Eminent rocket scientist S. Somanath has been appointed as the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as well as the space secretary.
Somanath, who is the director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), will succeed K. Sivan who completes his extended tenure on January 14.
Sivan was appointed as the ISRO chief in January 2018. He was given an extension till January 14, 2022.
Somanath’s appointment as the space secretary and the space commission chairman is for a combined tenure of three years from the date of joining of the post, inclusive of an extension in tenure beyond the age of superannuation in public interest, the personnel ministry order said.
Somanath took charge as the VSSC’s head on January 22, 2018, after a two and a half years stint as the director of Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), Valiamala, Thiruvanananthapuram.
He joined VSSC in 1985 and was a team leader for the integration of PSLV during the early phases.
He served as the associate director (projects) of VSSC and also as the project director of GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle.
Under his leadership, the first experimental flight of LVM3-X/CARE mission was successfully accomplished on December 18, 2014.
Genesis of ISRO
• The space research activities were initiated in our country during the early 1960s, when applications using satellites were in experimental stages even in the United States. With the live transmission of Tokyo Olympic Games across the Pacific by the American Satellite ‘Syncom-3’ demonstrating the power of communication satellites, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the founding father of Indian space programme, quickly recognised the benefits of space technologies for India.
• To spearhead the space research activities, Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was set up in 1962 under the department of atomic energy.
• Work on Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) near Thiruvananthapuram was also started during the same year.
• In August 1969, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was established.
• In June 1972, the Space Commission and the Department of Space (DOS) were constituted by the government and brought ISRO under DOS in September 1972.
• The Space Commission formulates the policies and oversees the implementation of the Indian space programme to promote the development and application of space science and technology for the socio-economic benefit of the country.
• The Aryabhata spacecraft, named after the famous Indian astronomer, was India’s first satellite. It was completely designed and fabricated in India and launched by a Soviet Kosmos-3M rocket from Kapustin Yar on April 19, 1975.
• Over the years, ISRO has upheld its mission of bringing space to the service of the common man and to the service of the nation.
• In the process, it has become one of the largest space agencies in the world.
• ISRO maintains one of the largest fleet of communication satellites (INSAT) and remote sensing (IRS) satellites, that cater to the ever growing demand for fast and reliable communication and earth observation respectively.
• ISRO develops and delivers application specific satellite products and tools for broadcasts, communications, weather forecasts, disaster management tools, Geographic Information Systems, cartography, navigation, telemedicine, etc.
• To achieve complete self-reliance in terms of these applications, it was essential to develop cost efficient and reliable launch systems, which took shape in the form of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). The famed PSLV went on to become a favoured carrier for satellites of various countries due to its reliability and cost efficiency, promoting unprecedented international collaboration. The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) was developed keeping in mind the heavier and more demanding Geosynchronous communication satellites.
Major milestones of India’s space sector:
• 1962 - Indian National Committee for Space Research formed and works on establishing Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) started.
• 1963 - First sounding rocket launch from TERLS (November 21, 1963).
• 1965 - Space Science and Technology Centre (SSTC) established in Thumba.
• 1967 - Experimental Satellite Communication Earth Station (ESCES) set up at Ahmedabad.
• 1968 - TERLS dedicated to the United Nations (February 2, 1968).
• 1969 - ISRO was formed (August 15, 1969).
• 1972 - Space Commission and Department of Space (DOS) set up. ISRO brought under DOS (June 1, 1972).
• 1975 - ISRO becomes a government organisation (April 1, 1975).
- First Indian satellite — Aryabhata — launched (April 19, 1975).
• 1979 - Bhaskara-I, an experimental satellite for earth observations, launched (June 7, 1979).
- First experimental launch of SLV-3 with Rohini Technology Payload onboard (August 10, 1979). Satellite could not be placed in orbit.
• 1980 - Second experimental launch of SLV-3. Rohini satellite successfully placed in orbit (July 18,1980).
• 1981 - First developmental launch of SLV-3. RS-D1 placed in orbit (May 31, 1981)
- APPLE, an experimental geostationary communication satellite successfully launched (June 19, 1981).
- Bhaskara-II launched (November 20, 1981).
• 1982 - INSAT-1A launched (April 10, 1982). Deactivated on September 6, 1982.
• 1983 - INSAT-1B launched (August 30, 1983).
• 1984 - Indo-Soviet manned space mission (April 1984).
• 1987 - First developmental launch of ASLV with SROSS-1 satellite onboard (March 24, 1987). Satellite could not be placed in orbit.
• 1988 - Launch of first operational Indian Remote Sensing satellite, IRS-1A (March 17, 1988).
- Second developmental launch of ASLV with SROSS-2 onboard (July 13, 1988). Satellite could not be placed in orbit.
- INSAT-1C launched (July 22, 1988). Abandoned in November 1989.
• 1990 - INSAT-1D launched (June 12, 1990).
- Launch of second operational Remote Sensing satellite, IRS-1B (August 29, 1991).
• 1992 - INSAT-2A, the first satellite of the indigenously-built second-generation INSAT series, launched (July 10, 1992).
• 1993 - INSAT-2B, the second satellite in INSAT-2 series, launched (July 23, 1993).
• 1995 - INSAT-2C, the third satellite in INSAT-2 series, launched (December 7, 1995).
• 1997 - PSLV-C1, the first operational launch of PSLV with IRS-1D onboard (September 29, 1997). Satellite placed in orbit.
• 1999 - Indian Remote Sensing Satellite, IRS-P4 (OCEANSAT-1), launched by Polar Satellite Launch.
- Vehicle (PSLV-C2) along with Korean KITSAT-3 and German DLR-TUBSAT from SDSC SHAR, Sriharikota (May 26, 1999).
• 2001 - Successful flight test of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D1) on April 18, 2001 with an experimental satellite GSAT-1 onboard.
• 2005 - Successful launch of Cartosat-1 and HAMSAT by PSLV-C6 from the newly established Second Launch Pad at SDSC SHAR (May 5, 2005).
• 2008 - PSLV-C11 successfully launches Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft on October 22, 2008.
• 2009 - PSLV-C12 successfully launches RISAT-2 and ANUSAT, on April 20, 2009.
- PSLV-C14 successfully launches OCEANSAT-2 and six nanosatellites for international customers under a commercial contract with Antrix Corporation (September 23, 2009).
• 2013 - Mars Orbiter Mission, India’s first interplanetary mission to planet Mars, successfully launched by PSLV-C25 from Sriharikota on November 5, 2013.
• 2014 - In its first successful flight with indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage, GSLV-D5 successfully places GSAT-14 into GTO on January 5, 2014.
• 2015 - AstroSat, India’s first dedicated astronomy satellite successfully launched by PSLV-C30 on September 28, 2015 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota.
• 2017 - The first developmental flight (GSLV-MkIII-D1) of India’s heavy lift launch vehicle GSLV-MkIII was successfully conducted on June 5, 2017 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota with the launch of GSAT-19 satellite.
• 2019 - Chandrayaan-2 satellite was successfully launched into an earth orbit by GSLV-MKIII-M1 on July 22, 2019.