Space Agency Profiles: India’s ISRO Is Noteworthy (Part I)
By Dr. Gary Deel, Ph.D., J.D.
Faculty Director, School of Business, American Military University
The Indian Space Research Organization is a fledgling national space agency compared with its older counterparts in the United States, Russia and Europe. However, ISRO is quickly making a name for itself in space research, and it has set an ambitious agenda for future space exploration missions.
History of the Indian Space Research Organization
India first decided to venture into space in 1962 when it created the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR). That effort was headed by celebrated Indian physicist Dr. Vikram Sarabhai. Sarabhai saw what the United States and the Soviet Union were doing with space-based technologies in the earliest days of space launches, and he quickly realized that this capability would be vital for India’s progress into the future.
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In the mid-1960s, Sarabhai helped set up research laboratories and infrastructure for what would eventually become the Indian space program. In 1969, ISRO officially replaced INCOSPAR as an independent space program within the Indian government.
The Organizational Structure and Major Facilities of ISRO
ISRO’s headquarters, along with the Indian Department of Space (DOS) offices, are in Bangalore, India. However, ISRO has a series of different facilities throughout India that serve specific functions in support of its space missions and goals:
- The Space Application Centre (SAC) in Ahmedabad is where sensors and payloads are engineered for ISRO’s missions.
- The Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC) in Kerala is the lead facility for engineering of ISRO’s launch vehicles.
- The Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) in Valaimala supports the VSSC with the design of liquid rocket engines.
- The Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota hosts two launch pads for ISRO and is also a testing facility for solid rocket motors.
- The U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) in Karnataka is the chief facility for construction of satellites and related technologies.
- The ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) in Tamil Nadu primarily works on futuristic, prototype propulsion concepts.
- The National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) in Hyderabad is responsible for designing and building the various remote-sensing missions that ISRO manages.
- The ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru is tasked with tracking support for all ISRO missions.
- The Master Control Facility (MCF) in Hassan handles mission control for all of the geostationary and geosynchronous satellites operated by ISRO.
- The ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU) in Thiruvananthapuram builds and implements all of the inertial navigation systems for ISRO launch vehicles and spacecraft.
- The Laboratory for Electro-Optics Systems (LEOS) in Bengaluru manufactures the optics sensors used by spacecraft, including Earth sensors, star sensors, infrared detectors and other technologies.
- The Development and Educational Communication Unit (DECU) in Ahmedabad handles the social science research and communication that supports the application of remote sensing missions in ways that provide the greatest benefits to Indian society.
- The Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) in Uttarakhand conducts research related to remote sensing technologies and applications.
- ISRO also maintains five Regional Remote Sensing Centres (RRSCs) that handle different remote sensing duties needed in the various parts of the Indian mainland.
One final facility is worthy of particular note: the Antrix Limited Corporation offices in Bengaluru. This complex is interesting because Antrix is a company that is wholly owned by the government of India and controlled by the Indian DOS.
India created Antrix in 1992 for the purposes of marketing, consultancy, and technology transfers, as well as the development of private space industries in India and elsewhere. As a company, Antrix provides space-related services to international customers – both private and governmental – including hardware and software system development, launch services, mission management, and data analysis.
In the next installment of this article series, we’ll look at the various launch vehicles that ISRO has employed throughout its history and what launch technologies it seeks to use in the future.
About the Author
Dr. Gary Deel is a Faculty Director with the School of Business at American Military University. He holds a J.D. in Law and a Ph.D. in Hospitality/Business Management. Gary teaches human resources and employment law classes for American Military University, the University of Central Florida, Colorado State University and others.