India marked its 101st space mission today with the launch of its heaviest communications satellite, GSAT-10, from French Guyana.
The satellite, carrying 30 communication transponders and a navigation payload, is the first of 10 missions slated for the coming year, a hectic schedule that the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) hopes will have glorious finale in November 2013 with the launch of an orbiter to Mars.
India’s Red Planet mission is to be carried out without international help, highlighting the growth of the agency.
“At the moment, we plan to do it on our own,” said ISRO chief K Radhakrishnan at the agency’s headquarters here last week.
After 50 years and 100 missions, the Indian space program is growing faster than ever. India’s scientists, some NASA-trained, assembled the country’s first rocket in a village church in the 1960s. Today, India’s home-grown space program is considered one of the top six in the world.
ISRO’s budget is barely 7.5 percent the size of NASA, but it has been growing every year since the early 2000s, jumping from $591 million in 2004-05 to $1.3 billion in 2012-2013.