With the launch of the IRNSS-1E satellite On Wednesday morning, India moved a step closer to completing its network of satellites that will form a space-based regional navigation system providing location services over India and neighbouring areas. In other words, our very own kind of GPS.
The IRNSS-1E, which was launched on Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C31, from Sriharikota, is the fifth of the seven satellites that will make the constellation. The remaining two are scheduled to be launched before March this year.
Watch Video: ISRO launches India’s fifth navigation satellite IRNSS-1E
IRNSS stands for Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System. Once the system is complete and comes into use, it will provide an alternative to the US-developed GPS, or global positioning system that is so commonly used in a variety of applications.
The IRNSS is ‘regional’ and will cover the area over India and 1,500 km from India’s political boundaries, unlike the GPS which is ‘global’. However, because it is specific to the Indian region, it is expected to be even more accurate than the GPS. The GPS system uses 24 satellites at present though it can support a constellation of 30 satellites. The actual number of satellites in use at a given time varies.
The IRNSS constellation had already started working after the launch of the fourth satellite in March last year, the minimum number required to make the system operational. ISRO and some educational institutions already receive the data and use it for developing some location solutions. The fifth and the subsequent two satellites will make the system stronger and more reliable.
The development of IRNSS has happened alongside that of GAGAN (GPS-Aided Geo Augmentation Navigation) which is meant for navigation services for civil aircraft over the Indian region. GAGAN, which was authorised for use by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation in April 2015, can also provide services to other sectors like highways, railways, maritime transport, survey, telecom, etc. The plan is to integrate IRNSS and GAGAN with Bhuvan, a satellite-based mapping service for the Indian mainland developed by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) a few years ago.
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