ISRO IRNSS, GAGAN to be game-changers across sectors

The country is getting set to usher in its own regional “GPS” or navigational satellite system around 2015-16, top officials of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said here on Wednesday.

Starting with R1A, the first of the seven satellites due for launch around June this year, the rest will be sent into orbit over the next 18 months, they said. Once fully in place, satellite-based navigation would be a game-changer for many sectors and especially, for civil aviation and airport operations, ISRO Chairman and Department of Space Secretary K. Radhakrishnan said.

He was addressing a two-day national conference on space-based navigation co-sponsored by ISRO and attended by hardware makers, civil and military user agencies and the Airports Authority of India. “With IRNSS we expect to provide positional accuracy of 10-20 metres (far better than what the U.S. GPS currently offers) over a radius of 1,500 km around India,” he said. R1A sat fully assembled on the ISITE campus here and would be moved to Sriharikota soon. R1B awaited its turn next.

The ground station for the IRNSS was ready and users can check into the system once the first four spacecraft become operational.

Dr. Radhakrishnan also urged hardware industry to make user-friendly, multi-use navigational receivers by the time IRNSS started operating.

DRDO’s Chief Controller, R&D, Avinash Chander, said that the defence sector looked forward to a reliable and secure Indian navigational satellite system that would give the Armed Forces an operational edge.

It would use positional and time information from it while using missiles or smart bombs and in unmanned and robotic warfare.

“For defence, [the IRNSS] has been a major requirement. We have been always concerned about GPS or GLONASS [respectively run by the U.S. and the Russian military] being switched off at critical times,” he said.

Alongside the regional system, ISRO and AAI were ready with the GPS-improvement system, GAGAN (GPS-aided GEO Augmented Navigation), later this year, said Director of ISRO Satellite Centre S.K. Shivakumar said. GAGAN payloads were on two satellites (GSAT-8 and 10) and the third would follow on GSAT-15 in a year or so.

GAGAN would be formally certified around end-June and would mainly benefit aviation; it would provide pilots with superior position and time data over what is now available through GPS.

AAI Chairman V.P. Agarwal said that GAGAN, when operational in late 2013, would create straight and direct air routes, vastly improve precise take-offs and landings and save 5 per cent of airlines’ fuel bills.

It would benefit banking and financial networks, power grids, precision agriculture, land, sea and air transport.