The Big Picture – What makes ISRO tick? Can India Replicate its Success in other Fields?

  • July 1, 2017
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The Big Picture- RSTV
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What makes ISRO tick? Can India Replicate its Success in other Fields?


TOPIC: General Studies 3

  • Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

ISRO made another achievement in its glorious list of accomplishments by successfully launching India’s heaviest communication satellite (3360 kgs)- GSAT 19 aboard home-grown GSLV MkIII rocket. Up until now ISRO had to depend on foreign launchers for communication satellite weighing more than 2300 kgs. GSLV MkIII D1 is capable of lifting payloads of upto 4000 kgs into the geosynchronous transfer orbit and 10000kgs into low earth orbit. This has raised the expectation that one day it will also successfully carry astronauts to space. Thus, this achievement is hailed as being a turning point in Indian space journey.


Many have said that India has not done much during past 70 years. But this achievement is proof of what India has achieved during these 70 years. This zenith has been achieved because of strong will of scientists, political leaders and people. This launch is a new beginning in the sense that it is a capability which very few countries have and it help India touch new horizons in science, technology and space.

Success in one area of science triggers new scientific endeavours in many other areas. Therefore those countries which started much ahead of India are still ahead of India and are known for their successes in various fields of science. India has the capability to enhance its scientific temper and new generations’ imagination will be triggered with more and more experimentation and initiatives.

India is going to be more reliant than before on new technology and communication mediums. Till now, India used to be dependent upon for launching satellites about 1.5tons. Now India has the capability to take satellites to the geo synchronous orbit from where communication satellites are positioned. This gives India the capability to have more communication channels availability to Indian public across various uses of communications like satellites, TV channels, and telephone communications.

In all, India now has complete autonomous capability in space technology- propellant manufacture, satellite manufacture, launch capability upto 4ton satellite and so on. Also, the costing is very competitive compared to foreign launches which costed much more, thereby saving India’s foreign reserve too.

India has its own launch pads which can be suitably used now for various launches. However when Indian radars cannot communicate directly with satellites when it goes above the horizon, then it has depend upon other networks world around such as NASA and others to keep track on the satellites.

In future, India should have being able to launch more than 2 GSLV mk III per year to cater to the demand of the country.

From defence perspective

Indian navy has a satellite which was launched few years back. At that point in time, as India did not have indigenous capability, India had to depend on foreign countries even for launching its strategic satellite. From this perspective, when India is proposing to launch a separate satellite for Indian army, navy and airforce, it boosts its ambitions for developing indigenous and indigenously launched satellites for defence purposes.

Communication is key to any sort of defence establishment. By developing India’s capability in GSLV launching system, India is now inching closer to launching its own communication satellites which will serve a critical role and purpose in times of strategic need.

Success of ISRO

GSLV Mk III shows that it is possible to move the space technology commercially. India has performed remarkably at this stage even after it was sanctioned post the nuclear tests. India developed its indigenous capability and workhorse PSLV took 1400 kgs into GSO orbit. And now India has the capability of putting the bigger satellite into the GSO.

While acknowledging its present achievements, two things have to be remembered

  • ISRO has started with almost nothing in hand-No experience and with the cycle and bullock cart era. From there to two launch pads is an incredible journey.
  • Most of the elite institutions in the country did not send their pass outs to ISRO. It was from remote areas, small colleges and universities, most of them being unknown to the nation and abroad, who worked for ISRO. These were encouraged and trained. The moto was- if anybody can do it, India can do it cheaper and better. This motto inspired generation of scientists within ISRO.

If India uses its own human resource within the country, even if they are from second rate and third rate institutions, the work done can be noteworthy. Most of the elite institutions have their best brains migrated. This mission mode which ISRO inculcated from the beginning as culture is giving dividends today.

Encouraging new generations

Therefore, public funding of education is extremely important. This will help to choose the best of minds not from one institute but many institutions across the country. A large number of institutions are doing first rate work. It is important to recognise them. Because if there is dearth of creation of scientific temper within the society and not acknowledgment of work of scientists is made, then scientists also lose confidence.

There is not a single TV or radio channel which runs full time programme on science. Hence, there needs to be promotion of science and generating interest in science within all sections of society, especially kids and school going children. Physics, chemistry mathematics every area gets a boost when such scientific endeavours are taken.

Performance of other sectors

Many sectors are not moving forward the same way as ISRO and seem to be lagging behind. Here the question is mainly of leadership. Success of ISRO is critically dependent on kind of leadership it had over decades. ISRO leaders such as Vikram Sarabhai, Satish Dhawan, Dr. Kalam had grand vision that India should be able to things itself. The entire set up in ISRO is very coordinated in a sense that scientists of different areas and places know what is happening by interacting with each other so intimately that everything works together systematically.

ISRO has a zero budgeting system where a project is sanctioned, team leader decided, management, budgeting and planning is done and once the project is over, the file is closed. This lacks in most of institutions. There is a lack of visionary approach to work in mission mode projects and implementing it effectively.

Now ISRO has went one step forward with establishment of Indian Institute of Space Technology, Trivandrum where it directly trains the students passing from it. Thus, there is a readymade captive student population who are willing to join an organisation. This is similar to department of Atomic energy which also had its training school. Both followed similar kind of approach in managing high technology projects.


ISRO is a trend setter in field of scientific knowledge. There is a need to have many such organisations in India. Other organisations should adapt working and management lessons from ISRO so as to get their specific domain-special workers. No doubt, there are issues relating to funding, motivation, and applicability also which need to be addressed at highest level. Also, investments in research and development need encouragement as if there are no investments into basic sciences, there will be difficulty in applied sciences. Somewhere the focus seems to be more on applied sciences which now needs to be brought back on basic sciences. ISRO has maintained a balance between both the sciences and hence has been able to taste the success of its endeavours.

Connecting the dots:

  • What is GSLV MkIII and what is its importance? Critically examine the role of ISRO in harnessing scientific knowledge and temper among citizens.

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