From using USSR’s rocket to launch India’s first satellite in 1975, ISRO has come a long way. Data indicates that a total of 124 spacecraft missions were launched by ISRO as of date. A total of 93 launches took place from SDSC SHAR in Sriharikota of Andhra Pradesh. More than 400 foreign satellites were also launched to date.
Recently on 23 August 2023, India’s Moon mission, Chandrayaan-3 successfully landed on the moon. The ‘Vikram’ lander made a soft landing on the Moon’s South Pole, making India the only country to have landed in that region of the moon. With this achievement of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), India joins a select group of countries that includes the USA, Russia, and China, who have landed unmanned probes on the moon.
In the previous Lunar mission i.e., Chandrayaan-2, the spacecraft sent by India was able to successfully reach the orbit of the moon but had a crash landing. As part of Chandrayaan-3, the rover ‘Pragyan’ was also successfully deployed. Chandrayaan-3 is India’s latest accomplishment in its over 6 decades of tryst with space exploration.
India among a handful of countries that have achieved different milestones in space exploration
Modern space research in India can be traced back to the early decades of the 20th Century. However, the establishment of the Department of Atomic Energy in 1950 provided the initial funding through space research in India.
The Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was set up in 1962 by Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, at the suggestion of Vikram Sarabhai. In fact, the lander ‘Vikram’ was named after Vikram Sarabhai in recognition of his efforts towards India’s space research.
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was formed on 15 August 1969 and superseded INCOSPAR. In 1972, the Department of Space was set up and ISRO was brought under it.
Over the years, ISRO has achieved many milestones placing India among the elite few in Space research & exploration. India’s first satellite, Aryabhata, was built by ISRO and launched into space by the Soviet Union in 1975. Later, India successfully launched Rohini-1 in 1980. Over the years, India has launched more than 120 of its satellites for various purposes including – Communication, Navigation, Earth Observation, Scientific Research, etc.
Apart from the mission to the Moon, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (also called Mangalyaan) made India the first Asian nation and the fourth overall to reach Martian Orbit. ISRO progressed from launching our first satellite using other countries’ space vehicles to developing Space Launch vehicles that also aid in launching satellites of other countries. India’s future mission to study the Sun and also the first manned mission (Gaganyaan) is a continuation of the progress made by ISRO.
Here is a look at a few numbers relating to ISRO’s journey in Space exploration. The data is picked up from the datasets available on Dataful, which were compiled from the information available on the ISRO website.
124 Spacecraft Missions launched by ISRO, with an increased frequency in recent years
As already indicated above, India’s first space mission was the launch of the artificial satellite, Aryabhata, in 1975. While it was made by India, it was launched by the Soviet Union as part of its Interkosmos space programme which provided access to space for its friendly states.
India’s next satellite Bhaskara-I, was also launched into space with Soviet’s help. The first satellite launched into space by India was Rohini-1 in 1979. India’s first Communication satellite, APPLE, was launched into space in 1981.
The spacecraft launched in the next couple of decades were used to launch satellites into space for various purposes. These include – Earth Observation, Communication, Experimental, Climate and Weather, Navigation etc.
Chandrayaan-1 launched in 2008, was launched for the purpose of Planetary Observation, followed by other two Space missions under Chandrayaan and One mission under the Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan).
Overall, a total of 124 spacecraft missions were launched by ISRO as of 25 August 2023. While few of these missions were launched using the help of other Space agencies, an increasing number of these missions were launched by ISRO.
Earth Observation and Communication were the major applications for which the space missions were launched. Navigation, Experimental and Climate & Environment applications are comparatively fewer.
More than 90 Space Missions launched from SHAR
Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Srihari Kota, Andhra Pradesh is the primary spaceport of ISRO. It was originally referred to as Sriharikota Range (SHAR). It became operational in 1979 and currently has two launch pads. The second one was built in 2005 and is a universal launchpad i.e., it accommodates various launch vehicles used by ISRO.
These launch vehicles include – Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV), Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV), Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) of which LVM3 are a part. LVM3 is the vehicle used for the launch of Chandrayaan- 3.
Data from ISRO indicates that the highest number of Space mission launches by SHAR are PSLVs. Overall, more than 90 Space missions have been launched from SHAR. The first mission was in 1979 using SLV 3E1, which was unsuccessful. In 1983, a successful launch from SHAR using SLV-3 carried the Rohini-1 Satellite into space. ISRO’s space launch efforts have had high success, with only 9 missions being unsuccessful out of the more than 90 Launch missions from SHAR.
431 International Customer Satellites launched by ISRO
One of the indicators that reflects the progress made by ISRO in space exploration is its customer satellite launch services. From using the USSR’s help to launch its first satellite, ISRO quickly moved on to develop its capabilities to develop Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) and launched Rohini-1. The majority of space missions by India in later years were launched by itself.
In 1999, ISRO embarked on a new journey by opening up to launch International Customer Satellites. On 26 May 1999, India launched Satellites of Germany & South Korea using PSLV-C2 along with its Oceansat-1. Since then, India has launched a total of 431 International Customer Satellites.
On 15 February 2017, ISRO launched 101 satellites on a single launch by a PSLV-XL. 96 of them were from the United States, and one each from Israel, the UAE, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. This is the highest number of satellites launched in a single day.
Most of the International Customer Satellites were launched using PSLVs which are used for launching satellites into Lower Orbits. The highest number of International Customer satellites launched by ISRO were in the USA with 231, followed by the UK (81) and Singapore (20). Overall, Satellites in 36 countries were launched by ISRO.
In order to commercially explore the products and services of the Indian Space Programme, “New Space India Limited” was incorporated in 2019, as a wholly-owned government company under the administrative control of the Department of Space. Apart from PSLV, ISRO has now operationalised its GSLVs and LVM3 launch vehicles. It is also building a Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) as a launch-on-demand vehicle. These have provided increased scope to expand launch services.