India will soon connect every nook and corner of its vast territory through satellites to provide education, health and other social services to people, especially those living in far-flung areas.
"To achieve these objectives, the operation of EDUSAT is being expanded across the country while the development of HEALTHSAT has already been envisioned by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)," said S Krishnamurthy, director of the public relations department of ISRO.
Launched on September 20, 2004, EDUSAT is the first Indian satellite built exclusively for serving the education sector.
Encouraged by the steady growth of its telemedicine programme, ISRO has been working to launch HEALTHSAT, a satellite for meeting the healthcare and medical education needs of the country.
"ISRO has also been a champion in demonstrating the use of space technology for societal good. It is building several socially relevant space application projects to cover more than 600,000 Indian villages where around 700 million people live," Krishnamurthy told a visiting team of mediapersons in Bangalore.
EDUSAT services commenced in March 2005 with the launching of a primary education project in Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka. It was a joint effort of the ISRO and the Karnataka government.
"Under this project, 885 satellite-receive terminals for primary schools have been set up in predominantly tribal areas," Krishnamurthy said.
The national beam, which was set up at Ahmedabad, is to be used for the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) in Kharagpur and Chennai, Institute of Electronics and Tele-communication Engineers (IETE), National Council for Science Museums (NCSM) and Centre for Environment Education (CEE).
Krishnamurthy said, "Besides the national beam, five regional beams of EDUSAT are being set up to connect various universities and educational institutions of the states in the respective regions."
According to him, ISRO's telemedicine project, launched in 2001, has so far successfully linked 155 districts and rural hospitals and 34 super-specialty hospitals across the country through the INSAT satellite.
"To provide medical aid and advice from a distance, the telemedicine system consists of customised hardware and software at both the patient and specialist doctor's ends with some of the diagnostic equipment like ECG, X-Ray, pathology microscope and camera provided at the patient end," he explained.
"Patients and specialist doctors were connected through a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) system controlled by the network hub station of ISRO.
"As a result of ISRO's telemedicine endeavour, remote areas like Kargil and Leh in the north, offshore islands of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep, as well as some interior parts of Orissa, Karnataka, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, the northeastern states of India and some tribal districts in other states have access to speciality healthcare from some major specialty hospitals in the country," Krishnamurthy said.
In special situations, telemedicine connectivity has been provided in some pilgrim places in Kerala, he said, adding that similar services are being extended to other pilgrim destinations of the country.
"After the launch of the proposed HEALTHSAT satellite, we can bring a sea change in augmenting the present healthcare delivery system in India," Krishnamurthy said.
With the successful completion of the cryogenic engine, India will soon become self-reliant in rocket launching and the country also plans to spend about Rs 100 billion in the next eight years to achieve its ambitious mission to space, he added.
India will use the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), the workhorse launch vehicle of the ISRO with eight successful flights so far, to send the country's first spacecraft mission to moon, Chandrayan-1, next year.