The year 2016 is set to see the national space programme slowly shift gears towards large satellites, a heavy-lift launcher and improved Earth observation capabilities.
The ten-odd planned missions will be mostly bread-and-butter types with no major explorations before Chandrayaan-2, now slated for 2017.
The Space agency will complete on priority the seven-satellite regional navigation loop, IRNSS, in the first three months, according to Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar.
On the target later in the year is GSAT-11, which would be the heaviest Indian satellite at four to five tonnes and packing many more transponders than normal; the biggest so far was about 3.1 tonnes. Also planned to be tested is a matching launcher to lift spacecraft like it to space: the GSLV-Mark III heavy-lifter with a limited version satellite, Mr. Kumar told The Hindu .
After a gap of about three years, a host of functional Earth observation (EO or remote-sensing) satellites is lined up. They include new ones with improved views of Earth as well as those to replace older ones that are in orbit.
Of these Cartosat-2C would sharpen the present imagery resolution from 0.8 metres to 0.6 metres and is aimed for the first half.
A new EO version called Scatsat is planned, besides continuity missions Resourcesat-2A, Oceansat-3 series; and Insat-3DR (on a GSLV), a replacement Met sat.
The old Cartosat-1 series satellites would be replaced. The ISRO was working on the approved ones and taken up the new ones at various forums for clearances.
About the navigation constellation IRNSS, Mr. Kumar said, “Immediately over the next three months we will launch the three navigational satellites IRNSS-1E, 1F and 1G. They come up consecutively in January, February and March. [The older four, A to D, are in orbit.].”
“IRNSS is already being used to some extent. It will take about three months to fully demonstrate its working. At the same time we are working on the development of receivers. A large number of them have been already realised, some with the ISRO design and some with industry design and both to be made by industry.”
The year 2015, he said, was “a reasonably good year in all domains” with marginally more launches than the previous year. Over the next two years, the ISRO planned to do eight to nine missions a year with six PSLV and two GSLV launches. Additionally there could be at least one fully commercial PSLV launch meant only for foreign satellites; this year, it did two fully commercial launches – in July and December.
Heavier the communication satellites, GSAT-17 and 18 were planned to be flown separately on procured Arianespace launchers.