Ten things to know about the early journey of ISRO
The journey of ISRO is paved with the power and dedication of the scientific community and the unflinching support of all governments along the way. Here are some milestones during the early days of the of the Indian space programme.
1. Space research in India began in the 1960s; the INCOSPAR (Indian National Committee for Space Research) was appointed under the leadership of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the year 1962.
2. Dr. Sarabhai, as Director, Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad, brought together an army of brilliant scientists, anthropologists, communicators and social scientists from all corners of the country to spearhead the Indian space programme.
3. The St. Mary Magdalene Church in the fishing village of Thumba, near Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala served as the main office for the scientists in the early stages of India’s space programme. It is preserved in its full glory even today and it houses an impressive space museum.
4. In 1967, the first ‘Experimental Satellite Communication Earth Station (ESCES)’ in Ahmedabad became operational; this doubled up as a training centre for Indian as well as foreign scientists and engineers.
5. The next major step was the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE), hailed as ‘the largest sociological experiment in the world’. This experiment benefited around 200,000 people, covering 2400 villages of six states; it transmitted developmental programmes using the American Technology Satellite (ATS-6).
6. SITE was followed by the Satellite Telecommunication Experiments Project (STEP), a joint project of ISRO and the Post and Telegraphs Department (P&T) using the Franco-German Symphonie satellites during 1977-79. Its aim was to test the use of geosynchronous satellites for domestic communications. It was a stepping stone for the proposed operational domestic satellite system, INSAT.
7. SITE was followed by the ‘Kheda Communications Project (KCP)’, which worked as a field laboratory for need-based and locale specific programme transmission in the Kheda district of Gujarat State. KCP won the UNESCO award for rural communication efficiency in 1984.
8. By then, the first Indian spacecraft ‘Aryabhatta’ was developed and launched using a Soviet rocket.
9. Another major landmark was the development of the first launch vehicle SLV-3 with the capability to place a 40 kg satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which made its first successful flight in 1980.
10. Bhaskara-I & II missions were pioneering steps in remote sensing; the ‘Ariane Passenger Payload Experiment (APPLE)’ became the forerunner of a future communications satellite system. The development of the complex Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) paved the way for more advanced launch vehicle designs for complex missions, leading to rockets such as the PSLV and GSLV.