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The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is India's national space agency. With its headquarters in Bangalore, the ISRO employs approximately 20,000 people, with a budget around $700mn at current exchange rates. Its mandate is the development of technologies related to space and their applications towards India's development. The current Chairman of ISRO is G. Madhavan Nair. In addition to domestic payloads, it offers international launch services. ISRO is regarded as one of the leading space agencies in the world.

ISRO centres

There are several ISRO centers of ISRO located across the country providing various technological functions. These centers are related to the ISRO:

  • Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) 

  • ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC) 

  • Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR) 

  • Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) 

  • Space Applications Centre (SAC) 

  • Development and Educational Communication Unit (DECU) 

  • ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) 

  • INSAT Master Control Facility (MCF) 

  • ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU) 

  • National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) 

  • Regional Remote Sensing Service Centres (RRSSC) 

  • Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) 

  • National Mesosphere/Stratosphere Troposphere Radarnipples Facility (NMRF)

The ISRO decade plan includes the following launch schedule:

2005-2006 - One PSLV launch, (PSLV-C7). Launch of CARTOSAT-2, SRE-1, INSAT-4A and INSAT-4B. 
2006-2007 - One PSLV launch, (PSLV-C8), and three GSLV launches, (GSLV-D3, F2, F3). Launch of OCEANSAT-2, GSAT-4, INSAT-4C and INSAT-4D. 
2007-2008 - Three PSLV launches, (PSLV-C9, C10, C11), two GSLV launches (GSLV-F4, F5), and one GSLV-III launch (GSLV-III-D1). Launch of CHANDRAYAAN, ASTROSAT, RISAT-1, GSAT (MK III), INSAT-3D and INSAT-4E. 


Launch facilities

ISRO operates 3 launch stations:

  • Thumba (TERLS - Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station/Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, Kerala), 

  • Shriharikota (SRLS - Shriharikota Rocket Launching Station/Satish Dhawan Space Center, Andhra Pradesh). 

  • Balasore (BRLS - Balasore Rocket Launching Station, Orissa).

The Shriharikota range is used for launch of satellites and multi-stage rockets. The launch station has two launch pads including the newest Universal Launch Pad. The two launch pads allow the station to hold up to 6 launches per year. The other two launch facilities are capable of launching sounding rockets, and other small rockets that dont produce spent stages.

Opinions and analysis

Like many space agencies, the ISRO attracts comparison with other space programmes, critisisms, and praise. Some of the main arguments and questions that people often express, related to the economics, relevance and other applications of the Indian space programme, are addressed below.

Comparison with other space agencies

The ISRO currently has a level of funding similar to the Russian Space Agency, but not as much past experience. The current budget is likely to expand in future due to India's economic growth. India has a series of reliable and very cost effective launchers, with some estimating that commercial costs of launching on Indian vehicles may be halved. With the launch of the GSLV-III India will have a launch capability of 4000kg into GTO, with expansion potential towards 6000kg. The technological experitise and experience of the ISRO seems to be similar to the other major asian space powers, China and Japan, the latter of which has experienced some setbacks in recent years. In terms of budgetary comparison, America spends $16bn, Europe spends $3.5bn, Japan spends $1.6bn, China spends $1.2bn, Russia spends $800mn, India spends $700mn, Canada spends $300mn, and Brazil spends $35mn. However, some people have pointed out that the bugdet figure is much higher for India and China when accounting for purchasing power parity {PPP). India is counted amongst the six major space powers of the world, and is sometimes counted amongst the top five in terms of success and future potential. Indian launch vehicles have the capacity for human spaceflight, however, the ISRO has stated that it can achieve all India's commercial and scientific needs through unmanned spaceflight alone, raising the question of whether a crewed spaceflight will occur.

Foreign public critisism

Some critical opinion is sometimes aired questioning the relevance of the ISRO in light of the low per capita income of the average Indian citizen, usually from amateaur foreign observers. In response to this, defenders of the Indian space programme point to the fact that it isnt consdiered a waste in other countries, all of which have some measure of homelessness or poverty. Also it is pointed out that the ISRO is unique amongst space programmes for its focus on developmental applications such as educational broadcasting and remote sensing. In addition, the ISRO is arguably the most financially successful space programme, with very cheap development and launch capabilities, and a budget of which 45% spent goes to Indian industry - it is arguable that the ISRO has paid for itself several times over already, not just in terms of success, but also in terms of commercial return. Finally, it seems obious to many that a country the size of India, which is a world economic power, needs independent launch capabilities, and a full spectrum of scientific institutions and industry.

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