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Cartography takes a leap forward…

Ayon Tarafdar, Dhawal Kumar, Saurabh Mishra

PSLV at Umbical Tower, Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota
Almost 25 years ago, India made a successful endeavour at sending out the nation’s first Remote Sensing satellite, Bhaskara-I. It used to produce images with one kilometre resolution that resulted in just large bodies being imaged. It was the start of an era of unparalleled indigenous commitment to build a Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) systems that can serve mankind in the best and most comprehensive manner from space. Today the dream is close to being realized with the recent addition of CARTOSAT to the IRS making it the largest civilian Remote Sensing satellite constellation in the world.

The milieu of getting ‘Remote’
Since Bhaskara – I, the journey had been long and immensely rewarding. The Indian space programme has its origins in the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR). This committee was formed by the Department of Atomic Energy in 1962. Then the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was formed under the Department of Atomic Energy in August 1969. The programme took a formal shape with the constitution of the Space Commission and the Department of Space (DOS) in 1972. ISRO is presently under the DOS, and headquartered at Antriskh Bhavan, Bangalore. ISRO executes the space programme through its establishments located in different parts of India. In the seventies, India concentrated and demonstrated for applications of communication, broadcasting, and Remote Sensing. Over the last three decades, India has achieved notably in design, development, and operation of space systems as well as using them for vital services like telecommunications, television broadcasting, weather monitoring, natural resources management and survey. Over 30 satellites and about 10 of them being Remote Sensing satellites were launched during this time.

However, the key self-reliance step took shape with the development of capability to design, build and launch satellites using indigenously designed and developed launch vehicles. Today India has two major operational space systems, i.e., Indian National Satellite (INSAT) and Indian Remote Sensing (IRS). The planned and continuous launches of both the INSAT and the IRS series of satellites indicate the long term plans of the nation in sustaining the program.

Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) Satellite System
IRS was commissioned in 1988 and has till date sent up twelve satellites out of which seven are operational now: IRS-1C, IRS-1D, IRS-P3, OCEANSAT-1, RESOURCESAT-1, TES and CARTOSAT (Refer Table 1). The system offers space-based data in a range of spectral bands, swaths and spatial resolutions. Wide range of applications spanning agriculture, water resources, urban development, environmental monitoring, mineral exploration, climate forecasting are carried out presently with data from this system.

Table 1 Timeline of Indian Remote Sensing satellites

Indian space capabilities are spread out today across the world through the Antrix Corporation of the Department who are the sellers and marketers of the ISRO products.