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Satellites and Satellite Launch Vehicles

Since its formation, ISRO has launched numerous satellites; include IRS (Indian Remote Sensing) satellite series, INSAT (Indian National Satellite) series (in Geo-Stationary orbit), GSAT series (launched using GSLV) and METSAT 1 (launched by PSLV).

INSAT series

The Insat series of satellites include the 1 (A, B,C, D), 2 (A, B,C, D/DT), 3 (A, B,C, D,E) and 4 (A) series. They provide Communication and Television relay services all over India. Most of these satellites were launched by the Arianespace for ISRO, the latest being INSAT 4A. ISRO also plans to launch the next generation of INSAT satellities, INSAT 4B and 4C, by 2005-06.

IRS series

The IRS series provide remote sensing services and are composed of the 1 (A, B,C, D). The future versions are named based on their area of application including OceanSat, CartoSat, ResourceSat. Some of the satellites have alternate designations based on the launch number and vehicle (P series for PSLV). ISRO and the Department of Space (India) have jointly formed Antrix Corp Ltd, for promoting and marketing IRS satellites.

METSAT/Kalpana series

METSAT or Meteorological Satellite, is the first satellite built by ISRO to provide meteorological information and data. In 2003, METSAT was renamed as Kalpana in honour of the late astronaut Kalpana Chawla. METSAT 2/Kalpana 2 is expected to be launched by 2007.

Technology Experiment Satellite

As the name suggests, Technology Experiment Satellite is an expermental satellite aimed primarily to fulfill the role of spy satellite. The satellite has the capability to detect moving vehicles that are more than a metre long becoming the second such satellite next only to US spy satellites with such a high resolution. The Kargil War prompted the rapid inclusion of a dedicated espionage satellite. It was first used to produce images of Iraqi military installations that were destroyed after US invasion in 2003.

Future plans

ISRO has began the development of a mission to the Moon, named Chandrayaan-1. It will be India's first step towards exploration of deep space. In 2005, the Indian government approved 364 crore (3,640,000,000) Indian rupees for the planned moon mission expected to be launched by 2008. It is interesting to note that apart from ISRO made instruments, Chandrayaan carries science instruments from NASA and ESA as opportunity payloads free of cost and with the understanding of sharing the data from the instruments. If the mission goes as planned, ISRO would be the fifth space agency in the world, after NASA, Japan, European Space Agency and the Soviet Space Agency, to have sent an un-manned mission to the Moon.

ISRO has started the development of the next launch vehicle version, known as the GSLV Mark-III, with an indigenous cryogenic engine capable of launching satellites weighing up to 6 tons in the final configuration. ISRO will be launching various satellites for European and Russian space programs including Agile and the GLONASS series of navigation satellites. In December 2005, during the annual Indian-Russian summit in Moscow, the two states agreed on Indian joint development of the GLONASS-K series, which will be launched by Indian launchers. ISRO also plans to launch payloads SRE-1, RISAT-1, ASTROSAT, OCEANSAT series, INSAT series, CARTOSAT series, and GSAT series over the next couple of years. The RLV-TD, a technology demonstrator of possible scramjet launch technology, will fly around 2008. 

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 vehicles

The Satellite Launch Vehicle was mainly used for the launching of experimental Rohini Satellites, and was a technology bridge. The Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle was mainly used for the launching of Streched Rohini Satellite Series (SROSS) satellites, and also served as a technology bridge. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehcile serves as a small-medium satellite launching workhorse for the ISRO. The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle serves as a medium lifter. The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III will be a medium-heavy lifter. The Reusable Launch Vehicle project is intended as a cheap way of launching small satellites.


Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) - an all-solid four-stage satellite launch vehicle. The SLV can place 40kg into low earth orbit. 
Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) - an all-solid five-stage satellite launch vehicle. The ASLV can place 150 kg into low earth orbit. 


Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) - a four-stage rocket with liquid and solid stages. The PLSV can place 3000 kg into polar sun synchronous orbit. 

Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark I/II (GSLV-I/II) - a three-stage rocket with solid, liquid and cryo stages. The GSLV can place 2000 kg into geostationary transfer orbit. 


Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV-III) - a three-stage rocket with solid, liquid and cryo stages. The GSLV can place 4000-6000 kg into geostationary transfer orbit. 

Reusable Launch Vehcile (RLV) - a small remote-piloted scramjet vehicle. The RLV will place small satellites into orbit.

Ballistic missile technology

A critisism of the Indian space programme from foreign governments and military analyists has been the question of how ISRO technology has benefitted India's defence programme, even leading to the alteration of India's cryogenic engine deal with the former Soviet Union and later Russia. Since most space programmes in the world were extensions of ballistic missile programmes anyway, and the ISRO is more than capable of developing the most advanced technology indiginously, it is questionable how legitimate this critisism is. In the instance of the cryogenic engine deal, it was argued that the engine would have been of almost no use in the construction of ballistic missiles, and India could develop the engine very shortly anyway. It is also argued that apart from any non-proliferation action being almost pointless, India is a responsible nuclear power. In the wake of recent political shifts, with India and the USA disgarding old Cold War era political stances, it is likely that no such future critisism of the ISRO from this angle will occur.

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