Interview with Satyabrata Mookherjee, Union Minister of State (Space).
What is the main thrust of India's space programme and where does the country stand?
The Indian space programme is primarily directed towards the development and application of space technology in a self-reliant manner for societal benefit. Over the last three decades, we have established space systems that have become an important part of our national developmental infrastructure - the INSAT system for telecommunication, television broadcasting, meteorological services and disaster warning and the India Remote sensing Satellite (IRS) system for resources monitoring and management. We have achieved self-reliance in designing and building state-of-the-art INSAT and IRS satellites. The IRS satellites are now launched using our own launch vehicle, PSLV, and the commissioning of GSLV in May last, after its second successful test flight, has made us self-reliant to launch 2-tonne class communication satellites.
What is India's position among the space-faring nations?
Among the Asian countries, India is only the third country to have capability to design and develop satellites and launch vehicles. More important, we have established a leadership in satellite technology especially through our world class remote sensing satellites and state-of-the-art communication satellites. Today, the data from our remote sensing satellites are received world wide on commercial basis and the capacity on our INSATs has been leased to international customers. With the commissioning of the GSLV, we have become only the sixth country to acquire geo-synchronous launch capability.
How do you visualise India's space programme in the next five to ten years?
Having laid a strong foundation, we will, in the coming years, constantly upgrade our space systems both in terms of capacity and technological capability. The forthcoming INSAT satellites, INSAT-4 series, will have more transponders with better output power. Emphasis will be for specific applications. For example, an exclusive satellite for education, EDUSAT, will be launched by GSLV in the coming year. In the remote sensing area, RESOURCESAT is scheduled for launch this year and CARTOSAT-1, an exclusive satellite for mapping applications, is planned next year. These will be followed by RISAT, which will have day and night observation capability and even under cloudy conditions. Space science will receive impetus through ASTROSAT and planetary missions that are proposed to be initiated with an unmanned spacecraft to the moon.