Sputnik, the first artificial satellite was launched in 1957 triggering the onset of space mission race on earth. The India then, had not even embarked on its space missions but today it is one of the esteemed member of the elite space club alongside countries like Russia, China and USA. The journey from a private initiative of Vikram Sarabhai to a space department in ministry, from launching its first Indian satellite as late as 1975 to becoming the 4th country across the globe to launch anti-satellite technology for deterrence just after established space technology giants like USA, India has indeed hit a home run in space technology in such a short span of time. What remains to be seen is , how India which has always been perceived as a peace loving country emerges with military power and combat technology yet maintain peaceful diplomatic relations with the rest of the world being a front runner in striking a balance between peace and technology development.
India’s space journey began with the initiatives of Father of Indian Space Program Dr. Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai. He is the father figure of India’s space programs because of his extraordinary contribution towards the setting up of the foundation for India to launch the elite space missions today. From founding the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad on November 11, 1947 to the establishment of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) his contributions in space program development are beyond excellence.
India’s space mission purposes can be summed up in Dr. Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai’s quote, “There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or the planets or manned space-flight. But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society”. Till today, the ethos of what he said resonates in our policies and space missions.
Chronologically, India launched its first satellite in 1975, thereon it established the space science and technology centre in Thumba, ISRO was formed in 1969 and by 1975 it became a government organisation after the Department of space was established in 1972. ISRO has many achievements to its credit. Significant developments are the INSAT system for telecom, television and meteorology, Chandrayaan (Moon mission), Mangalyaan (Mars orbiter mission),establishment of remote sensing satellite, successful launch of launch vehicle series ASLV, PSLV and GSLV, record launch of 104 satellites in 2017 and the latest being the successful launch of Mission Shakti.
Space missions are primarily taken up for developmental purposes. Since space missions meet a wide range of welfare and development goals ranging from building disaster warning systems, communication and navigation, tele-education, remote sensing technology development, international cooperation, defence strategy boosting, climate change technology development hence it is crucial for a country like India to boost its space programs further.
In the current geo-political climate as well, it is inevitable to not venture into combat technology development missions be it for air, water, land or the outer space. The outer space program development by allies and enemy countries is a compelling factor in itself, one for deterrence and the other for global image building which goes a long way in impacting geo-political relations, trade benefits, resource exchange, training and developmental exercises, knowledge sharing and for sustainable development.
The way forward for India is to also focus on development of specific disaster responsiveness technology. ISRO also aims to send first manned missions ‘Gaganyaan’ to space by 2022.For the year 2019 ISRO aims for with 32 planned missions (14 launch vehicles, 17 satellites and 1 Tech demo missions). This includes the most complex Chandrayaan-2, which is the 25th mission from SLP (second launch pad), and the development flights of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV). The country would meet the high throughput bandwidth requirement of Digital India and also in-flight connectivity with the launch of GSAT-20. The year 2019 is the birth centenary of the founding father of Indian Space Programme, Vikram A Sarabhai and this year marks the entry of India into space deterrence technology which is certainly the best tribute of the year so far.