India is improving its space program through the development of communication and navigation satellite services, planetary exploration missions to better understand the solar system, and a proposed human flight program by 2025. The country’s space program is successful even though its annual budget is just $1.2 billion.

Since its founding in 1969, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has launched more than 70 satellites, 30 of which are operational in 2015. Operating under the Indian Department of Space, ISRO collaborates with 33 countries and employs 15,800 people. ISRO assembles satellites and launch vehicles using parts manufactured or assembled at its 11 Indian facilities. Launchers and satellites are produced in southern cities Thiruvananthapuram and Bangalore, respectively.

As the first Asian nation to reach Mars, India is a global leader in space exploration. Of 43 Mars missions in the world, India’s was one of 20 to be successful and the only one to accomplish this on the first attempt. Its Mars Orbiter Mission cost just $74 million compared to NASA’s $671 million Maven mission.

India uses an advanced meteorological satellite, INSAT-3D, for weather monitoring. This involves an Atmospheric Sounding System which provides vertical profiles of temperature, humidity, and ozone. The country also works with foreign agencies to study weather.

In 2013, the U.S. and India established the Joint Working Group on Civil Space Cooperation to improve earth observation data, discuss planetary sciences, and promote the compatibility of satellite navigation systems. In partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, India launched Earth Observation satellites to assist weather stations in predicting thunderstorms. India is also collaborating with Brazil and South Africa to develop a weather study satellite.

In 2015, the country successfully launched its fourth Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS). This system provides information about location and areas within a 930 mile radius from the position. ISRO plans to launch at least seven IRNSS satellites by 2016 and eventually run its own global positioning navigation system.

Antrix Corporation Ltd., a unit of ISRO based in Bangalore, implemented the worldwide commercial exploitation of space products and services. It launched 45 satellites for 19 nations including Germany, Canada, and the U.K. The company also provides remote sensing data, ground station, and transponder lease services. In 2015, Antrix deployed five U.K. satellites—three commercial Earth Observation satellites and two smaller satellites—through a single launch.

A few private India-based companies are active in the space sector. In 2011, ISRO launched Jugnu, India’s first nanosatellite, built by a team of students from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. A year later, the main contributors founded Firefly Aerospace Pvt. Ltd. to develop an orbital deployer based on the one used for Jugnu. Firefly claims to provide consulting and engineering services, product development, design reviews, and manufacturing support for orbital device deployment and nanosatellite projects.

A subsidiary of New Jersey-based Aniara Space, Aniara Communications Pvt. Ltd. of Bangalore works in the broadcast media space. Aniara has partnered with Russia’s Dauria Aerospace to manufacture two small geostationary satellites by 2017 to deploy over Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Based in Bangalore, Dhruva Space develops small satellites for commercial vehicle and flight tracking, disaster management, and predicative analytics. In 2015, Dhruva collaborated with Germany’s Berlin Space Technologies to build India’s first manufacturing facility for small satellites. Dhruva also partnered with Maryland-based AMSAT, to develop HAMSAT II, a disaster management and emergency radio communication satellite.

In 2015, Prime Minister Modi increased funding for the space program by 50%. Even so, India’s space program still receives a fraction of the budget of other space programs.

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