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ISRO mulling new IRNSS series to boost accuracy of ‘desi GPS’

To boost the accuracy of ‘desi GPS’ NavIC (navigation with Indian constellation), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is likely to extend Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) programme. The national space agency is contemplating on a new IRNSS series.

At 4.04 am on Thursday, India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in its 41st flight (PSLV-C41) in XL configuration will launch IRNSS-1I satellite from First Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota. The IRNSS-1I is the eighth satellite to join the NavIC navigation satellite constellation.

ISRO Chairman K Sivan told Express on the eve of the launch that IRNSS-1I will be the last in the current ‘approved’ navigation satellite series. “There is a plan for a new IRNSS series. We are working on it and will be submitting a proposal before the Centre. It will be a totally new project,” he said. Sivan said it would be an extension of IRNSS project. Currently, various modalities are being working out like on number of satellites, on board technologies etc. “The idea is to improve the accuracy of services further and also have enough back-up satellites in space just in case there is a situation where one stops functioning like it happened with IRNSS-1A.

To a query, he said the new IRNSS series is not meant to extend its coverage beyond the regional boundaries. NavIC is an independent regional navigation satellite system developed by India. It is designed to provide accurate position information service to users in India as well as the region extending up to 1,500 km from its boundary. It will provide two types of services, namely, Standard Positioning Service (SPS) which is provided to all the users and Restricted Service (RS), which is an encrypted service provided only to the authorised users. “This will not change much. It will be only a regional system, but the accuracy will improve,” he said.

If IRNSS-1I is launched successfully on Thursday, it will complete ISRO’s commitment to put seven operational navigation satellites in orbit. Though, the space agency has put seven satellites in operation after successfully launching IRNSS-1G on April 26, 2016, the first satellite of the series IRNSS-1A put into orbit on July 1, 2013 developed trouble with three rubidium atomic clocks on board not functioning. One ground spare, IRNSS-1H was flown as replacement satellite aboard PSLV-C-39 on August 31, 2017, but heat shield separation failed and the satellite failed to deploy. Now, IRNSS-1I is being flown and is the last spare available.

Meanwhile, Sivan said the first commercial roll-out of NavIC services is likely by April end. The beneficiaries would be Indian fishermen, especially those who undertake deep sea fishing. A private industry has been roped-in to produce NavIC enabled hi-tech communication gadgets through which fishermen can stay connected upto 1,500 km from the shore without internet or tower connectivity.
The device, which will be fitted to the boats, will use NavIC to lock the location of the boats and periodically update the location to the ground control room. Besides, the fishermen will receive text and video messages about the ocean weather forecast. If a low pressure area has formed in Bay of Bengal and is likely to intensify into a cyclonic storm, fishermen will be alerted ahead of time.

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