A Guide to ISRO || History, Achievements, and Iconic Women Scientists

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The Government of India’s pioneer space exploration agency, based in Bengaluru, is the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). In 1969, ISRO was established with a vision of developing and harnessing space technology in national development while pursuing research in planetary exploration and space science. ISRO replaced its predecessor, INCOSPAR (Indian National Space Research Committee), established in 1962 by the first Prime Minister of India, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, and Vikram Sarabhai, a scientist, is considered among the founding fathers of the Indian space program.

History of Indian space research

India’s rocketry experience began in ancient times when the country first used fireworks, a technology invented in neighboring China that had an extensive two-way exchange of ideas and goods linked by the Silk Road with India. William Congreve was inspired by Tipu Sultan’s military use of rockets during the Mysore War against the British to invent the Congreve rocket, the predecessor of modern artillery rockets, in 1804. After India gained independence from the British occupation in 1947, the potential of rocket technology was recognized by Indian scientists and politicians in both defense and research and development applications.

These visionaries set out to set up a space research organization, recognizing that a country as demographically large as India would require its independent space capabilities, and recognizing the early potential of satellites in the fields of remote sensing and communication.


Dr. Vikram Sarabhai was the founding father of the Indian space program and is known by many as both a technological genius and a national hero. He recognized the potential that satellites provided after the launch of Sputnik in 1957. In 1961, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, who saw scientific development as an essential part of India’s future, placed space research under the jurisdiction of the Atomic Energy Department. In 1962, DAE director Homi Bhabha, who was the father of India’s atomic program, established the Indian National Space Research Committee (INCOSPAR) with Dr. Sarabhai as its chairman.

Sounding rockets of larger scale and sophistication began to be launched by the Indian Rohini program, and the space program was enlarged and finally given its government department, separate from the Atomic Energy Department. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was established on 15 August 1969 under the INCOSPAR program under the DAE, continued under the Space Commission and finally under the Department of Space, established in June 1972.


Sarabhai participated in an early NASA analysis in the 1960s on the viability of using satellites for applications as large as direct television broadcasting, and this study showed that it was the most cost-effective way to transmit such broadcasts. Having recognized the advantages that satellites could offer to India from the very beginning, Sarabhai and ISRO set out to design and create an autonomous launch vehicle capable of launching into orbit and to provide the useful expertise required in the future to create larger launch vehicles.

The ISRO set out to develop the technologies and facilities for the satellite launch vehicle, realizing the advanced capacity India had to build solid engines with the Rohini series and that other nations had preferred solid rockets for similar programs (SLV). Inspired by the American Scout rocket, a four-stage all-solid vehicle will be the vehicle.

Aryabhata – India’s first satellite

Aryabhata – India’s first satellite

Meanwhile, India started evolving satellite technologies to predict the needs of the future for remote sensing and connectivity. India focused more on realistic projects that were immediately advantageous to individuals rather than manned space programs or robotic exploration of space. India’s first satellite was the Aryabhata satellite, launched in 1975 from Kapustin Yar using a Soviet Cosmos-3M launch vehicle.

SLV – India’s first satellite launch vehicle

SLV – India’s first satellite launch vehicle

By 1979, the SLV was able to be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, a recently built second launch site (SDSC). The first launch in 1979 was a disaster, due in the second stage to a power failure. By 1980, this topic has been addressed. The first indigenous satellite that India launched was named Rohini-1.


ISRO was keen to start developing a satellite launch vehicle after the success of the SLV that would be able to bring genuinely useful satellites into polar orbits. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) concept was quickly on schedule. This vehicle will be designed as the launch mechanism of India’s workhorse, taking advantage of both old technologies and modern liquid engines with big, reliable solid-stages. At the same time, the ISRO management agreed that it would be wise to build a smaller SLV-based rocket, which would act as a testbed for many of the emerging developments to be used on the PSLV.

The Enhanced Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) would validate developments such as strap-on boosters and experimental guidance systems until the PSLV went into full development, so that expertise could be obtained.

In 1987, the ASLV was finally flight tested, but this launch was a disaster. Another launch was attempted in 1988 after minor corrections, this launch failed again, and this time a complete inquiry was conducted into the cause, offering useful experience, specifically because the failure of the ASLV was one in management. The replacement of the stabilizing fins that were present on the SLV could not be sufficiently controlled by the vehicle, so additional steps were added, such as improved maneuvering thrusters and modifications to the flight control system. The development of ASLV has also proved useful in the development of technologies for strap-on motors.


It was not until 1992 that the ASLV was first successfully launched. The launch vehicle, which was only able to send very small payloads into space, had accomplished its goal at this stage. By 1993, the time had come for the PSLV’s maiden flight. A malfunction was the first launch. In 1994, the first operational launch took place, and since then, the PSLV has been a workhorse launch vehicle – putting in orbit both remote sensing and communications satellites, forming the world’s largest cluster and supplying Indian industry and agriculture with unique data. Since then, constant performance improvements have greatly improved the rocket’s payload power.

Glavkosmos, under pressure, prevented the move to India of the related manufacturing and design technologies. Until then, due to the strategic foresight of Sarabhai in indigenizing technology, ISRO had not been plagued by technology transfer constraints. In preparation for the Russian contract, however, elements of the ISRO management scrapped indigenous cryogenic programs. Instead of canceling the contract, Russia decided instead to supply fully developed engines, and India, in the GSLV-II, began designing an indigenous cryogenic engine to replace them.

There is also some debate about the question of the procurement of cryogenic engines, with many referring to the decision to cancel indigenous projects as a significant mistake: if indigenous production had begun from day one, India would probably have had a truly indigenous engine running by the time the GSLV started. ISRO pushed on despite this one odd slip in an otherwise exceedingly successful program, and the lack of future payload capability over the decade that resulted as a consequence.


The most powerful Indian launch vehicle currently in operation; the first GSLV production flight was in 2001. Owing to regular payload cutbacks and delays, the gains of the program were scrutinized. The indigenous cryogenic engine was tested in 2007 for the GSLV’s upper stage. ISRO reconsidered the efficacy of the GSLV for the 2000-2010 decade and started to build an indigenous and new GSLV III heavy launch vehicle.

The latter is not related to the GSLV-I/II and will be based on the proven format with two solid strap-on boosters and liquid main stages. It will mimic the Ariane 5 and other current launchers and have ample manned spaceflight payload capacity. The first flight is expected for the year 2008.

Chandrayaan 2008: ISRO plans to bring a small robotic spacecraft mounted on a modified PSLV into lunar orbit. In more depth than ever before, it will survey the surface of the moon to try to find tools. Countries, like the US, have expressed interest in linking the mission to their payloads. ISRO and NASA have an agreement to bring as a payload two NASA probes.

AVATAR Scramjet: This is a long-term initiative aimed at building a reusable launch vehicle (RLV) dedicated to satellite launches. In principle, AVATAR will be a cost-effective small-satellite launch vehicle and, thus, an economically viable launch system. A scaled-down demonstration of the technology is planned for c.2008. A scramjet air-breathing engine generating Mach 6 for seven seconds was recently successfully tested by ISRO. After 2010, ISRO will begin research related to the use of scramjets in RLVs.

ISRO has entered the competitive market of other nations for launching payloads. The launches of the Israel Space Agency, the TecSAR spy satellite, and the Israeli Tauvex-II satellite module are notable. Launched in July 2006, the CARTOSAT-2 carried a light Indonesian payload of 56 kg.

Using its cryogenic technology skills to design hydrogen fuel cells for hydrogen storage and handling, ISRO collaborated with Tata engines to create a concept hydrogen passenger car for the Indian market, scheduled to reach the road by the end of 2008.

ISRO achieved a big milestone on November 15, 2007, through the successful test of the indigenously built Cryogenic Stage to be used as the upper stage of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). On 15 November 2007, the test was performed at the Liquid Propulsion test facility in Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu, for a complete flight period of 720 seconds. The indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage has been thoroughly trained on the ground via this test. The flight stage is getting ready to be used in the next GSLV (GSLV-D3) mission in 2008.

ISRO successfully deployed 10 satellites on a single flight on April 28, 2008, further improving its space capability. This includes 690 kg CARTOSTAT-2 and another 83 kg Indian mini satellite, IMS-1; and eight other university-based nanosatellites; and research and development institutions in Canada and Germany, which were provided at a discounted price as part of the Indian Department of Space’s goodwill gesture.

2011 – 2019

ANUSAT(Anna University Satellite) (20th April 2009) (Decay Date: 18th April 2012): Aerospace Engineering, Madras Institute of Technology (MIT), Chromepet, Anna University, designed, built & incorporated it. Conducts demonstration tests on amateur radio and electronics. Indian Microsatellite Student Study.

GSAT-8 / INSAT- 4G(21st May 2011): An Indian Communication Satellite. The first GAGAN payload carrier satellite. Satellite for Indian Contact.

RISAT-1(Radar Imaging Satellite) (26th April 2012): An Indian satellite for remote sensing. It is the heaviest satellite for earth observation deployed by India.

SARAL(Satellite with ARGOS and ALTIKA) (25th February 2013): A combined Indo-French satellite mission is the Satellite of ARGOS and ALTIKA (SARAL). It conducts altimetric measurements intended for the study of ocean circulation and the level of the water surface.

IRNSS- 1B(Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System) (4th April 2014): Launched to provide services for routing, monitoring, and mapping. The satellite is powered by two solar panels, which produce up to 1,660 watts of power and have a ten-year lifespan.

Astrosat(28th September 2015): First Indian Multi-wavelength Space Observatory Spacecraft. It makes multi-wavelength measurements of multiple astronomical objects concurrently with a single satellite.

SathyabamaSat(22nd June 2016): Students and faculty of Sathyabama University, Chennai, created the Indian micro experimental satellite. Launched to obtain greenhouse gas data.

INS-1A (ISRO Nano Satellite 1A)(15th February 2017): Launched on PSLV to accompany larger satellites. Two payloads were carried: the Surface BRDF Radiometer (SBR) and the Distressed Control Single Case (SEUM). An ISRO-developed Indian Nanosatellite.

HySIS (29th Nov 2018): HysIS is a spacecraft for earth observation configured around the Mini Satellite-2 (IMS-2) bus of ISRO. It was launched in the visible, near-infrared, and shortwave infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum to research the earth’s surface. India’s defense forces will also be able to access this info.

RISAT-2BR1 (11th December 2019): Satellite for Earth Observation Radar Imaging. It has an increased 0.35-meter resolution.

Achievements in India’s Space Journey

ISRO has much to celebrate when it comes to space milestones, from the launch of small rockets of only 30-70 kg payloads to the transport of 4,000 kg payloads to outer space.

Since its establishment on August 15, 1969, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has come a long way. ISRO has much to celebrate when it comes to space milestones, from the launch of small rockets of only 30-70 kg payloads to the transport of 4,000 kg payloads to outer space.

ISRO’s Achievement Hits

Apr 19, 1975

ISRO developed India’s first satellite, Aryabhata, which was launched on April 19, 1975, by the Soviet Union.

Jul 18, 1980

The first satellite to be placed into orbit by a launch vehicle made in India, the SLV-3, was Rohini.

May 20, 1992

ISRO has launched the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) & Insat – 2A.

Oct 22, 2008

An unmanned lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-1, was placed into orbit by ISRO. At a height of 100 km from the lunar surface, the spacecraft was orbiting around the Moon for chemical, mineralogical, and photogeological mapping of the Moon. Eleven research instruments designed in India, the USA, the UK, Germany, Sweden, and Bulgaria were carried by spacecraft. The orbit was lifted to 200 km in May 2009, after the achievement of all the main mission objectives. More than 3,400 orbits were made by the satellite around the moon and the mission was ended when contact with the spacecraft was lost on 29 August 2009.

Sep 09, 2012

Using the PSLV-C21 rocket, the 100th ISRO space flight was successfully launched. It also put two international satellites in the orbit of the earth.

Nov 5, 2013

On 5 November 2013, India launched the Mars Orbiter Mission and reached Mars orbit on 24 September 2014, making India the first country to succeed in its maiden attempt to reach Mars. ISRO has become the world’s fourth space agency, and the first space agency in Asia to cross the orbit of Mars.

Feb 15, 2017

ISRO launched 104 single rocket satellites (PSLV-C37), a world record, on 15 February 2017. On 5 June 2017, ISRO launched its heaviest rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III), and sent a GSAT-19 communication satellite into orbit.

Nov 14, 2018

Sriharikota’s GSAT-29 satellite, the heaviest satellite weighing 3,423 kg, was successfully launched by ISRO to provide better connectivity for remote areas of the world.

Jul 22, 2019

India launched GSLV-Mk III, India’s second moon ‘Chandrayaan-2’ flight, on 22 July 2019. Chandrayaan-2 is the first space mission from India to perform a soft landing on the southern polar area of the moon. After Russia, America, and China, the mission will make India’s 4th nation a soft land rover on the surface of the moon.

ISRO’s Achievement Misses

Aug 10, 1979

On August 10, 1979, India’s first experimental satellite launch vehicle carrying the Rohini Technology Payload was partly successful in the first experimental flight of SLV-3. The satellite housed instruments to track the flight performance of SLV-3, the first Indian launch vehicle, and had a launch mass of 35 kg. The satellite could not, however, be placed into its planned orbit.

Apr 10, 1982

Owing to several shortcomings such as initial difficulties installing its antennas, solar array, and stabilization boom, a communications satellite INSAT-1A, launched in 1982 for a seven-year mission, was abandoned in 18 months.

Mar 24, 1987

The Earth’s orbit was not penetrated by 150 kg satellite-carrying SROSS-1 scientific instruments. The satellite was launched aboard ASLV’s first production flight (Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle).

Oct 4, 1997

On October 4, 1997, INSAT-2D, which was released on June 4, 1997, became inoperable because of a power bus anomaly and other related problems.

Jul 10, 2006

India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F02) was launched on July 10, 2006, with INSAT-4C on board. The launch vehicle GSLV-F02 was unable to complete the flight, however. The first effort to launch a heavy communication satellite, weighing 2.2 tonnes, was the satellite INSAT-4C.

Dec 25, 2010

The fifth satellite launched in the GSAT series was the GSAT-5P. To further augment the connectivity facilities presently offered by the Indian National Satellite (INSAT) system, it was an exclusive communication satellite. At lift-off, the satellite weighed 2,310 kg. GSAT-5P was not put into space, though, as GSLV-F06 was unable to complete the mission.

Aug 31, 2017

In its 41st flight (PSLV-C39), the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle was supposed to launch IRNSS-1H, the eighth Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) satellite, into a Sub-Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit. PSLV-C39 had a typical lift-off and, except for heat shield separation, all flight activities took place exactly as expected. This culminated in satellite separation, which took place inside the heat shield, culminating in the loss of the mission.

Indian women scientists whose inventions and experiments have helped in the progress of science and technology

One of the biggest and most effective space organizations in the world is the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

However, women are underrepresented in the space industry, as in any other industry. But several prominent female scientists have played important roles and have contributed to the success of ISRO’s numerous missions.

Here are six women scientists at ISRO you should know about.

  1. VR Lalithambika, a woman scientist who is leading India’s Gaganyaan mission

One of the most senior scientists working with the Indian space agency is VR Lalithambika, a control systems engineer.

Specializing in Innovative Launcher Technology, Lalithambika played a key role in developing the country’s rocket program, collaborating with ISRO for more than 30 years.

Notably, Lalithambika was selected as Gaganyaan’s Director in 2018 to lead India’s human space flight program.

  1. Muthayya Vanitha and Ritu Karidhal, the women behind Chandrayaan-2

As its Project Director and Mission Director, Muthayya Vanitha and Ritu Karidhal are two scientists leading India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission, respectively.

Vanitha is the first female ISRO Director of Projects. She has been Deputy Project Director for Cartosat-1, Oceansat-2, and Megha-Tropiques Satellites Data Systems.

In the meantime, Karidhal, known as India’s “Rocket Woman” worked for many projects and was the Mangalyaan mission’s, Deputy Operations Officer.

  1. TK Anuradha, the senior-most woman scientist at ISRO

TK Anuradha is ISRO’s senior female scientist who has worked with the space agency for over 35 years now. She is the first woman to become the ISRO Chief of the Satellite Mission.

She has been working on a series of Indian space projects and satellite launches, including GSAT-12 and GSAT-10. She is the ISRO Satellite Center’s Geosat Programme Manager.

  1. Nandini Harinath, a part of Mangalyaan and various other missions

Another famous woman scientist at ISRO is Nandini Harinath. At the ISRO Satellite Center in Bengaluru, she is a rocket scientist.

In specific, she is the Project Manager (Mission Design) and Deputy Director of Operations of the Mars Orbiter Mission of India, Mangalyaan.

Nandini, who has worked with ISRO for more than two decades, has worked on 14 Indian space agency flights.

  1. N Valarmathi is another well-known woman scientist at ISRO

Another senior woman scientist who has been employed for 35 years with ISRO is N Valarmathi.

She was the Project Director of India’s first Radar Imaging Satellite, RISAT-1, built indigenously. She is the second female ISRO scientist, after TK Anuradha, to lead such a prestigious project.

She has been active in numerous missions, among others, such as INSAT-2A, IRS-1C, IRS-1D, and Science Experiment Satellite (TES).

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