IRNSS – India’s constellation of GPS satellites – FAQs

When we hear the word GPS, the typical Google maps grid screen pops up in our mind. We imagine a bunch of satellites floating in the orbit and beaming back information to us. But there is more to navigation systems than what we see at the surface. In this post, we will study about IRNSS, the Indian GPS satellite program.

PSLV-C31 take off

What is IRNSS?

IRNSS is a satellite program undertaken by the ISRO for enhancing the Indian view of the skies and all that lies beneath it. It is a constellation of 7 satellites indigenously manufactured in India which upon completion will help to provide precise locations within 20 meters.

The seven satellites are christened as IRNSS-1A, IRNSS -1B all the way to IRNSS -1G.

Why do we need IRNSS satellites?

America has GPS, China has COMPASS, Europe union has GALILEO and Russia has GLONASS. These are all regional navigation systems of their respective countries which we have limited or no access to. India is a huge landmass and the American GPS cannot possibly fulfill all our navigational needs. During wartime, such services borrowed from other countries become highly unreliable and risky to use. The main objective behind having our own regional navigation system is to have seamless coverage of all areas for military and development purposes. Other than this the IRNSS can be used for typical civilian purposes like town surveying and construction planning, disaster management, clock reference, games and social media (enabling features like geotagging, location-based games and etc)

Placement of Nozzle End Segment of PSLV-C31 First Stage over Launch Pedestal in progress

What is the coverage of the IRNSS satellites?

The IRNSS area coverage extends 1500 km outwards from both sides of the Indian border. It covers a good portion of our neighboring countries and can help us track their activities too. Out of seven satellites, three are geostationary satellites that means they will appear to be fixed in the sky from the land in a particular position; and the remaining four are geosynchronous satellites, this means that they will appear to move in an inclined orbit of the shape of number ‘8’.

IRNSS Satellite Positions
All Satellite Positions

After becoming operational, IRNSS will become another feather in the hat for Indian Defense Forces, making India the 6th ever country to achieve such a feat. While the technology of the satellites is similar to GPS, it is being said that it will be better and more efficient than its American counterparts. Also, the scientists at ISRO have already conducted meetings with several telecommunication companies regarding the hardware upgradations required for handheld devices in order to reap the full benefits of the satellite-based navigation system.

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