NEW DELHI: Are misplaced priorities of the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) hurting Indian armed forces’ communication and navigation systems? Four dedicated navigation satellites of the Indian armed forces, which would have improved the defence establishment’s communication systems by several notches, are yet to go up in space. Reason: ISRO’s “misperceived priorities” in general and the decision by its former chairman K Sivan to put their launch in the backburner, sources said.
Curiously, another critical component of the NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation) programme built and designed to provide accurate real-time positioning and timing services to the Indian defence forces has also been delayed by three years at the defence ministry level. Sources said NavIC’s accuracy has been hampered because the satellites are not in place.
The navigation component, called ‘reference stations’, which are used in heavy artillery for locating very precisely enemy targets on mountainous terrain as well as plains, was first delayed by three years as the Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) under the defence ministry posed several questions to Indian suppliers.
According to some Indian firms, said there is now a three-month delay in the process because the DGQA has been insisting on several tests of the equipment before they are finally commissioned. “The DGQA goes easy with foreign suppliers and quickly accepts certificates of conformance (CoC) from them. But Indian companies and OEMs are made to undergo several rounds of tests before their products are even considered for purchase,” alleged the CTO and founder of an Indian company.
The protracted delays in launching the four satellites — designed to transmit at S-band frequencies — comes at a time when huge advancements have been made in technological finesse by the US National Propulsion Laboratory under NASA, the European Union’s Galileo Space Agency and the Russian GLONASS.
When contacted, former ISRO chairman K Sivan said: “The delay was not because of priority issues. It was because of delay in procuring a particular type of sensor after the required specification got changes. The entire process had to be worked out again. Besides, in between the pandemic stopped the operations of global companies involved in manufacturing satellite components”.
DELAY DESPITE PAYMENTS BY THE AIR FORCE
According to sources in the IAF, what puzzled them was that the launch delay continued even though it paid ISRO `300 crore after completion of the technical discussions and payment of expenses for the launch. The last of the seven earlier satellites was launched in 2018 end