Kalamsat:
    • ISRO also launched a student satellite, Kalamsat, made by Space Kidz India, weighing just 1.26kg.
    • Kalamsat is the world’s smallest and lightest communication satellite.
    • Space Kidz India is an organization dedicated to designing innovative concepts for students in the field of education.
  • Fourth Stage (PS4) Usability:
    • ISRO also used this launch as an opportunity to demonstrate the usability of the fourth stage of the rocket after the satellites are ejected into orbit. 
    • The fourth and final stage of the rocket normally turns into debris after ejecting a satellite.
    • Now any agency that wants to conduct experiments in space can use the fourth stage until it disintegrates naturally. The fourth stage of the rocket will be orbiting in space for six months to a year. ISRO is aiming to use this time-frame to enable agencies to run short-time experiments.
    • Kalamsat will be the first to use the fourth stage as an orbital platform.
    • The experiment with Kalamsat will start about 1.5 hours from take-off and will last for about 14 hours. Later duration of experiments with PS4 will be improved gradually.
  • On February 06, Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched GSAT-31 onboard Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in South America.
  • GSAT-31 is India’s 40th communication satellite
  • About GSAT-31:
    • Weight: 2,536 kg
    • Payload: Ku-Band Transponders
    • Coverage Area: India Mainland and Island
    • Mission Life: 15 Years
    • Orbit: Geostationary Orbit
  • Significance:
    • The GSAT 31 will replace the satellites INSAT-4CR and INSAT-4A which are going to expire soon and will help in maintaining continuity of services currently provided by these satellites.
    • The satellite will provide connectivity to very small aperture terminals (VSAT) for ATM, stock exchange, e-governance applications, and Direct-to-Home (DTH) services.
    • It will also provide telecommunication applications for bulk data transfer for a host of applications, emergency communications, disaster management support.
  • EMISAT was successfully launched onboard PSLV-C45 on April 01, 2019, from Sriharikota. The launch viewing gallery was inaugurated and opened to the public for viewing launches live from Sriharikota.
  • EMISAT Satellite:
    • The EMISAT satellite is aimed at electromagnetic spectrum measurement.
    • It is an electronic intelligence satellite for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
    • EMISAT is an all-weather and all-terrain condition satellite, which will allow it to work through clouds, rain, forest and coastal areas.
    • EMISAT is an ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) satellite, which means it will have a radar to measure the electromagnetic spectrum – so as to intercept and analyze radar signals, find their location, identify the hostile radars based on their radio frequency (RF) signature.
    • This will be a vital tool for India when EMISAT along with the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) can effectively locate, tackle and silence enemy radars, and secure Indian airspace.
  • On May 22, 2019, RISAT-2B radar imaging earth observation satellite was successfully launched onboard PSLV-C46 from Sriharikota.
  • Radar Imaging Satellite 2B is an Indian radar reconnaissance satellite that is part of India's RISAT programme. It is built by the Indian Space Research Organisation and will be launched by PSLV-C46 rocket on May 22, 2019 from the launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
  • Regular remote-sensing or optical imaging satellites work like a light-dependent camera that cannot perceive hidden or surreptitious objects in cloudy or dark conditions.
  • Satellites that are equipped with an active sensor, the synthetic aperture radar (SAR), can sense or ‘observe’ Earth in a special way from space day and night, rain or cloud.
  • A radar imaging satellite is complex to assemble. Interpreting its images is equally complex.
GSLV-MK III M1: Chandrayaan-2 mission
  • The successful launch of GSLV-MK III M1, India's most powerful launch vehicle, was accomplished on July 22, 2019.
  • This launch vehicle is capable of launching 04 tons of satellites into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit(GTO). The mission carried Chandrayaan-2 Orbiterspacecraft to its intended orbit. The instruments are continuously providing very useful science data.


  • Developed by ISRO, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III is a three-stage vehicle.
  • Primarily designed to launch communication satellites into geostationary orbit.
  • It has a mass of 640 tonnes that can accommodate up to 8,000 kg payload to LEO and 4000 kg payload to GTO.
  • GSLV Mk-III vehicle is powered by two solid motor strap-ons (S200), a liquid propellant core stage (L110) and a cryogenic stage (C25), that has been designed for carrying the four-tonne class satellites.
  • The C25 is powered by CE-20, India’s largest cryogenic engine, designed and developed by the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre.

Chandrayaan-2 mission:

  • In September 2008, the Chandrayaan-2 mission was approved by the government for a cost of Rs 425 crore.
  • It is India’s second mission to the moon.
  • It aims to explore the Moon’s south polar region.
  • The mission is an important step in India’s plans for planetary exploration, a program known as Planetary Science and Exploration (PLANEX).
  • There are three components of the mission, an orbiter, a lander and a rover.
  • The mission payloads include — Terrain Mapping Camera which will generate a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the entire moon, Chandrayaan 2 Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer which will test the elemental composition of the Moon’s surface Solar X-Ray Monitor which will provide solar X-ray spectrum inputs for CLASS. 
  • The orbiter will be deployed at an altitude of 100 kilometers above the surface of the Moon. The lander will then separate from the orbiter, and execute a soft landing on the surface of the Moon, unlike the previous mission which crash-landed near the lunar south pole.
  • The lander, rover and orbiter will perform mineralogical and elemental studies of the lunar surface.
  • The rover is named Pragyan.
  • The mission’s lander is named Vikram after Dr. Vikram A Sarabhai, the Father of the Indian Space Programme.
  • Objectives of the mission:
    • The primary objective of Chandrayaan-2 is to demonstrate the ability to soft-land on the lunar surface and operate a robotic rover on the surface. Scientific goals include studies of lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, the lunar exosphere, and signatures of hydroxyl and water ice.


PSLV-C47: Cartosat-3

On November 27, 2019 Cartosat-3, a third-generation agile advanced satellite having high-resolution imaging capability was successfully launched by PSLV-C47 from Sriharikota.


  • A key feature of the Cartosats is that they help to detect changes in natural geographical or man-made features.
  • Their cameras can `look back and forth’ in an angle to generate continuous spot images.
  • One of Cartosat-3’s cameras offers a ground resolution of 25 cm – this means it can pick up an object of a minimum of that size from a height of around 500 km.
  • Currently, WorldView-3, a satellite owned by US company Maxar, has the best ground resolution of 31 cm.
  • Cartosat-3 ushers in the third generation of high-resolution `optical imaging’ satellites that enable precise cartographic or mapping activities, apart from their unstated military use.
  • On December 11, 2019, PSLV-C48 successfully launched the RISAT-2BR1 radar imaging earth observation satellite from Sriharikota.
  • Radar Imaging Satellite 2B is an Indian radar reconnaissance satellite that is part of India's RISAT programme. It is built by the Indian Space Research Organisation and will be launched by PSLV-C46 rocket on May 22, 2019, from the launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
  • Significance:
    • Regular remote-sensing or optical imaging satellites work like a light-dependent camera that cannot perceive hidden or surreptitious objects in cloudy or dark conditions.
    • Satellites that are equipped with an active sensor, the synthetic aperture radar (SAR), can sense or ‘observe’ Earth in a special way from space day and night, rain or cloud.
    • A radar imaging satellite is complex to assemble. Interpreting its images is equally complex.
Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) :
  • India’s first inter-planetary mission “Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)” completed five years in Martian orbit in September 2019.
  • Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)
  • Mangalyaan spacecraft was launched on board of PSLV C25 rocket from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on November 5, 2013 with aim of studying Martian surface and mineral composition as well as scan its atmosphere for methane (an indicator of life on Mars).
  • The spacecraft was indigenously designed, built and launched by ISRO in record period of less than two years in Rs.450 crore ($73 million US) budget, making it the cheapest inter-planetary mission to date to reach Mars.
  • The spacecraft has five instruments mounted on it for collecting scientific data of Mar’s morphology, atmospheric processes, surface temperature, surface geology, and atmospheric escape process.
  • Astrosat, the first Indian multi-wavelength space observatory, completed four years in orbit in Sept 2019. The data has been made open to the public. Astrosat has more than 900 registered users from 24 countries.
  • ASTROSAT is India’s first dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory. This scientific satellite mission endeavors for a more detailed understanding of our universe.
  • ASTROSAT is designed to observe the universe in the Visible, Ultraviolet, low and high energy X-ray regions of the electromagnetic spectrum simultaneously with the help of its five payloads.
  • Astrosat aims at understanding the high energy processes in binary star systems containing neutron stars and black holes, to estimate magnetic fields of neutron stars, to study star birth regions and high energy processes in star systems lying beyond the Milky Way galaxy.
  • This mission has put ISRO in a very exclusive club of nations that have space-based observatories. Only the United States, European Space Agency, Japan and Russia have such observatories in space.
Navigation in Indian Constellation:
  • Navigation in Indian Constellation (NavIC) is an Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
  • IRNSS consists of eight satellites, three satellites in geostationary orbit and five satellites in geosynchronous orbit.
  • The main objective is to provide reliable position, navigation and timing services over India and its neighbourhood.
  • It works just like the established and popular U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) but within a 1,500-km radius over the sub-continent.
  • It has been certified by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a global body for coordinating mobile telephony standards.
  • Global Standards body 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), which develops protocols for mobile telephony, has approved India’s regional navigation system NAVIC.
  • Qualcomm Technologies Inc. in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), has developed & tested chipset platform across their portfolio which can support the Indian Regional Navigation satellite system, NavIC.
  • The first-ever NavIC demonstration using the Snapdragon Mobile Platforms was showcased by Qualcomm during the India Mobile Congress at New Delhi on October 14-16, 2019
  • A new center namely Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) is created within ISRO/DOS with the responsibility to act as the lead center for Human Space Flight Program, Gaganyaan.
  • The Gaganyaan project has the objective of demonstrating human space flight capability to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) with 3 crew members for 5-7 days in orbit and to safely recover them after the mission.
  • Overall configuration of GSLV-MK III, crew escape system, crew module and service module for Gaganyaan have been finalized. An MoU is executed with Indian Air force for crew selection and training. Institute of Aerospace Medicine is identified for crew selection and screening criteria. This process is in progress.
NewSpace India Limited (NSIL):
  • NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), Bengaluru, a wholly-owned Government of India Company under Department of Space, was incorporated on 6th March 2019.
  • The business activities of NSIL is mainly driven towards enabling Indian industries to productionise space systems and to exploit the commercial opportunities emanating from the Indian space programme.


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