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Basic: What does ISRO do?

1. When something is sent to space, it can be Manned (with astronauts) or Unmanned (without astronauts). 2. The unmanned missions have two things: Examples One Launch Vehicle PSLV, GSLV

One or More Satellite(s) INSAT, RISAT, CARTOSAT. sometimes, instead of satellites, it can be rovers, space telescopes.

The Launch Vehicle (e.g. PSLV, GSLV) sends the satellite(s) into the space. After covering a particular distance, the satellite (e.g. INSAT, GISAT) gets detached from the Launch Vehicle. Then Satellite opens up its wings like a butterfly from cocoon. Those wings have solar panels, they provide electricity to the satellite. Satellite rotates around the earth and sends signals to and frothus it helps in telecommunication, TV signal broadcasting, disaster/weather monitoring, sea navigation etc. If we put the satellite @35800 km in the equatorial plane, itll appear fixed from any point on earth, and well call it a Geostationary satellite. And the Launch vehicle then returns back to Earth, usually falling in the ocean or uninhibited land. The scientists collect the launch vehicle and re-use its parts for next mission.

Basics: ISS

ISS= International space station. ISS is like a hostel in the space. Astronauts go there, stay for some weeks/ months do some observation, research, repairwork and come back home.

US, Japan, Russia, Canada and many other countries have invested in this ISS space station. But China is not a partner in ISS project. China wants to build its own Space station. Thats were Shenzhous-9 and Tiangong-1 come into picture.

Basics: Tiangong and Shenzhou

Tiangong-1= means heavenly palace. This is Chinas experimental space station. So this is the hostel for Chinese astronauts in space. Ok but how will you send Chinese astronauts to this heavenly palace? Ans. Via Shenzhou spacecraft. Shenzhou means Divine vessel. In 2012, China used this divine vessel (Shenzhou 9) to send its first female astronaut Liu Yang to that Heavenly palace (Tiangong-1) In 2013, China will send more astronauts to that Heavenly palace (Tiangong-1), using Shenzhou 10.

Basics: Atlantis Space shuttle

Ok recap again, to send satellites in the space, you need a launch vehicle (e.g. PSLV, GSLV). Similarly to send people into space, you need a space craft / rocket e.g. Chinas Shenzhou. Americas Atlantis and Russias Soyuz also do the same thing. The Atlantis is a space shuttle of NASA. It looks like an airplane. Atlantis can be used for launching space telescopes, satellites as well as people in to the space, as per the mission requirements. And Atlantis can come back and land on earth like a regular airplane (except that during the landing, Atlantis will open parachute to reduce its speed). It had carried 33 missions from 1985 to 2011 Atlantis was retired in 2012. Columbia is another example of NASAs Space Shuttle. But in 2003, it crashed during re-entering into Earths atmosphere. India born female astronaut Kalpana Chawla died in this accident. We named our Weather satellite after her (KALPANA-1).

Basics: Soyuz spacecraft

Just like China uses divine vessel (Shenzhou) to send people into space, similarly Russia uses Soyuz to send people into space. In 2012, three astronauts (including Sunita Williams) were sent to International space station (ISS) using Soyuz.

Basics: spacewalking

There are two types of missions/probes: Manned and unmanned. Manned = sending people into space. But what do people do in the space? o They go to moon, hoist the flag of their nations, E.g. Neil Armstrong. o They spend a few months on the international space station (ISS) or Heavenly Palace (Tiangong) or similar hostel (space station. E.g. Indias first astronaut Rakesh Sharma spent 8 days in a Russian space station. But often the outside body a spacecraft/hostel (space station) requires some repairing, maintenance or upgrades. So, when astronaut goes out of the spacecraft, wearing that white suit and ballon shaped helmet and does some walking/repairing work, that is known as spacewalk. Currently Sunita Williams holds the longest spacewalk record for females. (50+ hours). For males, it is Anatoly Solovyev (77+ hours). By the way, Sunita Williams also holds the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman. (195 days).

Basics: Dragon capsule

Ok so far we know there are hostels in the space (e.g. ISS, Tiangong). People go there, spend a few weeks / months. But if it is a hostel, itd require food and supplies. A private company (Space X) has designed the Dragon capsule to deliver the food and supplies to space stations. It successfully delivered cargo to ISS space station in 2012.

Basics: Anti-satellite missiles

We have learned the importance of launch vehicles, satellites and space stations. But if an enemy shoots down our satellites then our banking and sharemarket system will collapse, Our army, navy and airforce will not be able to attack back effectively, and more importantly juntaa will not be able to watch IPL matches and saas-bahu serials or log into facebook and orkut. Back in 2007, Chinese military used an Anti-Satellite missile to destroy its own weather satellite. This made Americans (and Indians) very nervous. But we have Agni-V missile. It has range of 5000kms. If we make some modifications in it, we can also use it to destroy enemy satellites. So now China is also nervous.

Basics part is over. now lets get to business: Space Tech related current affairs (2012-13) for rapid revision. First well look at the space programs of India, US, Russia, China and other countries. Then well look at telescopes and Persons in News (Space)

Space programs: India

Carried out by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman=Dr. K. Radhakrishnan. He had replaced G Madhavan Nair. (First Chairman of ISRO was Vikram Sarabhai.) Banglore Shriharikota, Andhra. We usually launch satellites from here. (or from French Guiana in S.America). Ahmedabad Banglore

HQ Satish Dhawan Space centre Physics research lab Antrix

Indias Launch Vehicles: PSLV vs GSLV

PSLV Polar satellite launch vehicle Can carry upto 1600 kg satellite Used for launching Indian remote sensing satellites (IRS) such as CARTOSAT, RISAT, OCEANSAT, RESOURCESAT Latest version is PSLV-XL. Can carry upto 1750 kg. It was used to launch Chandrayaan, RISAT. And in future, itll be used for Mars mission as well.

GSLV Geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle 2500kg For launching Indian National satellites (INSAT) such as INSAT 2E, 3A., GSAT2,8,12. Next version is GSLV MK-III, can carry upto 4000kg

Indias Satellites: IRS vs INSAT

IRS Indian remote sensing satellites Monitoring natural resources, crops, minerals, forest cover etc. Launched using PSLV. INSAT Indian National satellites (INSAT) Telecom, TV broadcast, DTH, weather forecasting, telemedicine, teleeducation, search and rescue etc. Using GSLV.

Examples of IRS = CARTOSAT, Examples of INSAT= INSAT-2E, RISAT, OCEANSAT, 3A,. And GSAT-2,8,12. RESOURCESAT Now lets take a look at the satellites that have been in news recently (or mentioned in Yearbook) Aditya-1 Astrosate-1

For studying Solar Coronas. For astronomy.


ISRO is building this remote sensing satellite. It can take images of earth with resolution of 0.25 meters. Itll be used for cartography and high resolution mapping. Geo Imaging Satellite. Itll be positioned 36,000 kms above the earth. Itll be used for disaster management, border security. This is Indias heaviest satellite so far. It was ISROs 101st mission. It was launched French Guiana. It also carried second payload of GAGAN. (First payload of GAGAN was sent via GSAT-8). Itll increase Indias telecommunication signals. Indian Navy will also use it for communication. after serving for 13 years, this satellite completed its mission life in 2012. Weather satellite (meteorology), search and rescue operations. At present Indias meterological observation is done by two satellites Kalpana-1 and INSET 3A. This INSAT 3D is more powerful and advanced. RISAT-1 is Indias first radar imaging satellite It can scan the earth surface during both day and night, even in cloudy conditions. So it is an all weather satellite. Use= paddy monitoring and management of natural disaster like flood and cyclone. It was launched using PSLV-XL launch vehicle.








Indo-French satellite SARAL= Satellite with ARgos and ALtiKa. It was launched From Sriharikota, Andhra. Itll be used for marine meteorology, oceanography climate monitoring etc.

ISROs first mission was to send aryabhatta Satellite into space. But at that time we did not have our own launch vehicle, so we used a Russian launch vehicle. Today ISRO has both Satellite + Launch vehicle. And we not only send our own satellites, we also help other countries send their satellites into space, using our launch vehicles. (ofcourse after taking cash for providing the Taxi/courier service.) For these type of commercial activities, ISRO takes help of Antarix. Antarix is a Government owned company, it works as the marketing and commercial arm of ISRO.

ISROs 100th mission

ISROs 100th mission was launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriarikota, Andhra Pradesh. Here, ISRO launched two foreign satellites using PSLV launch vehicle. The name of satellites are:

1. SPOT 6: French satellite 2. Proiteres: Japanese micro satellite

By the way, recall that ISROs 101st mission was GSAT 10. And GSAT 10 is the heaviest satellite ISRO has launched so far. (because 100th mission is extremely clichd and blown out of proportion, so if UPSC wants to apply its BackbreakingTM move, itd rather ask about 99th or 101st mission hahaha).

Indias own GPS: IRNSS

At present only three countries have their own global navigation systems



Russia GLONASS. More discussed in earlier article click me China


To deploy a global navigation system, you need to setup lots of satellites hovering around the world, so they can scan and sent pinpoint location of anywhere to anywhere. During the Iraq war, the Americans sent wrong GPS navigation signals to the Iraqi jets and missiles, therefore Iraqis could not attack Americans forces in accurate manner. Moral of the story = Dont rely on other peoples navigation system. For the short term, We (India) are designing our missiles and fighter jets in such way that they can use both GPS (American) and GLONASS (Russian) signals for navigation. (so if we want to attack America or its ally, we can rely on GLONASS and vice versa.) But for long term, we will need our own GPS like system. Therefore, ISRO is developing IRNSS. IRNSS= Indian regional navigational satellite system. Now if you connect the dots: we need our own GPS (IRNSS) so we can accurately attack enemies. And we will need our own Antisatellite missile, to shoot down satellites of enemies so their GPS cannot work accurately.


GPS aided geo augmented navigation (gagan) It is a joint effort by the ISRO and the Airports Authority Of India (AAI). Its main use is to help Air traffic control and helps pilots fly / land aircrafts in bad weather. But as the name suggests GPS aided meaning it is not a separate independent navigation system. It depends on GPS (American navigation system). Therefore we need IRNSS.

Space Vision India 2025

This is what ISRO plans to for future: 1. Use satellites for rural connectivity, security and mobile services 2. Increase imaging capability for natural resource management, weather and climate change studies 3. Get better understanding of solar system and universe 4. explore planets. 5. Develop Heavy lift launcher 6. Develop Reusable Launch Vehicles. 7. Send Humans to space.

Cryogenic Engine

Cryogenic engines work at very low temperature. ISRO is developing cryogenic engines 1. for GSLV launch vehicles. 2. for Chandrayaan-2 moon mission earlier ISRO had tried this in 2010 but it was an #EPICFAIL.


It was Indias first unmanned moon mission. It found evidence of water on Moon. It also did the surved the topography, craters, polar regions and environment of Moon. This happened in 2008 hence too old and too clichd to be asked for MCQs. ISRO is now working on Chandrayaan-2 joint programme with the Russian Federal Space Agency, But Russians suffered a setback due to their Phobos grunt mission.

Mars Mission

India planning a Mars mission similar to Curiosity mission of NASA. (probably in October/November 2013.) Mohan made official announcement about this during Independence day speech. Mars mission will be launched using PSLV-XL. PSLV-XL is the most powerful version of PSLV launch vehicle. Earlier it was used for Chandrayaan Mission, RISAT and GSAT-12.

This leads to Essay / group discussion / interview topic that when millions of Indians are suffering from poverty and malnutrition, whats point of spending crores of rupees on Moon and Mars mission? But this article is written for MCQs, so lets not dwell into that for the moment.

Space programs: USA (NASA)

NASA=National Aeronautics and Space Administration. There is no end to NASA missions either, but from the current affairs point of view, I would classify them into three: 1) Mars related 2) Moon related 3) Misc.

USA: MARS related Curiosity

This is Maha clichd topic for MCQs but anyways Name of the mission is MSL: Mars Science laboratory. Under this MSL mission, NASA launched Curiosity rover to Mars in 2011. In 2012, Curiosity rover successfully landed on Mars surface. This mission has following aims

1. Did life ever exist on Mars? 2. Find presence of water, and other life supporting elements. 3. Collect data related to geology, radiation levels etc. for planning next manned mission to Mars. Device on Curiosity



Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument It is used for soil analysis on Mars. CheMin found that minerals on the Red Planet are similar to those found in volcanic soils in Hawaii

Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS) TLS

Presence of methane in a planets atmosphere

indicates that life may have existed in the past. TLS analysed a small sample of Martian air and detected very small amount of methane.

Gale Crater

Located on Mars planet. Curiosity rover landed here and found signs that water may have flowed in the past through this Gale Crater.

Black Beauty

It is a 320 gram space rock from Mars. Discovered in Moroccos Sahara Desert in 2011 It contains more water than any other Martian meteorite previously found. could unlock vital clues to the evolution of Mars.

NASA: Moon related

Ebb and Flow, Sally Ride

Two NASA spacecraft Ebb and Flow, equipped with MoonKAMs. They were orbiting around Moon since 2011 under GRAIL mission. But they did not have sufficient altitude or fuel to continue science operations. Hence NASA team crash-landed them on Moon in Dec 2012. The place where they crash landed is named after Sally K. Ride, Americas first woman astronaut. Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) To study the gravity field and geological structure of the Moon.



NASAs Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing satellite, It has detected presence of water locked inside the soil of moon. MoonKAM= Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students. The MoonKams captures images of the moons surface and sends them to the students for study.


NASA: Misc. Missions


It found evidence of water on Titan. Titan is the largest moon of Saturn planet. Dragon capsule was designed by a private company space X. (and not by NASA) It delivered food, supplies and cargo to International space station. It was launched using Flacon 9 rocket. It is a small satellite designed by NASA aimed to capture the details of the lightening that happens in deep space. This will help solving the mystery of terrestrial gamma rays, or TGFs. It is a space observatory of NASA. It is used for discovering earth like plants. Mercury is the innermost planet in the Solar System. NASAs MESSENGER spacecraft has reported presence of water-ice on Mercury.

Dragon Space X

Fire Fly Cubesat

Kepler telescope

Mercury Messenger


NuSTAR (the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) It is a space-based X-ray telescope. NASA launched this under Pegasus mission. NuSTAR telescope will use high power X-rays to locate black holes, collapsed stars and supernova remnants. web-based tool for predicting and forecasting the radiation environment in near-Earth, lunar and Martian space. It will provide critical information as preparations are made for potential future manned missions to the Moon and Mars.


Space Programs: Russia

Luna Glob Robotic Lunar Mission in 2015. Mars500 Phobos Grunt Rus Soyuz rocket Joint experiments conducted by EU, Russia, China for sending human missions on Mars. Mars has two moons. Phobos is the largest of them.Russian sent Phobos grunt mission to study it. But the spacecraft failed and crashed into Pacific ocean. Name of the two seater spaceship developed by Russia Launched from Kazakhstan, carried three astronauts to International space station (ISS), including Sunita Williams in 2012.

Space Programs: China


Before Beidou, only two countries had Navigation systems: USA= GPS and Russia= GLONASS. Beidou is Chinas own version of global navigation system.

Project will be fully operational by 2020. Hard x-ray modulation telescope Chinas first space telescope. for studying blackholes. (recall that Americas NuSTAR is also meant for studying blackholes). Chinas next manned space mission. It will also carry Chinese astronauts to Tiangong1. It means divine Vessel. Manned space mission of China. It carried Chinas first woman astronaut Liu Yang to an orbiting module Tiangong-1. Tiangong-1 means Heavenly palace- it is Chinas prototype for future space station similar to ISS.




Yaogan Chinasat

For crop assessment and disaster management. It is chinas new military communication satellite.

Space Programs: Other countries


Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) South Korea will launch this satellite and gain entry to an elite global space club that includes Asian powers China, India and Japan. Earlier USA did not let S.Korea developed launch vehicles for the fear of arms race between North and South Korea. Pishgam =name of Monkey that was recently sent to space and returned back, under Iranian space mission. In Farsi, Pishgam = Pioneer.



There are two types of telescopes:

1. Those on the ground (e.g. SKA, Solar telescope in Ladakh) and 2. Those in the space. (Kepler, NuSTAR, HXMT and Herschel.)

^this list is not exhaustive, but these telescopes were in news recently.

Ground telescopes

Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

worlds largest and most sensitive radio telescope will be completed in 2024 Will be setup in South Africa and Australia. Applications: signal transport, signal processing, computing, software and data archiving India is actively involved in this project Also known as National Large Solar Telescope (NLST) Will be built in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir by Dept of Science and Technology. This will be worlds largest solar telescope. Can work in both day and night. Will help in understanding sunspots: process of their creation and decay. Sunspots and solar winds pose a threat to the communication system on earth as well as space satellites.

Solar telescope

Space telescopes Herschel

largest space telescope ever launched (2009)


It is named after Sir William Herschel who had discovered Uranus planet. This telescope is in news, because soon its onboard liquid helium supply will be exhausted and itll stop working. Helium is required to cool the instruments on Herschele space telescope. Hard x-ray modulation telescope Chinas first space telescope. for studying blackholes. (recall that Americas NuSTAR is also meant for studying blackholes). Launched in 2009. To discover earth like planets. Kepler was a German astronomer who gave laws to describe the motion of planets around the Sun. China





NuSTAR (the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) It is a space-based X-ray telescope. NASA launched this under Pegasus mission. US NuSTAR telescope will use high power Xrays to locate black holes, collapsed stars and supernova remnants.

PIN: Persons in News (Space)

Liu Yang Neil Armstrong first Chinese woman astro. Apollo 11. 1969. First man to land on moon. Dead.

Sally Ride

First American woman astro. Dead. A Moon crate named after her. Longest space walk (female).Took command of international space station in Sep 12. ISRO Chairman.

Sunita Williams Dr. K. Radhakrishnan Finally two topics:

1. CERN, God particle= 2. Blue Moon= Ok so these were the notable Space tech related events/ terms happened during Jan 2012 to March 2013. If you feel any important thing was missed, or if there is any correction, do write it in the comments be