In 1995, as in past years, India continued to make significant progress in the development and application of space technology to promote rapid socio-economic development. The Indian space programme also continued to further international cooperation in the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space.
The two Indian-built multi-purpose satellites, INSAT-2A and INSAT-2B, respectively launched in July 1992 and July 1993, together with INSAT-1D, launched in 1990, provided uninterrupted services in the areas of telecommunication, television broadcasting, meteorology, disaster warning and distress alerts.
Development and fabrication of more advanced satellites in the INSAT-2 series, in particular INSAT-2C and INSAT-2D, have made good progress. INSAT-2C, which was successfully launched on 6 December 1995, will provide additional services, including mobile and business communications. INSAT-2D, identical to INSAT-2C is to be launched in 1996. INSAT-2E, with advanced meteorological payloads in addition to communication payloads, is also being developed. A few transponders on board INSAT-2E will be made available to INTELSAT. The launch of INSAT-2E is planned for 1997 or 1998.
New demonstrations and experiments designed to extend and enhance the INSAT services for various purposes, especially for new classes of telecommunication services and tele-education, are being conducted. Several experiments and demonstrations involving satellite-based communication for interactive education and training have been successfully conducted for universities, village administration (panchayat raj) officials, special social groups and personnel from the industrial and commercial sector. A channel of INSAT is exclusively used for interactive training and education. This channel can be used for intensive, interactive training courses of long duration for special interest groups, without the usual constraints on the length and timing of the broadcast.
The two Indian remote sensing satellites, IRS-1A and IRS-1B, respectively launched in March 1988 and August 1991, together with IRS-P2, launched by India with its own polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV), known as PSLV-D2, in October 1994, have become the mainstays of the national system for the management of natural resources. The data from the IRS satellites are being put to use in important applications such as estimating agricultural crop acreage and yield, drought monitoring and assessment, flood mapping, land-use and land-cover mapping, wasteland management, survey and management of ocean and marine resources and of forest resources, urban planning and mineral prospecting.
Satellite-based remote sensing services, will be further enhanced through the launch of more advanced satellites, IRS-1C and IRS-1D, currently being developed. These satellites will have better spatial and spectral resolutions than the present IRS satellites, stereo viewing capability and on-board recording facilities. The launch of IRS-1C is planned for the first quarter of 1996.
India has planned the launch of an IRS-P series of satellites on board its PSLV launch vehicle. The series would be designed to test and demonstrate new and advanced technologies and applications of space-based remote sensing such as those for ocean resources monitoring and cartography. India will provide opportunities for flying payloads from other countries on the IRS-P series of satellites. IRS-P3, carrying a modular opto-electronic scanner, for ocean remote sensing, of the German space agency, in addition to a wide field sensor and an X-ray astronomy payload, is scheduled for launch in the first quarter of 1996 on board the PSLV-D3 launch vehicle.
The implementation of locale-specific action plans generated under the Integrated Mission for Sustainable Development (IMSD), which mainly uses IRS data and collateral socio-economic data, is progressing well in 21 districts of India. Action plans for the development of other areas in 174 districts all over the country, identified under IMSD, are being generated. Priority has been given to 92 specific areas for generating action plans for integrated land and water resources development using IRS data. The initial results of implementing the action plans generated under IMSD have been encouraging. For example, in Ananthapur district in southern India, construction of water-harvesting structures have resulted in a substantial rise in the ground-water levels, enabling farmers there to grow two crops per year, a commendable achievement for an area with the second-lowest rainfall in the country.
Having established INSAT and IRS satellite systems to provide uninterrupted space services in the areas of telecommunication, television broadcasting, meteorology, disaster warning and natural resources survey and management, India achieved a significant milestone on 15 October 1994 in developing the capability to launch those satellites through the success of the second developmental launch of its polar satellite launch vehicle, PSLV-D2. PSLV-D2 placed the Indian remote sensing satellite, IRS-P2, weighing 804 kilograms, into a polar sun-synchronous orbit at a height of about 817 kilometres. The third developmental launch of PSLV (PSLV-D3) is planned for the first quarter of 1996. The Government of India has already approved the launch of three more continuation flights, PSLV-C1, PSLV-C2 and PSLV-C3, over the next three years. Those flights will be used to prove the reliability of PSLV, to increase its payload capability towards operationalization of the vehicle, and to launch satellites for Earth observation and scientific missions.
PSLV has also proved, in flight, many of the systems that go into the Indian geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV), intended for launching the Indian INSAT class of communication satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit. Development of GSLV is progressing well. As a result of the suspension of transfer of cryogenic technology by Glavkosmos of the Russian Federation, India is developing its own cryogenic stage. The first few flights of GSLV will, however, use the cryogenic stage supplied by Glavkosmos.
India continues to pursue research in space science. The SROSS-C2 satellite, put into orbit using the Indian launch vehicle ASLV-D4, on 4 May 1994, is providing valuable scientific data in astronomy and aeronomy from its two payloads, one for conducting the gamma ray burst experiment and the other consisting of a Retarding Potential Analyser (RPA). Several gamma ray bursts of potential celestial origin have been detected in the energy range of 20 to 3,000 kilo-electron-volts. RPA has so far collected a few hundred sets of useful orbital ionospheric data over the Indian subcontinent, and interesting observations on the variation of electron and ion temperatures have been made.
The National Mesosphere-Stratosphere-Troposphere Radar Facility set up near Tirupati in southern India is helping atmospheric researchers. The facility is also being used by international scientists to conduct experiments.
India continues to pursue cooperation in space with several countries. Recent agreements include those signed with the Russian Federation on 30 June 1994 and with Ukraine on 16 September 1994. India hosted the fifteenth Asian Conference on Remote Sensing, held at Bangalore from 17 to 23 November 1994, and attended by 320 participants, including 83 representatives of 26 countries. India is to serve as host to a Centre for Space Science and Technology Education for the Asia-Pacific region, which is being established as a United Nations initiative.
Under the sharing of experience in space (SHARES) programme, several participants, specifically from developing countries, are being trained in the various aspects of space science and applications.
India is also playing an active role in the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites. Data from IRS-1B and IRS-P2 are now available to users all over the world.
With the satellites designed and built by India in the INSAT and IRS series performing to specification, the country has started to reap the benefits of space technology for developmental applications, specifically in the areas of communication, broadcasting, meteorology, disaster management and the survey and management of resources. The planned launches of more powerful satellites in the two series will further enhance and extend the benefits of space technology. The successful launch of PSLV and the progress made in the development of GSLV have inspired confidence in the capability of India to launch the IRS and INSAT class of satellites from its own soil. Thus, India today has a well-integrated and self-supporting space programme which is providing important services to society.