Bangalore: India will invest Rs1,600 crore to build a constellation of seven satellites for navigation in the subcontinent, joining countries such as the US, China and Russia that have their own systems that help in accurately giving directions for vehicles and aircraft.
The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, the Indian version of NAVSTAR, the US-run global positioning system, is expected to be functional by 2012.
The Indian Space Research Organisation or Isro, the country’s space agency, is building the satellites, the first of which is to be launched in 2010 on a homegrown Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. It will be used for surveying, telecommunications, transport, identifying disaster areas and public safety among others functions.
The Indian satellites will be placed at a higher so-called geostationary orbit to have a larger signal footprint and lower number of satellites to map the region.
“We need only a minimum number of satellites. Seven satellites will do this job,” said Madhavan Nair, secretary, department of space, and chairman, Isro.
The geostationary orbit is the space 36,000km above earth where communication satellites are parked to transmit signals.
“If you want to have a global coverage, we have to have a constellation of nearly 24 satellites which have to be going around all over the world at around 20,000km above the earth,” said Nair. NAVSTAR, originally designed for the US military, has a constellation of 24 medium earth observation satellites, orbiting around 20,200km in space.
While India’s plans are regional, China, the European Union and Russia are building systems that are as big as the US network to link every part of the globe.
India will launch three satellites of Glonass, the Russian satellite navigation system, which is partially operational, that will eventually see around two dozen satellites covering the globe by 2009.
The European Union’s satellite navigation system, Galileo, will have around 30 satellites that will circle the globe for around 12 years, but the progress of the programme is uncertain after a consortium of industries backed out in June to share risk money in the €2.4 billion or Rs13,300 crore venture. The EU parliament had hinted at funding it as a public project, but a final decision will be made by November.
“The first operational satellite will be by 2012, provided we have political consensus by this fall,” said Jeremie Godet of the European Commission at a conference on Global Navigation Satellite Systems in Bangalore on Tuesday.
China is building Compass or Beidou Satellite Navigation and positioning system with around 30 medium earth observation satellites to track the entire globe, while five geostationary satellites, three of which are in orbit, will track the country locally.
The first of the 30 medium observation satellites was launched in April, but an official of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. said a deadline has not been set for the remaining satellites. “Our programme would cost almost the same as Galileo,” said Meng Bo, vice-president of the Chinese agency.