The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is set to make its mark once again with the launch of NVS-01, a navigational satellite, on May 29. This launch not only signifies the first deployment of a navigational satellite under the new name NVS but also surpasses Isro’s launch record during the three pandemic-affected years.
In 2020, 2021, and 2022, Isro only conducted two launches each year. However, this year has already witnessed two significant launches. The first one introduced the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle into Isro’s existing fleet, while the second marked the reliability of the heaviest rocket, LVM Mk3, as a commercial launcher.
In addition to the upcoming launch at the end of May, Isro has planned other ambitious missions for the third quarter of the year. One such mission is the highly anticipated Aditya-L1, Isro’s first solar mission. Furthermore, Isro plans to carry out two test vehicle missions as a precursor to the first unmanned flight of the Gaganyaan mission later this year.
The NVS-01 satellite will replace the navigational capabilities of another satellite, IRNSS-1G, within the NavIC constellation. While retaining its communication and messaging capabilities, NVS-01 will enhance and augment India’s satellite-based navigation system.
The need for replacement arises from the malfunctioning atomic clocks on board a couple of satellites, which impacted their navigational capabilities. Precise measurements of the time taken for signals to return from the ground are crucial in determining the location of objects for satellite-based navigation.
To address the challenges posed by the imported atomic clocks’ failures, Isro decided to develop its own atomic clocks. This move towards indigenous development showcases India’s commitment to self-reliance in critical technology.
The journey to enhance India’s navigation capabilities has not been without hurdles. Isro replaced one of the satellites, IRNSS-1A, in 2018. The first replacement satellite launched in 2017 was lost due to a failure of the heat shield, which failed to open as intended, resulting in the satellite’s loss.
Currently, four major global navigation systems exist: the US Global Positioning System (GPS), the Russian GLONASS, the European Galileo, and the Chinese Beidou. In addition, there are two regional navigational systems—the Quasi-Zenith System of Japan and India’s own NavIC.
Isro’s ongoing efforts to enhance the NavIC constellation with the launch of NVS-01 demonstrate India’s commitment to advancing its space capabilities. By strengthening its navigational infrastructure, Isro not only contributes to the nation’s technological prowess but also paves the way for more accurate and reliable satellite-based navigation services in India and beyond.