The brand new ISRO Navigation Centre (INC) at the Indian Deep Space Network will be the nerve centre of the country’s forthcoming navigational satellite constellation, ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan said after the centre was opened on Tuesday.

Located at ISRO’s saucer-like Byalalu sprawl near Bangalore, the centre was ceremonially launched by Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanasamy

“The centre will come alive in time to handle the country’s first regional navigational satellite, R1A, gets launched at midnight on June 12,” Dr. Radhakrishnan said. The satellite will be launched on the PSLV vehicle from Sriharikota.

6 more spacecraft

Six more navigational spacecraft (named R1B, R1C and so on) will follow in the next three years to form the IRNSS constellation, which is termed India’s own regional GPS. These satellites will give data on the position, navigation and time of persons or objects to a range of users.

INC houses a high stability atomic clock to keep precise time and reference, pool and synthesise navigational messages and coordinate 21 ground stations across the country. The navigation fleet in space will give positional accuracy of within 10 metres. Its users will be from aerospace, military, all transport systems, geo information of the Survey of India and to an extent for personal mobility.

Avinash Chander, DRDO’s Chief Controller R&D (missiles & strategic systems) and Vice-President of the event co-host, the Astronautical Society of India (ASI), said the country was proud of the regional navigation system, IRNSS, which had been put together in seven years.

While space-based navigation, along with communication, satellite imageries and information have become vital to the military, “we are looking for many more things to happen in the aerospace community [in] missiles, defence and others. We also have challenges ahead of us, [such as] widening the frequency bands, high-resolution sensors, intelligence gathering and protecting our space assets,” he said.

The Byalalu campus has large antennas of 32-metre and 18-m diameter to track planetary projects such as the Mars and the lunar missions.

The Mars orbiter mission will take off in October or early November so as to leave Earth’s atmosphere by November 27, Dr. Radhakrishnan said.

ASI awards

The Minister also presented annual awards of the 1,400-member ASI to 29 scientists. The ASI includes space, aviation and military scientists.

DRDO Director General V.K. Saraswat and space propulsion veteran A.E. Muthunayagam were conferred the Aryabhatta lifetime awards for 2011 and 2010.

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