Indian Space Research Organization – How Does It Stand Brilliantly Apart?

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” – Carl Sagan 

Sky Is Not The Limit For ISRO, Neither Is Space - Flying Limitless
Sky Is Not The Limit For ISRO, Neither Is Space – Flying Limitless

This post is about ISRO’s recent achievements.

This will deal with why the recent achievements are a very big deal, indeed.

I have listed down below the structure of this article, a comprehensive one:

  1. Space Agencies – What Are They, What Do They Do?
  2. ISRO – What Is It?
  3. Comparison With Other Space Agencies
  4. ISRO – Recent Achievements – How It Stands Apart?
  5. ISRO – The Road Ahead

Let us start away with point 1.

1. Space Agencies – What Are They, What Do They Do?

What are they?

These are governmental organizations engaged in activities related to outer space and space exploration.

What they do?

Though there are many critics and cynics for space research, it is something that I feel is of immense value. It is one of the best investments a country can make.

Space Agencies exist for providing/serving the following benefits/purposes (in no particular order of importance):

-> Exploration – We are a curious species. We want to know if we are really alone in this universe. We want to know how the universe came into existence. We want to know if we can survive on other planets.

-> Extra-terrestrial Safety – In case of any heavenly body’s incidence nearby earth’s orbit, space exploration would help us brace for it, prepare for it and even thwart it if possible – these astronauts and scientists are real life supermen/superwomen.

-> Military Strength – Satellites fired into orbit can help military agencies with navigation and communication, something impossible if we just stayed below the clouds.

-> Benefits The Common You & Me – Launch of artificial satellites and their presence orbiting earth is the reason you and I are able to watch the TV channel we watch, text the person we text, communicate they we way communicate, see the world map the way we see, etc. The weatherman can predict if we are to have a drought or a cyclone, all thanks to artificial satellites. In fact, Google Maps functions well on our phones thanks to satellites sent into space.

2. ISRO – What Is It?

ISRO stands for Indian Space Research Organization, erstwhile Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR).

It is the space agency of India, headquartered in Bengaluru.

Established   15th August, 1969 
Spaceport  Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh 
Motto  Mānav Jāti Kī Sevā Men Antarikṣa Praudyogikī 
                         (Space technology in the Service of humankind) 
Budget  US $ 1.4 billion 

 

3. Comparison With Other Space Agencies

This provides a really big picture.

Total Government Space Agencies  70 
Agencies With Launch Capability  13 
Agencies With Full Launch Capability 

What is launch capability?

Technically, a launch vehicle is a rocket used to carry a payload from Earth’s surface into outer space. A launch system includes the launch vehicle, the launch pad, and other infrastructure supporting this purpose.

What is full launch capability?

In addition to the above, this includes the ability to launch and recover multiple satellites, deploy cryogenic rocket engines and operate extraterrestrial probes.

What are cryogenic rocket engines?

These are engines that can operate at very low temperatures – in outer space – where the temperature dips. These utilize cryogenic fuel that have very low freezing point and can hence stay in liquid form at very low temperatures and serve as fuel for the rocket.

Total Number Of Countries In The World  195 
Total Government Space Agencies  70 
Agencies With Launch Capability  13 
Agencies With Full Launch Capability 
Agencies With Full Launch Capability  Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO), the European Space Agency (ESA), the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (RFSA or Roscosmos) 

Now, here comes the bigger picture.

ISRO is among the 6 elite agencies in the world out of 70 other agencies out of 195 nations as a whole. 

Now, comparing these 6 elite countries alone yields the table below.

Space Agency  Established   Annual Budget (US $)  Capabilities  
NASA (USA) July 29th, 1958, but preceding body NACA was formed March 3rd, 1915, which was later dissolved to form NASA on the date mentioned first 17.8billion (2012) Manned Lunar Exploration + Operates Space Station + Manned Space Flight + Operates Extraterrestrial Probes + Launch Capability + Operates Satellites
ROSCOSMOS (Russia) 25th February 1992 (formerly the 1931–91 Soviet space program)

 

5.6billion (2013) Operates Space Station + Manned Space Flight + Operates Extraterrestrial Probes + Launch Capability + Operates Satellites
CNSA (China) 22nd April 1993 1.3 billion (2009) Operates Space Station + Manned Space Flight + Operates Extraterrestrial Probes + Launch Capability + Operates Satellites
ESA (Europe) 30th May 1975 6.09 billion (2017) Operates Extraterrestrial Probes + Launch Capability + Operates Satellites

 

JAXA (Japan) 1st October 2003, but pre-existing agencies present from 1955 (NAL), 1969 (NASDA), 1964 (ISAS), before they merged to form JAXA in 2003 2.4 billion (2010) Operates Extraterrestrial Probes + Launch Capability + Operates Satellites

 

ISRO (India)  15th August, 1969 (preceding agency INCOSPAR, 1962)  1.4 billion (2017)  Operates Extraterrestrial Probes + Launch Capability + Operates Satellites 

 

Four Important Observations:

(1) Late Establishment Date – ISRO was established relatively later than all the other space agencies (excluding ESA).

(2) Economical Annual Budget – Budget of ISRO is the least of them all.

(3) Capabilities Within A Smaller Budget – If you observe, the capabilities of ISRO, JAXA and ESA are the same (Operates Extraterrestrial Probes + Launch Capability + Operates Satellites), but ISRO achieves all these within a budget almost half of JAXA’s and 1/4th of ESA’s

(4) Exciting Future – One can only imagine how the capabilities could rise if ISRO’s budget reaches the levels of NASA.

4. ISRO – Recent Achievements – How It Stands Apart?

I will cover 2 recent achievements here – (a) Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan) & (b) Launch Of 104 Satellites In One Go.

It has to be said, though ISRO is below NASA, ROSCOSMOS and CNSA in the table above, it is shattering the records created by the ones above it – pretty soon to overtake them, perhaps in the near future?

(a) Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan):

This is India’s first inter-planetary mission.

It was launched in November, 2013 and started orbiting Mars from September, 2014.

ISRO literally shattered many records with this mission.

-> India became the first country to reach Mars in its very first attempt. Other countries managed to reach after multiple attempts.

-> India became the first Asian country to reach Mars.

-> Costs 1/10th of NASA’s Mars mission Maven.

-> At US $ 74 million, costs lesser than the film Gravity, which costed US $ 100 million to produce.

(b) Launch Of 104 Satellites:

On February, 2017, ISRO broke records again.

It successfully launched 104 satellites at one go.

It used the well grounded PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) to achieve this feat.

The PSLV mostly carries IRS satellites. Indian Remote Sensing is a satellite program which was introduced to acquire data and support/help the national economy in the areas of water and resources, agriculture, ecology, forestry, etc. Although, it is notable to mention most of the satellites on board were from foreign lands.

The previous record was held by Russia – it launched 37 in a single mission in 2014.

India has bettered that record by 2 and a 1/2 times. 

These are 2 phenomenal achievements in the recent past.

ISRO, the space agency which is among the youngest space agencies among the elite in the world, and having lesser capabilities than some of the elite space agencies and also having the least budget among them all, manages to break records time and again.

Clearly, it seems so far, at least, it is one of the most energy efficient, time efficient and financially efficient space agencies in the globe. 

5. ISRO – The Road Ahead

Here is the exciting part. The game-changer ahead in the industry of space agencies, maybe.

For 2017, the ISRO has received a 23% rise in budget. This is a whopping rise. Plans are on to visit Venus and re-visit Mars.

Like I said above, despite of having the least budget, this space agency is growing by leaps and bounds.

It is only too exciting what the future has in store with increasing budgets for ISRO. Whether these investments are justified is for another blog post (I do back space research investment personally, more on this in another post).

For now, ISRO surely has made India proud!

Impossible? What is impossible? That is not in the scientific dictionary. 

 

 

 

 

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4 Comments

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  1. This makes India proud again, proving we are no less than other nations.

  2. A land which had produced numerous Aryabhattas and Bhaskaras and Leelavatis ! No wonder our ISRO scientists could always achieve ONLY successful missions….. Proud to be an Indian! Thank you for this wonderful article, Shakthi….! You have rekindled the sense of pride on me! Jai Hind!

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