By Pallava Bagla
The Indian space agency made a very special dash to complete India’s VIC – “vigation with Indian Constellation” when the last of the seven satellites was successfully placed in the orbit by the polar satellite launch vehicle on April 28, 2016. The Indian satellite constellation is already providing 24/7, 365 day coverage of the vigation sigl throughout the Indian region. This is a unique achievement by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
In the world today, over South-Asia, there are only 2 other agencies which provide satellite based vigatiol sigls, the first being the sigl which is beamed down through the American constellation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the other is the Russian constellation which provides the sigl through a system called GLOSS. ISRO claims that the accuracy of the Indian vigation system is superior to both these systems for the South-Asian region.
ISRO is known for its frugal technology, hence the VIC has been made operatiol with just 7 satellites. In comparison the American and Russian systems use 4 times as many satellites, the difference being that the Indian VIC provides a sigl which is regiol in ture as compared to the global footprint of American and Russian systems.
The Indian space agency has designed a system in such a manner that the assured sigl is available not just over India but in an envelope which extends 1500 kms around India’s borders. This, experts say, has been arrived at based on the threat perception as viewed by India in the current circumstances.
VIC provides 2 types of sigls, first being a sigl which is available for the average user and can be tapped on any compatible smart phone. ISRO says that the accuracy of the sigl on this frequency would be better than 20 meters. In addition, ISRO provides a special more accurate sigl for “restricted users”, which is a sigl that will largely be used by India’s security establishments to make sure that India’s borders are well protected.
The ISRO has spent close to Rs.1400 crore in making this satellite based vigation system a reality.
In 2013, when India launched the first of the seven satellites necessary for the VIC constellation, at that time it was thought that India was the 6th country to attempt having their own satellite based vigation system with USA, Russia, European Union, Japan and Chi all actively pushing the frontier on satellite based vigation systems. But in 2016, when under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri rendra Modi, the ISRO completed the deployment of the VIC system, India has become the 3rd country to have such a system over South Asia. ISRO was the late starter but made a dash, caught up and completed the system in a record 3 years. Both Americans and Russians took more than a decade to complete their satellite based vigation systems.
India’s Science and Technology Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, during his speech at the tiol Technology Day function (11th May 2016), said India embarked on having a vigation system using satellites when during the Kargil conflict access to such sigl was denied to India. He said that it showed the tremendous capability the Indian science and technology establishment had in giving a totally Made-in-India effort for its population.
On the successful launch of the seventh and last satellite in the Indian Regiol vigation Satellite System (IRNSS), the launch was monitored live by the space buff in Prime Minister Shri rendra Modi who immediately after the launch gave an extempore speech giving ways in which the system could be utilized. The Prime Minister also med it VIC- to honour the legendary Indian sailor. He said that these brave men in times past used to vigate the sea using stars but now there is a new star from ISRO which will help in easy vigation. Interestingly, in continuation of PM’s policy of befriending India’s immediate neighbours, he said India is willing to extend the services of VIC to its South Asian neighbours. The Prime Minister said, “With this successful launch, we will determine our own paths powered by our technology. This is a great gift to people from scientists”. He described this as an example of “Make in India” and “Made for Indians.”
The sigl from VIC is already being received on a select few compatible smart phones. In times to come, the expectation is that all Indian handsets will be made compatible using chipsets that are ebled to receive sigls from VIC. The idea being that Indian entrepreneurs will be able to use Indian sigls as they deploy more and more uses of such a system in the Digital India of future.
India may no longer need to depend on foreign vendors for providing satellite based vigation systems. This would make India more resilient in the future.
For an average user, the VIC sigl would be an easy way for finding road routes as they travel in India and help in more effective deployment of the transportation sector. It is also expected that the sigls will be used to monitor the movement of trains in the vast Indian railway network. This would make road, rail and ship transport better streamlined, cheaper and cost-efficient. It is also hoped that the sigl from VIC would help Indian women feel safer as more and more mobile phones are made compatible and women would be in a position to send distress or panic sigl using the panic button which is to be introduced on Indian phones by 2018.
ISRO has once again shown how frugal but effective engineering can help not only secure Indian borders but also give a fillip to the Indian economy.