India builds its own GPS — independent of America
A bit closer to regional GPS, thanks to PSLV
We all know how useful the GPS (U.S.-owned) is in our day to day life. For a negligible cost, it tacks and spots moving cars, trucks, buses, aircrafts, ships, and anything precious. The Global Positioning System is a product of America’s innovation in use of satellite technology for both civilian and military use. The GPS architecture is based on the deployment of dozens of satellites in the sky which, in adjunct with ground-based customized receivers, help to continuously track ground-based objects.
India, for that matter many other nations in the world, however, fear that America can deny access to GPS at will, if it so desires—either for political or military considerations. So, countries like Russia, China, European Union have embarked upon plans to have their own satellite-based positioning systems, independent of the American GPS. The Russian system is known as GLONASS, Chinese as BeiDou, and European as Galileo. All the three are in different stages of completion.
India has embarked upon a plan to launch a similar, but truncated version of the positioning system. The Indian system known as Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) will offer positioning services to objects in the country and upto a distance of 1500 kilometers beyond its borders. For meeting India’s civilian and military needs, this is adequate. The IRNSS would provide two services — Standard Positioning Service for civilian use, and an encrypted and Restricted Service for armed forces. The IRNSS will have a total of seven satellites working in tandem to offer the user high definition location positions.
India’s work horse, its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLVs) are being used to loft the satellites to their slots in space. The third of the seven rockets was launched on October 16, 2014 by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) marking the 27th successful launches by the highly dependable PSLV rockets. For the scientists and engineers at ISRO, who work so dedicatedly for the flawless launches, no amount of adulation will be adequate. The whole nation salutes them for their ingenuity, commitment and expertise. The earlier successful Chandryaan-1 mission and the recent trail-blazing Mars mission would not have been possible without the PSLV rockets.
The constellation of seven satellites is the space component of the Indian GPS architecture. In the ground, India will have to develop its own receiving devices and permanent stations to make use of the signal from the satellites. This formidable task is being done by the Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre of ISRO.
First-stage trials of these indigenously-developed receiving devices will soon be conducted. Chips for use in small hand-held devices are also being developed. Once successful, the Indian GPS will have huge demand inside the country. If everything goes well, a sizeable commercial bonanza awaits ISRO from this IRNSS venture. It will take the wind out of the sails of the critics both inside the country and abroad, who criticize India’s investment in space technology.