The year 2003 was an eventful one for Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Not only did ISRO enhance the space services by launching follow-on satellites in the communication and remote sensing series but also took up new initiatives. The commissioning of Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) after its successful second test flight and the announcement of India’s first scientific mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1, by the Prime Minister on Independence Day were important milestones for ISRO. Four satellites were launched during the year, two of them by Indian launch vehicles.
The application of space systems for various developmental tasks continued during the year. The Telemedicine network using INSAT was further expanded. Pilot projects were initiated to prepare for the utilization of EDUSAT, an exclusive satellite for educational use, planned for launch in 2004. Ground water prospect zone maps for seven states (Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Kerala and Rajasthan) were completed and, based on 25,000 wells drilled using these maps, 90 percent success rate was reported.
The major events for ISRO during 2003 were:
1. April 10, 2003 – INSAT-3A Launch: The multipurpose satellite, INSAT-3A, was launched. It was the third satellite to be launched in the INSAT-3 series after INSAT-3B and INSAT-3C. The 2,950 kg INSAT-3A is the heaviest satellite built by ISRO so far. The communication payloads of INSAT-3A include 12 C-band, six upper extended C-band and six Ku-band transponders and a Satellite Aided Search and Rescue transponder. The meteorological instruments include Very High Resolution Radiometer, Charge Coupled Device camera and meteorological data relay transponder.
2. May 8, 2003 – GSLV-D2 Launch: The second developmental test flight of India’s Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) was successfully carried from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. With this second successive test, GSLV was commissioned into service for launching 2000 kg class of satellites into geo-synchronous transfer orbit. GSAT-2, the satellite launched by GSLV, is an experimental communication satellite carrying four C-band transponders, two Ku-band transponders and a Mobile Satellite Service transponder besides four scientific payloads.
3. August 15, 2003 – Chandrayaan-1 Announced: The Prime Minister announced, in his Independence Day Address, that India will undertake Chandrayaan-1, a scientific mission to moon. Chandrayaan-1 envisages placing a 525 kg spacecraft in the 100 km polar orbit of the moon. ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV, will launch the spacecraft. Chandrayaan-1 is expected to be the forerunner for more ambitious planetary missions in the years to come.
4. September 1, 2003 – Madhavan Nair takes over as ISRO Chairman: Mr G Madhavan Nair, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, took over as Chairman, ISRO, Secretary, Department of Space and Chairman, Space Commission. He took over from Dr K Kasturirangan, who was nominated as Member, Rajya Sabha.
5. September 28, 2003 – INSAT-3E Launched: INSAT-3E, the fourth satellite in the INSAT-3 series, was launched successfully. The 2775 kg communication satellite carries 24 C-band transponders and 12 upper extended C-band transponders.
6. October 17, 2003 – PSLV launches RESOURCESAT-1: In its eighth flight conducted from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota, ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C5, successfully launched the Indian remote sensing satellite, RESOURCESAT-1, precisely into the intended 820 km Polar Orbit. RESOURCESAT-1 is the most advanced remote sensing satellite built by ISRO so far. It carries a high resolution Linear Imaging Self Scanner (LISS-4) with 5.8 metre spatial resolution, LISS-3 with a spatial resolution of 23.5 metre and an Advanced Wide Field Sensor with spatial resolution of 56 metre.
7. December 5, 2003 – Cryogenic Engine Tested: The indigenous cryogenic engine successfully undergoes endurance test. The engine, along with its two steering engines as used in the actual flight, was tested for 1000 seconds while it is required to operate for 720 seconds. The test marked an important milestone in the development of the indigenous cryogenic stage for GSLV.