Remote Sensing in India Evolution and growth

Remote Sensing in India Evolution and growth


Dhawal Kumar
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With the satellites designed and built by India in the IRS series, the country has started to reap the benefits of space technology for developmental applications. This article provides a view of the past, present and future of the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite programme

“There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or the planets or manned space-flight. But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society. “
Vikram Sarabhai

“Our priorities for space are set by our needs and the timeliness of certain types of capabilities and availabilities, and also where we should prioritise deploying our resources. And by resources, I do not mean money alone, but also manpower related to the infrastructure and so on.”
K Kasturirangan
Remote Sensing technology has evolved in India at a fast pace, courtesy the hardwork and the dedication of the country’s very talented scientists and engineers. It has been a story of toiling and perseverance since the establishment of Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) in 1962 and the launch of first sounding rocket from Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in 1963. Today, India Inc. is undoubtedly the Asian leader in the field of commercial remote sensing.

India is presently pressing ahead with an impressive national programme aimed at developing more and more Earth observation satellites to meet the ever-increasing demands, which have been created with the use of this technology. The Earth observation system – as an important space infrastructure – has now become an essential tool for today’s government for achieving the goal of ‘application of technology for national development’.

The long cherished dream of the Indian scientists to have an earth observation satellite of their own, and made by their own hands, took the solid shape of reality with the launch of Bhaskara-I on June 7, 1979 and the launch of Bhaskara-II in 1981 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The Indian Earth Observation system became operational with the advent of Indian Remote Sensing satellites. The launch of first operational Remote Sensing Satellite, IRS-1A on March 17, 1988 was an important feather in the cap of ISRO.

Seeing the development Prof U R Rao, who became the Chairman of ISRO in October 1984, had once remarked that space technology had given India the opportunity to convert backwardness into an asset: developing countries could bypass the intermediate technology stage and leapfrog into the high technology area.

The evolution


  • Launched in: March 17, 1988
  • Out of service since: 1995
  • Repeat Cycle: 22 Days
  • Orbit Height: 904 Km
  • Orbit Type: Sun Synchronous