Bookmark and Share
Overview:

The Department of Space (DoS/the department) was established in 1972 to bolster the then nascent Indian space program. It acts on the policy recommendations of the Indian Space Commission and is broadly responsible for the day-to-day management of India’s space activities. DoS achieves its mandate primarily through the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), India’s official space agency and its many attached and autonomous bodies. While headed by a secretary who also leads ISRO, the department falls under the direct purview of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). DoS operates a formidable space program that has achieved considerable successes. Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to moon in 2008 marked a major milestone for not only the space program but also the country’s scientific and education sector. India is one of less than 10 countries with a moon landing. Despite a recent corruption scandal and criticisms from activists who view India’s space exploration as wasteful, given the country’s endemic poverty, food shortages and lack of access to basic education.

more
History:

DoS traces its history to the establishment of the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) in 1962. That same year, the Indian government built the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station, and in November 1963, launched India’s first rocket. Recognizing the need for permanent space body, ISRO was founded in 1969 as India’s official space agency under the auspices of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). To establish a more comprehensive space and telecommunications policy and programs infrastructure, the Indian Space Commission and the Department of Space were established in 1972. Subsequently, ISRO was brought under DoS’ administrative control.

 

In its relatively short history, the department has maintained a high operational tempo. During the 8th, 9th, and 10th Five Year Plans (between 1992 and 2007), DoS undertook 10-13 space missions. For the 11th Five Year Plan of 2007-2012, DoS will complete 29 missions. Upon its inception, DoS guided the Aryabhatta, Bhaskara, Rohini, and Apple experimental satellite programs in the 1970’s. These initial programs were designed to prepare the Indian space program for future missions. By the end of the decade, India successfully tested its own Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-3), and was no longer dependent on the erstwhile Soviet Union for launch assistance. In the 1980s the department led efforts to put into orbit the Indian National Satellite System (INSAT) and the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites. The Rohini-3 satellite launched in 1983 tripled nationwide television coverage and today provides coverage to 90% of the country. In 1984, Rakesh Sharma made a trip to the Russian space station, the first Indian ever to be launched into space. 

 

In addition to satellite systems, DoS has spearheaded a major evolution in India’s satellite launch capabilities. The Augmented Space Launch Vehicle (ASLV) was created in 1992 as an upgrade to SLV-3. Further advances lead to the development of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, Mark I & II (GSLV). 

more
What it Does:

DoS is the implementation body of the Indian space program. The Indian space policy is set by the Space Commission, a high level body consisting of politicians as well as scientists. In response to these policies, DoS, through ISRO, maintains an active launch vehicle program, the INSAT and IRS satellite systems, continuous research and development in the space science and related fields, and manages educational institutions and other human resource programs.

 

India’s launch vehicle technology currently manifests itself in the PSLV and the GSLV. PSLV, termed the “workhorse launch vehicle of ISRO,” had three successful launches in 2011: PSLV –C16, C17, and C18. Payload consisted of meteorological, communications, and science satellites. Plans are underway to launch the PSLV C-19 in first quarter of 2012-13. As a result of GSLV’s 2010 failures, GSLV did not see much action in 2011. Rather Failure Analysis Committees reviewed aspects of GSLV and proposed design modifications. GSLV D-5, the first GSLV launch in almost two years is scheduled for October 2012. Additionally considerable work has been completed toward manufacturing the GSLV Mark III. The Mark III is designed to be a “heavy launch vehicle” to launch the 4.5 ton satellites of INSAT-4.

 

The department, in conjunction with the INSAT Coordination Committee, manages the INSAT system, Asia-Pacific’s largest domestic communications satellite system. It consists of 10 operation satellites: INSAT-2E, INSAT-3A, INSAT-3C, INSAT-3E, KALPANA-1 (named after deceased Indian-American astronaut Kalpana Chawla), INSAT-4A, INSAT-4B, INSAT-4CR, GSAT-8, and GSAT-12. The INSAT satellites are used for telecommunications, navigation, meteorology, broadcasting, search and rescue, and disaster communication. Plans are in place to launch the GSAT-7, GSAT-10, GSAT-14, and INSAT-3D. The IRS satellite system, India’s other major satellite system, serves as India’s earth observation system. The 11 satellites - TES, RESOURCESAT-1, CARTOSAT-1, CARTOSAT-2, CARTOSAT-2A, CARTOSAT-2B, IMS-1, RISAT-2, OCEANSAT-2, RESOURCESAT-2 and MEGHA-TROPIQUES – are ideal for natural resources management as well scientific studies.

 

To better manage its space presence as well as to improve its capabilities, DoS maintains a vast network of launch tracking and support facilities as well as research institutions related to space sciences and space technology. The department also manages the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, an academic institution devoted to developing scientists and engineers proficient in space sciences and technology. Additionally the department hosts conferences, conventions, workshops, and other educational activities.

 

The department’s planned second lunar mission and a proposed plan to set up a satellite in Mars’ orbit are its sexiest programs. Chandrayaan-1, which marked India’s entry to extra-terrestrial exploration was a hugely successful mission that provided evidence of water on the Moon’s surface. A second mission, Chandrayaan-2 is planned for 2014 as a joint mission between ISRO and the Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA). The Mars Orbiter Mission, planned for 2013, aims to place a satellite in Mars’s orbit and search for “life-sustaining” elements on Mars’ surface. This proposed mission has generated significant excitement as well as criticism.

 

Attached Bodies or Autonomous Bodies

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) – ISRO is India’s primary space agency. Whereas the Space Commission formulates the Indian space policy, ISRO, under DoS, implements it. Simply put, ISRO manages the technical aspects of the space program. It develops, operates, and maintains satellites, launch vehicles, launch and track facilities, related research centers, educational institutions, and other necessary infrastructure. ISRO carries out its work via 14 autonomous and attached bodies spread throughout the country.

 

Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) – Founded in 1947 by Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, father of India’s space program, PRL is an attached body of the department which focuses its research in related areas of physics, space and atmospheric sciences, astronomy, astrophysics, solar physics, and geosciences.

 

National Atmospheric Research Laboratory (NARL) – Created in 1992 as the National Mesosphere-Stratosphere-Troposphere, NARL is an atmospheric and space sciences research laboratory. Although an autonomous body, the Secretary of DoS heads the NARL Governing Council which sets the research framework for the lab and evaluates its progress.

 

North-Eastern Space Applications Center (NE-SAC) – Established as a developmental project for India’s restive Northeast, NE-SAC provides space related support to state governments. Examples of NE-SAC projects include GIS data mapping, remote sensing, assistance in setting up satellite supported communications infrastructures, state based space science research, etc.

 

Semi-Conductor Laboratory (SCL) – Established in 1983, SCL is a registered society supported by DoS. As the name suggests, the society facilitates as well as undertakes research in semiconductor technology, Micro Electro Mechanical Systems, and areas pertaining to semiconductor processing. The Secretary of DoS serves as the President of the society.

 

Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) – IIST is a primary component of the department’s desire to build up India’s space related human resource base. Established in 2007 as an autonomous body under DoS, IIST is an academic institution, which provides undergraduate and graduate degrees in the sciences with a “focus on space science, technology, and applications.”

 

Antrix Corporation Limited – Established in 1992, Antrix Corporation is a private company owned by the Indian government. Placed under the administrative control of DoS, it is a commercial enterprise providing space products, services, and consultancy to interested customers nationally and worldwide. It was set up to facilitate India’s indigenous space industries as well as to market and profit from the Indian space program’s many innovations.

more
Where Does the Money Go:

The department apportions its Rs. 6,715 crore ($1.2 billion) budget to five main areas: Space Technology – Rs. Rs. 4068.11 crore ($756.2 million); Space Application – Rs. 758.59 crore ($141 million); Satellite Systems – Rs. 1220.87 crore ($227 million); Space Sciences – Rs. 471.75 crore ($87.7 million); and Direction & Administration and Other Programs – Rs. 195.68 crore ($36.37 million).

 

More than half of the department’s funding goes to satellite technology, launch vehicles, launch support and other facilities. Out of the Rs. 4068.11 crore ($756.2 million) earmarked for that purpose, Rs. 2307.19 crore ($428.85 million) is for Launch Vehicle Technology, Rs. 1197.06 ($222.5 million) for Satellite Technology, and Rs. 563.86 ($104.81 million) for Launch Support, Tracking Network, and Range Facility.

 

The currently operational INSAT satellites also receive significant funding. A total of Rs. 1220.87 crore ($227 million) goes to the Master Control Facility, INSAT-3 and INSAT-4 satellites, and the required GSAT-7 launch services.

 

Two other programs require special attention. The first is the Chandrayaan-2 Project. Following up its 2008 success, India, in partnership with Russia, plans to return to the moon in 2014. For this purpose, the 2012-2013 budget includes Rs. 82.50 crore ($15.34 million). The second program is the proposed Mars mission in November 2013. Rs. 125 crore ($23.23 million) is already committed to the Mars Orbiter Mission.

more
Controversies:

Antrix-Devas Deal

In January 2005, Antrix Corporation signed an agreement with Devas Multimedia Limited over allocation of “70 MHz S-Band spectrum to Devas by leasing out transponders of two satellites to be built mainly for Devas.” S-band is a unique in that it can be used for “both broadcasting and mobile satellite services.” The deal was ultimately upended in 2011 when it was revealed that Devas had received the spectrum at an extremely low price, to the detriment of the Indian treasury. Reports stated that although the spectrum’s value was around Rs. 2 lakh crore ($37 billion), ISRO sold it to Devas for only Rs. 1000 crore ($184 million). Two government panels investigate the matter. While one panel found no price-fixing, the second panel concluded otherwise. The Pratyush Sinha-led panel found “not only serious administrative and procedural lapses but also suggestion of collusive behavior on the part of certain individuals." It further stated that “It is very clear that there have been serious lapses of judgment on the part of a number of officials…. their actions verged on the point of serious violation of norms and breach of public trust.” As a result, G.Madhavan Nair, who headed the ISRO during the deal and three other prominent scientists were barred from government employment.

 

In May 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) issued a scathing report that blamed DoS for the debacle. It found the deal was a “classic case of public investment for private profit.” The department “concealed facts from the Union Cabinet … violated numerous rules, policies and procedures.  Public interest and those of the Government were sacrificed to favour a private consultancy firm...” The report further alleged that deal was structured in a way to maximize Devas’ benefits at the expense of the public. The Report also singled out Nair, finding he concealed critical facts about the deal in a note he sent to the Cabinet.

 

Since India’s space program is largely considered one of India’s few honest institutions, the revelations were shocking. It didn’t help matters that the S-band spectrum scandal followed the 3G spectrum scandal, where the treasury lost billions. Nair’s blacklisting by the Congress-led administration was strongly criticized by BJP and the issue became another political football. Although a war of words continues between Nair and the Indian government, the scandal has done little to change public opinion of the Indian space program or affect the day-to-day operations of ISRO.

 

Antrix-Devas deal: CAG critical of Madhavan Nair (by Urmi Goswami, Economic Times)

The fall of Madhavan Nair: decoding the ‘scandal’ (by G Pramod Kumar, First Post India)

Antrix-Devas deal: CAG flays Department of Space (IBN Live)

CAG confirms Devas Multimedia got pie in S-band deal on a platter, raps Department of Space (by Dinesh Sharma, India Today)

Report No. -4 of 2012-13 for period ended March 2011 - Union Government ( Department of Space) Hybrid Satellite Digital Multimedia Broadcasting Service Agreement with Devas (Comptroller and Auditor General of India)

Norms and procedures flouted in Antrix-Devas deal (by N. Gopal Raj, The Hindu)

Antrix-Devas deal: Nair fires fresh salvo at Radhakrishnan (Jargan Post)

more
Suggested Reforms:

Monitoring Mechanisms

At a regular parliamentary hearing to discuss the Department of Space’s 2012-2013 budget requests in April 2012, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment, and Forests analyzed the Department’s record. The committee recommended that DoS develop better monitoring mechanisms to avoid project completion delays and to spend their allocated budget. This recommendation came after a series of projects such as the Radar Imaging Satellite, INSAT-3D, ASTRSAT, GSAT-9, GSAT-10, and others could not be completed. For the 2011-2012 years, DoS only managed to spend 60% of its allocated budget. Of the Rs. 5700 crore ($1 billion) allocated, the department only spent Rs. 3432 crore ($638 million). As an extension of these delays, the committee recommends that the department base its timelines for Chandrayaan-2 and the Mars missions on accurate estimates in order to not repeat the same process again. Additionally, the committee also wants the department to take additional steps to ensure private sector participation for research and development purposes.

 

Funds Unused, Budget Cut For Space Dept (Indian Express)

Report on Demands for Grants of the Department of Space - Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment, and Forests (pdf)

more
Debate:

Mars Orbiter Mission

Formally announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 15, 2012, the mission to Mars proposal has generated enthusiasm as well as controversy. The Indian Cabinet has approved a grant of Rs. 450 crore ($83.7 million) for the program. Critics of the program argue that India has misplaced priorities. They believe spending money on moon missions is foolish when India hasn’t tackled developmental challenges like reducing crippling poverty levels, increasing access to education, and mitigating countless other problems. Proponents of the program argue that the amount allocated is not significant and the mission has tangible as well as intangible benefits for India and Indians.

 

The Mission is not Justified

Several social activists contend primarily that the Indian government has misplaced priorities. By attempting to “rub shoulders” with other world powers, these critics say the government sends the wrong message. Most question the actual value of sending a satellite to orbit Mars, which won’t benefit destitute Indians or help ameliorate other social problems. Harsh Mander, a social activist, believes the money should be spent reducing poverty, disease and malnutrition. Journalist Padma Rao bluntly states that it is a matter of priority. While funds have been set up for education and poverty reform, it has not been prioritized.  Further, the announcement came in the wake of India’s worst power grid failure, leading many to wonder if the money wouldn’t be better spent on basic infrastructure rather than advanced science and technology.

 

India Seeing Red over Costly Mission to Mars (by Krista Mahr, Time World)

India's Mars Mission Misplaced Priorities Or Legitimate Aspirations (NDTV)

 

The Mission is Justified

Apart from the general population who support the Mars mission, the loudest public supporters belong to the space community. Supporters point out two things: firstly, Rs. 450 crore ($83.7 million) is not a significant amount for a country like India. This amount will not eradicate or even substantially impact serious social problems. Secondly, the mission has no negative effects and does have benefits. In addition to acquiring technological knowledge and mastery over what is a very difficult mission, the very idea of sending a probe to another planet can inspire coming generations to pursue science education. Dr. PS Goel, the former head of ISRO, believes that aspirations are needed for growth as a country and that the Mars mission will ultimately provide that aspiration. Dr. TK Alex, Former Director of the ISRO Satellite Center seconds that view.

 

Manmohan Formally Announces India's Mars Mission (The Hindu

India to Launch Mission to Mars in 2013 (by Tariq Malik, Space.com)

Breaking views: India's Mars Mission justified (Reuters Video)

more
Former Directors:

G. Madhavan Nair

G. Madhavan Nair served as the former Secretary of the Department of Space and Chairman of the Space Commission and ISRO from September 2003- October 2009. During this period he also served as the Chairman of the Governing Body of the National Remote Sensing Agency and Chairman of the Antrix Corporation. Born in 1943, Nair holds a B.Sc. in Engineering with a specialization in Electrical and Communication from Kerala University. He has received numerous honorable degrees from technical institutions across the country. Before his appointment as Chairman, Nair had spent almost four decades in the Indian space program. His leadership positions included Director of the Liquid Propulsion Systems Center and Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center. He is referred to as the “architect of India’s space program” and played a pivotal role in the lunar mission. In recognition of his services, he received the Padma Vishubhan, India’s second highest civilian honor.

 

Considered to be a national treasure, Nair was implicated in the Antrix-Devas deal and was subsequently blacklisted by the Indian government. As a result, Nair cannot seek employment with the central government.

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Founded: 1972
Annual Budget: Rs. 6,715 crore ($1.2 billion) (2012-2013)
Employees: 14859 (2011-2012)
Official Website: http://dos.gov.in/
Department of Space
  • Latest News
Bookmark and Share
Overview:

The Department of Space (DoS/the department) was established in 1972 to bolster the then nascent Indian space program. It acts on the policy recommendations of the Indian Space Commission and is broadly responsible for the day-to-day management of India’s space activities. DoS achieves its mandate primarily through the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), India’s official space agency and its many attached and autonomous bodies. While headed by a secretary who also leads ISRO, the department falls under the direct purview of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). DoS operates a formidable space program that has achieved considerable successes. Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to moon in 2008 marked a major milestone for not only the space program but also the country’s scientific and education sector. India is one of less than 10 countries with a moon landing. Despite a recent corruption scandal and criticisms from activists who view India’s space exploration as wasteful, given the country’s endemic poverty, food shortages and lack of access to basic education.

more
History:

DoS traces its history to the establishment of the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) in 1962. That same year, the Indian government built the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station, and in November 1963, launched India’s first rocket. Recognizing the need for permanent space body, ISRO was founded in 1969 as India’s official space agency under the auspices of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). To establish a more comprehensive space and telecommunications policy and programs infrastructure, the Indian Space Commission and the Department of Space were established in 1972. Subsequently, ISRO was brought under DoS’ administrative control.

 

In its relatively short history, the department has maintained a high operational tempo. During the 8th, 9th, and 10th Five Year Plans (between 1992 and 2007), DoS undertook 10-13 space missions. For the 11th Five Year Plan of 2007-2012, DoS will complete 29 missions. Upon its inception, DoS guided the Aryabhatta, Bhaskara, Rohini, and Apple experimental satellite programs in the 1970’s. These initial programs were designed to prepare the Indian space program for future missions. By the end of the decade, India successfully tested its own Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-3), and was no longer dependent on the erstwhile Soviet Union for launch assistance. In the 1980s the department led efforts to put into orbit the Indian National Satellite System (INSAT) and the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites. The Rohini-3 satellite launched in 1983 tripled nationwide television coverage and today provides coverage to 90% of the country. In 1984, Rakesh Sharma made a trip to the Russian space station, the first Indian ever to be launched into space. 

 

In addition to satellite systems, DoS has spearheaded a major evolution in India’s satellite launch capabilities. The Augmented Space Launch Vehicle (ASLV) was created in 1992 as an upgrade to SLV-3. Further advances lead to the development of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, Mark I & II (GSLV). 

more
What it Does:

DoS is the implementation body of the Indian space program. The Indian space policy is set by the Space Commission, a high level body consisting of politicians as well as scientists. In response to these policies, DoS, through ISRO, maintains an active launch vehicle program, the INSAT and IRS satellite systems, continuous research and development in the space science and related fields, and manages educational institutions and other human resource programs.

 

India’s launch vehicle technology currently manifests itself in the PSLV and the GSLV. PSLV, termed the “workhorse launch vehicle of ISRO,” had three successful launches in 2011: PSLV –C16, C17, and C18. Payload consisted of meteorological, communications, and science satellites. Plans are underway to launch the PSLV C-19 in first quarter of 2012-13. As a result of GSLV’s 2010 failures, GSLV did not see much action in 2011. Rather Failure Analysis Committees reviewed aspects of GSLV and proposed design modifications. GSLV D-5, the first GSLV launch in almost two years is scheduled for October 2012. Additionally considerable work has been completed toward manufacturing the GSLV Mark III. The Mark III is designed to be a “heavy launch vehicle” to launch the 4.5 ton satellites of INSAT-4.

 

The department, in conjunction with the INSAT Coordination Committee, manages the INSAT system, Asia-Pacific’s largest domestic communications satellite system. It consists of 10 operation satellites: INSAT-2E, INSAT-3A, INSAT-3C, INSAT-3E, KALPANA-1 (named after deceased Indian-American astronaut Kalpana Chawla), INSAT-4A, INSAT-4B, INSAT-4CR, GSAT-8, and GSAT-12. The INSAT satellites are used for telecommunications, navigation, meteorology, broadcasting, search and rescue, and disaster communication. Plans are in place to launch the GSAT-7, GSAT-10, GSAT-14, and INSAT-3D. The IRS satellite system, India’s other major satellite system, serves as India’s earth observation system. The 11 satellites - TES, RESOURCESAT-1, CARTOSAT-1, CARTOSAT-2, CARTOSAT-2A, CARTOSAT-2B, IMS-1, RISAT-2, OCEANSAT-2, RESOURCESAT-2 and MEGHA-TROPIQUES – are ideal for natural resources management as well scientific studies.

 

To better manage its space presence as well as to improve its capabilities, DoS maintains a vast network of launch tracking and support facilities as well as research institutions related to space sciences and space technology. The department also manages the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, an academic institution devoted to developing scientists and engineers proficient in space sciences and technology. Additionally the department hosts conferences, conventions, workshops, and other educational activities.

 

The department’s planned second lunar mission and a proposed plan to set up a satellite in Mars’ orbit are its sexiest programs. Chandrayaan-1, which marked India’s entry to extra-terrestrial exploration was a hugely successful mission that provided evidence of water on the Moon’s surface. A second mission, Chandrayaan-2 is planned for 2014 as a joint mission between ISRO and the Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA). The Mars Orbiter Mission, planned for 2013, aims to place a satellite in Mars’s orbit and search for “life-sustaining” elements on Mars’ surface. This proposed mission has generated significant excitement as well as criticism.

 

Attached Bodies or Autonomous Bodies

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) – ISRO is India’s primary space agency. Whereas the Space Commission formulates the Indian space policy, ISRO, under DoS, implements it. Simply put, ISRO manages the technical aspects of the space program. It develops, operates, and maintains satellites, launch vehicles, launch and track facilities, related research centers, educational institutions, and other necessary infrastructure. ISRO carries out its work via 14 autonomous and attached bodies spread throughout the country.

 

Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) – Founded in 1947 by Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, father of India’s space program, PRL is an attached body of the department which focuses its research in related areas of physics, space and atmospheric sciences, astronomy, astrophysics, solar physics, and geosciences.

 

National Atmospheric Research Laboratory (NARL) – Created in 1992 as the National Mesosphere-Stratosphere-Troposphere, NARL is an atmospheric and space sciences research laboratory. Although an autonomous body, the Secretary of DoS heads the NARL Governing Council which sets the research framework for the lab and evaluates its progress.

 

North-Eastern Space Applications Center (NE-SAC) – Established as a developmental project for India’s restive Northeast, NE-SAC provides space related support to state governments. Examples of NE-SAC projects include GIS data mapping, remote sensing, assistance in setting up satellite supported communications infrastructures, state based space science research, etc.

 

Semi-Conductor Laboratory (SCL) – Established in 1983, SCL is a registered society supported by DoS. As the name suggests, the society facilitates as well as undertakes research in semiconductor technology, Micro Electro Mechanical Systems, and areas pertaining to semiconductor processing. The Secretary of DoS serves as the President of the society.

 

Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) – IIST is a primary component of the department’s desire to build up India’s space related human resource base. Established in 2007 as an autonomous body under DoS, IIST is an academic institution, which provides undergraduate and graduate degrees in the sciences with a “focus on space science, technology, and applications.”

 

Antrix Corporation Limited – Established in 1992, Antrix Corporation is a private company owned by the Indian government. Placed under the administrative control of DoS, it is a commercial enterprise providing space products, services, and consultancy to interested customers nationally and worldwide. It was set up to facilitate India’s indigenous space industries as well as to market and profit from the Indian space program’s many innovations.

more
Where Does the Money Go:

The department apportions its Rs. 6,715 crore ($1.2 billion) budget to five main areas: Space Technology – Rs. Rs. 4068.11 crore ($756.2 million); Space Application – Rs. 758.59 crore ($141 million); Satellite Systems – Rs. 1220.87 crore ($227 million); Space Sciences – Rs. 471.75 crore ($87.7 million); and Direction & Administration and Other Programs – Rs. 195.68 crore ($36.37 million).

 

More than half of the department’s funding goes to satellite technology, launch vehicles, launch support and other facilities. Out of the Rs. 4068.11 crore ($756.2 million) earmarked for that purpose, Rs. 2307.19 crore ($428.85 million) is for Launch Vehicle Technology, Rs. 1197.06 ($222.5 million) for Satellite Technology, and Rs. 563.86 ($104.81 million) for Launch Support, Tracking Network, and Range Facility.

 

The currently operational INSAT satellites also receive significant funding. A total of Rs. 1220.87 crore ($227 million) goes to the Master Control Facility, INSAT-3 and INSAT-4 satellites, and the required GSAT-7 launch services.

 

Two other programs require special attention. The first is the Chandrayaan-2 Project. Following up its 2008 success, India, in partnership with Russia, plans to return to the moon in 2014. For this purpose, the 2012-2013 budget includes Rs. 82.50 crore ($15.34 million). The second program is the proposed Mars mission in November 2013. Rs. 125 crore ($23.23 million) is already committed to the Mars Orbiter Mission.

more
Controversies:

Antrix-Devas Deal

In January 2005, Antrix Corporation signed an agreement with Devas Multimedia Limited over allocation of “70 MHz S-Band spectrum to Devas by leasing out transponders of two satellites to be built mainly for Devas.” S-band is a unique in that it can be used for “both broadcasting and mobile satellite services.” The deal was ultimately upended in 2011 when it was revealed that Devas had received the spectrum at an extremely low price, to the detriment of the Indian treasury. Reports stated that although the spectrum’s value was around Rs. 2 lakh crore ($37 billion), ISRO sold it to Devas for only Rs. 1000 crore ($184 million). Two government panels investigate the matter. While one panel found no price-fixing, the second panel concluded otherwise. The Pratyush Sinha-led panel found “not only serious administrative and procedural lapses but also suggestion of collusive behavior on the part of certain individuals." It further stated that “It is very clear that there have been serious lapses of judgment on the part of a number of officials…. their actions verged on the point of serious violation of norms and breach of public trust.” As a result, G.Madhavan Nair, who headed the ISRO during the deal and three other prominent scientists were barred from government employment.

 

In May 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) issued a scathing report that blamed DoS for the debacle. It found the deal was a “classic case of public investment for private profit.” The department “concealed facts from the Union Cabinet … violated numerous rules, policies and procedures.  Public interest and those of the Government were sacrificed to favour a private consultancy firm...” The report further alleged that deal was structured in a way to maximize Devas’ benefits at the expense of the public. The Report also singled out Nair, finding he concealed critical facts about the deal in a note he sent to the Cabinet.

 

Since India’s space program is largely considered one of India’s few honest institutions, the revelations were shocking. It didn’t help matters that the S-band spectrum scandal followed the 3G spectrum scandal, where the treasury lost billions. Nair’s blacklisting by the Congress-led administration was strongly criticized by BJP and the issue became another political football. Although a war of words continues between Nair and the Indian government, the scandal has done little to change public opinion of the Indian space program or affect the day-to-day operations of ISRO.

 

Antrix-Devas deal: CAG critical of Madhavan Nair (by Urmi Goswami, Economic Times)

The fall of Madhavan Nair: decoding the ‘scandal’ (by G Pramod Kumar, First Post India)

Antrix-Devas deal: CAG flays Department of Space (IBN Live)

CAG confirms Devas Multimedia got pie in S-band deal on a platter, raps Department of Space (by Dinesh Sharma, India Today)

Report No. -4 of 2012-13 for period ended March 2011 - Union Government ( Department of Space) Hybrid Satellite Digital Multimedia Broadcasting Service Agreement with Devas (Comptroller and Auditor General of India)

Norms and procedures flouted in Antrix-Devas deal (by N. Gopal Raj, The Hindu)

Antrix-Devas deal: Nair fires fresh salvo at Radhakrishnan (Jargan Post)

more
Suggested Reforms:

Monitoring Mechanisms

At a regular parliamentary hearing to discuss the Department of Space’s 2012-2013 budget requests in April 2012, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment, and Forests analyzed the Department’s record. The committee recommended that DoS develop better monitoring mechanisms to avoid project completion delays and to spend their allocated budget. This recommendation came after a series of projects such as the Radar Imaging Satellite, INSAT-3D, ASTRSAT, GSAT-9, GSAT-10, and others could not be completed. For the 2011-2012 years, DoS only managed to spend 60% of its allocated budget. Of the Rs. 5700 crore ($1 billion) allocated, the department only spent Rs. 3432 crore ($638 million). As an extension of these delays, the committee recommends that the department base its timelines for Chandrayaan-2 and the Mars missions on accurate estimates in order to not repeat the same process again. Additionally, the committee also wants the department to take additional steps to ensure private sector participation for research and development purposes.

 

Funds Unused, Budget Cut For Space Dept (Indian Express)

Report on Demands for Grants of the Department of Space - Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment, and Forests (pdf)

more
Debate:

Mars Orbiter Mission

Formally announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 15, 2012, the mission to Mars proposal has generated enthusiasm as well as controversy. The Indian Cabinet has approved a grant of Rs. 450 crore ($83.7 million) for the program. Critics of the program argue that India has misplaced priorities. They believe spending money on moon missions is foolish when India hasn’t tackled developmental challenges like reducing crippling poverty levels, increasing access to education, and mitigating countless other problems. Proponents of the program argue that the amount allocated is not significant and the mission has tangible as well as intangible benefits for India and Indians.

 

The Mission is not Justified

Several social activists contend primarily that the Indian government has misplaced priorities. By attempting to “rub shoulders” with other world powers, these critics say the government sends the wrong message. Most question the actual value of sending a satellite to orbit Mars, which won’t benefit destitute Indians or help ameliorate other social problems. Harsh Mander, a social activist, believes the money should be spent reducing poverty, disease and malnutrition. Journalist Padma Rao bluntly states that it is a matter of priority. While funds have been set up for education and poverty reform, it has not been prioritized.  Further, the announcement came in the wake of India’s worst power grid failure, leading many to wonder if the money wouldn’t be better spent on basic infrastructure rather than advanced science and technology.

 

India Seeing Red over Costly Mission to Mars (by Krista Mahr, Time World)

India's Mars Mission Misplaced Priorities Or Legitimate Aspirations (NDTV)

 

The Mission is Justified

Apart from the general population who support the Mars mission, the loudest public supporters belong to the space community. Supporters point out two things: firstly, Rs. 450 crore ($83.7 million) is not a significant amount for a country like India. This amount will not eradicate or even substantially impact serious social problems. Secondly, the mission has no negative effects and does have benefits. In addition to acquiring technological knowledge and mastery over what is a very difficult mission, the very idea of sending a probe to another planet can inspire coming generations to pursue science education. Dr. PS Goel, the former head of ISRO, believes that aspirations are needed for growth as a country and that the Mars mission will ultimately provide that aspiration. Dr. TK Alex, Former Director of the ISRO Satellite Center seconds that view.

 

Manmohan Formally Announces India's Mars Mission (The Hindu

India to Launch Mission to Mars in 2013 (by Tariq Malik, Space.com)

Breaking views: India's Mars Mission justified (Reuters Video)

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Former Directors:

G. Madhavan Nair

G. Madhavan Nair served as the former Secretary of the Department of Space and Chairman of the Space Commission and ISRO from September 2003- October 2009. During this period he also served as the Chairman of the Governing Body of the National Remote Sensing Agency and Chairman of the Antrix Corporation. Born in 1943, Nair holds a B.Sc. in Engineering with a specialization in Electrical and Communication from Kerala University. He has received numerous honorable degrees from technical institutions across the country. Before his appointment as Chairman, Nair had spent almost four decades in the Indian space program. His leadership positions included Director of the Liquid Propulsion Systems Center and Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center. He is referred to as the “architect of India’s space program” and played a pivotal role in the lunar mission. In recognition of his services, he received the Padma Vishubhan, India’s second highest civilian honor.

 

Considered to be a national treasure, Nair was implicated in the Antrix-Devas deal and was subsequently blacklisted by the Indian government. As a result, Nair cannot seek employment with the central government.

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