India’s network of satellites providing a regional navigation system was complete with the successful launch of the IRNSS-1G at Sriharikota on Thursday.
This is the seventh satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) constellation which is designed to provide position information in the Indian region. Prime Minister Narendra Modi christened it NAVIC – Navigation with Indian Constellation after the launch.
The IRNSS now rivals those of other countries, viz., the US’ Global Position System (GPS), the Russian Glonass, China’s BeiDou and Galileo of Europe.
In principle, not much is different between these systems, but the US and Russian ones are more global given the higher number of satellites in orbit. The GPS has 31 satellites while 24 comprise the Glonass system.
India has the least; the Chinese have about 20 satellites and Galileo has 10.
So how does India’s NAVIC fare in comparison?
With seven satellites in orbit, its primary focus is to provide information in the Indian region and 1500 kms around the mainland.
Essentially, it’s the desi version of the GPS, said Dr TK Alex, former director of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) satellite center in Bengaluru, where all of India’s satellites are developed and tested.
The country, which has so far depended on the GPS, will be able to collect its own data and not rely on a foreign country.
During the 1999 Kargil War, India could not access the GPS’ data pertaining to the region as the US administration denied permission.
Dr Alex said that the Indian system provides two types of services – the Standard Positioning Services (SPS) which will be available to all users (civilians) and the Restricted Services (RS) which will be open to only authorised users such as defence and intelligence agencies.
“Foreign countries like the US or Russia do not offer the Restricted Services to us when we need them. Having our own navigation service system is good for the country… We do not have to depend on other countries,” he said.