India Launches Own Navigational Satellite IRNSS, Aims To Replace GPS, GLONASS

India’s ambitious space program has been under praise for being extremely frugal and at the same time, equally successful. Continuing its string of successes, India’s NASA equivalent, ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) yesterday launched the second of its seven IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System) satellites into space. The IRNSS-1B as the satellite is known was sent aboard ISRO’s PSLV C-24 launch vehicle. This was the 25th successive successful launch of the tried and tested PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket, India’s most successful rocket ever.

It was a picture perfect launch when the 44.4 meter tall PSLV-C24 took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota at 5:14 pm local time. It took a mere 19 minutes for the PSLV to safely inject the 1,432 kg IRNSS – 1B satellite in its intended elliptical orbit of 283 km X 20,630 km, which is very close to the intended orbit. According to ISRO, there would be five orbit maneuvers to position the satellite in its Geosynchronous Circular Orbit at 55 deg East longitude.

As the norm has been, ISRO scientists congratulated each other in the mission control room.

“The PSLV, in its 25th successive successful flight, precisely injected India’s second regional navigational satellite IRNSS-1B very precisely,” an elated ISRO chief K Radhakrishan said.

The ISRO plans two more IRNSS missions later this year when it will launch the IRNSS 1C and the IRNSS 1D. The first of the IRNSS satellites was successfully launched back in July 2013.

The launch of the IRNSS series of satellites will bring India’s aim of having its own series of navigational satellites and establishing an independent regional space based navigational system closer to reality, reports the Indian Express. The ISRO has a total budget of Rs. 1,420 crore, (Rs.14.2 Billion) for the entire IRNSS program. Once all the satellites are up and functional, India will have its own GPS equivalent that would also be usable by countries that are located at least 1500 km from its boundary.

Currently the world primarily uses US’ Global Positioning System (GPS) which has become synonymous as an important navigational tool. Of late Russia’s GLONASS too has been trickling down to end users as an effective navigation systems worldwide. While India doesn’t have such a global aim at this juncture, the country is currently one of the few select countries that claim to have their own navigational systems up. While it would be only until 2015 that all of the IRNSS satellites are up in orbit, ISRO officials say that IRNSS as a service should be started even with a minimum of four satellites in orbit.

India has also in the past sent a mission to the moon called the Chandrayaan. Currently, a Mars mission named the Mangalyaan too is underway.