India successfully launched IRNSS 1C on board ISRO’s PSLV C26 rocket from Sriharikota on Thursday, moving a step closer to setting up the country’s own navigation system on a par with Global Positioning System (GPS) of the US. IRNSS 1C is the third of the series of seven satellites ISRO is planning to launch to put in place the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System. Being developed by India, IRNSS is designed to provide accurate position information service to users in India as well as the region extending up to 1,500km from its boundary, which is its primary service area. This is yet another achievement for India space scientists, who recently made history, when the Mars Orbiter Mission entered the Martian orbit.
The IRNSS system, pegged at `1,420 crore, is targeted for completion by 2015. The first two satellites in the series, IRNSS 1A and IRNSS 1B, were launched in last July and this April. IRNSS’s applications include terrestrial and marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management, navigation aide for hikers and travellers, visual and voice navigation for drivers. A select few countries have their own navigation systems—Russia (Global Orbiting Navigation Satellite System), the US (GPS), EU (Galileo or GNSS), China (BeiDou satellite navigation system, Quasi-Zenith Satellite System).
While Indian space scientists deserve plaudits for new milestones, what cannot be lost sight of is that the nation pays about $85-90 million (roughly `500 crore) as launch fee for sending up a 3.5-tonne communication satellite because our capability extends to only satellites of up to two tonnes towards a geosynchronised orbit. India’s space scientists have shown rare ingenuity and it is a challenge for them to attain the capability to launch heavier satellites for which efforts are afoot. The prime minister recently praised the space scientists’ “frugal engineering and power of imagination” but there is a case for making more resources available for space research and programmes.