The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS) 1C satellite- third of the seven satellites that are to be shot into the space- as a part of its efforts to develop a regional navigation system that is at par with the Global Positioning System (GPS) of the United States of America. The launch is scheduled at 1:56 am on October 10 this year from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.
The GPS system was developed during the Cold War in 1960s in response to Russia’s launch of Sputnik in 1957. Initially conceived and developed for military purposes, it consisted of a network of satellites orbiting the earth that would send signals to anyone with a GPS receiver. It was only in 1983, when the USSR had shot down a Korean passenger aircraft that the US thought of extending the GPS system to civilian applications in order to help organize the shipping, aircraft and transport routes and positions by ensuring that trespassing foreign territory is checked. With repeated launches and gradual progress, the GPS today is a network of 30 satellites that is used for navigation applications, route finding, map-making, earthquake research and climate research.
India had launched first of its satellites, IRNSS-1A-, from Sriharikota on July 1, 2013 and then the second one, IRNSS-1B, in April this year. The IRNSS is supposed to be operational once four out of its seven satellites are launched into the space by 2015. It could be used for military as well as civilian purpose like terrestrial, aerial and marine Navigation; disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management; integration with mobile phones; precise timing, mapping and geodetic data capture; terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travelers; and visual and voice navigation for drivers.
However, one of the crucial contributions of this system is its utility in managing air traffic that is currently dependent on the instrument landing system (ILS). The IRNSS can be used in place of GPS by GAGAN, which is a satellite-based navigation system that manages air traffic. By making this switch from ILS, costs will also reduce apart from acquiring a positional accuracy of 1.5 metres for aircraft in flight. This in turn makes the entire process efficient and less exhaustive of India’s finances.
This is the second instance when the world has turned its gaze towards ISRO. While mangalyaan– the Indian Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is still underway as it keeps streaming more pictures and information to the headquarters in Bangalore, the announced launch of IRNSS 1c will help India foreground its reputation in the realm of world space research. So far a handful of countries have been able to establish positioning systems. These include Russia’s Glonass and Europe’s Galileo. China and Japan also have similar systems, ‘Beidou’ and ‘Quasi Zenith’. The IRNSS, as stated by an ISRO official, is similar to these existing systems. However, unlike these systems that have eventually scaled up from regional to global, IRNSS is regional system with a range that extends up to 1500 kilometers beyond country borders.
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