With IRSO succeeding in its first inter-planetary Mars Orbiter Mission making India the only country to achieve this feat in its maiden attempt, 2014 was not only momentous but a very busy year for the space sector.
The year saw two successful launches of GSLVs and five foreign satellites in the orbit. The country’s space agency also tested the atmospheric re-entry of a crew module towards realising its ambition to send humans into space.
At the start of the year, ISRO launched GSLV-D5 through use of indigenous cryogenic technology and injected GSAT-14 communication satellite into the intended orbit, announcing India’s entry into the heavy satellite launch market.
Launching a GSLV with an indigenous cryogenic engine has been a major challenge for ISRO since 2001 after multiple unsuccessful attempts. Only two of a total of seven attempts succeeded, four were a failure and another a partial success. In April, it successfully launched its IRNSS 1B, its second navigational satellite, onboard PSLV-C24 from Sriharikota.
IRNSS-1B, the second of the seven satellites planned under the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).
In June, ISRO launched five foreign satellites for four countries on board PSLV-C23 rocket which placed them in orbit, an achievement described by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an ‘endorsement’ of the country’s space capabilities.
Besides its primary payload of 714 kg French Earth Observation Satellite SPOT-7, the rocket carried and placed in orbit 14 kg AISAT of Germany, NLS7.1 (CAN-X4) and NLS7.2 (CAN-X5) of Canada, each weighing 15 kg, and the 7 kg VELOX-1 of Singapore.
However, its biggest feat came in September when the Mars Orbiter Mission was successfully inserted in the red planet’s orbit. ISRO not only received accolades nationally, but also on global platform.
The space agency also launched communications satellite GSAT-16 by the European launcher Ariane 5 VA221, from the Kourou space port in French Guiana.
GSAT-16’s 48 transponders – 12 in the C band, 12 in the extended C and 24 in the Ku band – cover the entire country and the Andaman & Nicobar islands.
On December 18, taking its baby steps towards realising India’s ambition to send humans into space, the Department of Space tested the atmospheric reentry of a crew module after its heaviest launch vehicle GSLV Mk-III capable of carrying heavier payloads up to four tonnes- blasted off from Sriharikota.
Weighing over three tonnes, the 2.7-metre tall cup cake shaped crew module with a diameter of 3.1 metres, which features aluminium alloy internal structure with composite panels and ablative thermal protection systems, was made to safely drop down into the sea by specially-made parachutes.
The experiment also witnessed the largest parachute in action ever made in the country. The main parachute, which helped the crew module touch the waters at around 7 metre/second speed, was 31 metres in diameter.
At the international level, India and China agreed to cooperate on research and development of scientific experiment, remote sensing satellites and communication satellites.
In October, India and Mexico formally agreed on a cooperation in areas related to the peaceful use of the outer space, such as remote sensing and satellite communication.