THE INDIAN SPACE PROGRAM
The primary objective of the Indian Space Program is to achieve self-reliance in space technology and develop application driven programs to meet its national needs. Space technology in India is primarily geared towards improving telecommunication and meteorological forecasting. Equally important goals are improving distance education, providing advanced natural disaster warning, remote sensing for agriculture, soil, mineral and water resource management.
India's first operational Earth Observation satellite IRS-1A, an 850 kg satellite was launched into a 900km polar orbit on 17th March 1988 by a Soviet rocket. Within a span of ten years from that time, in the year 1997, India used her own rocket PSLV to place IRS-1D into polar orbit. With the development of PSLV, India has the capability to place into polar orbit satellites that weigh upto 1,200 kg. The Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) system has the largest constellation of commercial earth observation providing data in a variety of spatial and spectral resolutions.
India's first operational telecommunications satellite is INSAT-1A, launched by a NASA Delta rocket on 10th April 1982. Since then India relied on European Space Agency's Ariane rockets to launch the INSAT series satellites into geo-stationary orbit.
On April 18, 2001, India blasted into the elite space club of heavy satellite launchers with the successful test-flight of GSLV-D1. The successful launch of India's first educational communication satellite "EDUSAT" by GSLV-F01 on September 20, 2004 heralds the operational reliability of the heavy lifter to Geostationary orbits.
Turning a new page in its modest space odyssey, the Indian Space Research Organization successfully launched Indias first unmanned mission to moon, Chandrayaan-1 on October 22, 2008 at 6.22 AM IST atop the PSLV-C11 launcher. Chandrayaan-1 carried 11 scientific instruments to prepare 3-dimentional chemical and mineralogical mapping of the lunar surface. The payload consisted of five Indian instruments, two from NASA, three from ESA and one from Bulgaria. A Moon Impact Probe (MIP) consisting of an Altimeter, a Video Imager and a Mass spectrometer was released from the final orbit of 100 KM above the moon's surface on November 14, 2008. Chandrayaan-1 marks the beginning of deep space exploration by ISRO. It is slated to be followed by Chandrayaan-2, a moon lander/rover by 2012, mission to Mars by 2014 and a planned Manned Mission by 2015. For latest information, follow my blog: Chandrayaan-1: India's First Mission to the Moon.
Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO is responsible for marketing to international customers and PSLV launcher has launched several mid-small sized foreign satellites/payloads, including one astronomy satellite for Italy and one remote-sensing satellite for Israel successfully in 2007. In a major commercial deal, ISRO has built and delivered a 3,462 kg Telecom satellite with 32 transponders to Europe's EADS Astrium and was successfully launched by Ariane 5 Rocket on December 20, 2008.