India's remote sensing program was developed with the idea of applying space technologies for the benefit of humankind and the development of the country. The program involved the development of three principal capabilities. The first was to design, build and launch satellites to a Sun-synchronous orbit. The second was to establish and operate ground stations for spacecraft control, data transfer along with data processing and archival. The third was to use the data obtained for various applications on the ground.[1]

India demonstrated the ability of remote sensing for societal application by detecting coconut root-wilt disease from a helicopter mounted multispectral camera in 1970. This was followed by flying two experimental satellites, Bhaskara-1 in 1979 and Bhaskara-2 in 1981. These satellites carried optical and microwave payloads.[2]

India's remote sensing programme under the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) started off in 1988 with the IRS-1A, the first of the series of indigenous state-of-art operating remote sensing satellites, which was successfully launched into a polar Sun-synchronous orbit on March 17, 1988, from the Soviet Cosmodrome at Baikonur.

It has sensors like LISS-I which had a spatial resolution of 72.5 metres (238 ft) with a swath of 148 kilometres (92 mi) on ground. LISS-II had two separate imaging sensors, LISS-II A and LISS-II B, with spatial resolution of 36.25 metres (118.9 ft) each and mounted on the spacecraft in such a way to provide a composite swath of 146.98 kilometres (91.33 mi) on ground. These tools quickly enabled India to map, monitor and manage its natural resources at various spatial resolutions. The operational availability of data products to the user organisations further strengthened the relevance of remote sensing applications and management in the country.[3]

IRS System

Following the successful demonstration flights of Bhaskara-1 and Bhaskara-2 satellites launched in 1979 and 1981, respectively, India began to develop the indigenous Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellite program to support the national economy in the areas of agriculture, water resources, forestry and ecology, geology, water sheds, marine fisheries and coastal management.

Towards this end, India had established the National Natural Resources Management System (NNRMS) for which the Department of Space (DOS) is the nodal agency, providing operational remote sensing data services.[4] Data from the IRS satellites is received and disseminated by several countries all over the world. With the advent of high-resolution satellites, new applications in the areas of urban sprawl, infrastructure planning and other large scale applications for mapping have been initiated.

The IRS system is the largest constellation of remote sensing satellites for civilian use in operation today in the world, with 11 operational satellites. All these are placed in polar Sun-synchronous orbit and provide data in a variety of spatial, spectral and temporal resolutions. Indian Remote Sensing Programme completed its 25 years of successful operations on March 17, 2013.[3]

IRS data applications

Data from Indian Remote Sensing satellites are used for various applications of resources survey and management under the National Natural Resources Management System (NNRMS). Following is the list of those applications:

IRS launch log

The initial versions are composed of the 1 (A,B,C,D). The later versions are named based on their area of application, including OceanSat, CartoSat, ResourceSat. Some of the satellites have alternate designations based on the launch number and vehicle (P series for PSLV). From 2020, the name was changed to the generic EOS, which stands for Earth Observation Satellite.[5]

Serial No. Satellite Date of Launch Launch Vehicle Status
1 IRS-1A 17 March 1988 Vostok, USSR Mission Completed
2 IRS-1B 29 August 1991 Vostok, USSR Mission Completed
3 IRS-P1 (also IE) 20 September 1993 PSLV-D1 Crashed, due to launch failure of PSLV
4 IRS-P2 15 October 1994 PSLV-D2 Mission Completed
5 IRS-1C 28 December 1995 Molniya, Russia Mission Completed
6 IRS-P3 21 March 1996 PSLV-D3 Mission Completed
7 IRS 1D 29 September 1997 PSLV-C1 Mission Completed
8 IRS-P4 (Oceansat-1) 27 May 1999 PSLV-C2 Mission Completed
9 Technology Experiment Satellite (TES) 22 October 2001 PSLV-C3 Mission Completed
10 IRS P6 (Resourcesat-1) 17 October 2003 PSLV-C5 Mission Completed
11 IRS P5 (Cartosat 1) 5 May 2005 PSLV-C6 Mission Completed
12 IRS P7 (Cartosat 2) 10 January 2007 PSLV-C7 Mission Completed
13 Cartosat 2A 28 April 2008 PSLV-C9 In Service
14 IMS 1 28 April 2008 PSLV-C9 Mission Completed
15 RISAT-2 20 April 2009 PSLV-C12 In Service
16 Oceansat-2 23 September 2009 PSLV-C14 In Service
17 Cartosat-2B 12 July 2010 PSLV-C15 In Service
18 Resourcesat-2 20 April 2011 PSLV-C16 In Service
19 Megha-Tropiques 12 October 2011 PSLV-C18 Mission Completed
20 RISAT-1 26 April 2012 PSLV-C19 Mission Completed
21 SARAL 25 Feb 2013 PSLV-C20 In Service
22 Cartosat-2C 22 June 2016 PSLV-C34 In Service
23 ScatSat-1 26 September 2016 PSLV-C35 In Service
24 RESOURCESAT-2A 07 Dec 2016 PSLV-C36 In Service
25 Cartosat-2D 15 Feb 2017 PSLV-C37 In Service
26 Cartosat-2E 23 June 2017 PSLV-C38 In Service
27 Cartosat-2F 12 Jan 2018 PSLV-C40 In Service
28 RISAT-2B 22 May 2019 PSLV-C46 In Service
29 Cartosat-3 27 Nov 2019 PSLV-C47 In Service
30 RISAT-2BR1 11 Dec 2019 PSLV-C48 In Service
31 EOS-1 (RISAT-2BR2) 07 Nov 2020 PSLV-C49 In Service
32 EOS-3 (GISAT-1) 12 Aug 2021 GSLV-F10 Crashed, due to launch failure of GSLV
33 EOS-4 (RISAT-1A) 14 Feb 2022 PSLV-C52 In Service

IRS Data Availability

Data from IRS is available to its users through NRSC Data Centre and also through Bhuvan Geoportal of ISRO. NRSC data center provides data through its purchase process, while Bhuvan Geoportal provides data in free and open domain.

Capacity Building for IRS and Other Remote Sensing Data

The capacity building programme of ISRO for IRS and other remote sensing applications is through Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) Dehradun and UN affiliated Center of Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTEAP) Center located at Dehradun of Uttrakhand State in India.

Future IRS launches

The following are the remote sensing satellites planned by ISRO to be launched next, strengthening the fleet of IRS satellites and widening their applications:[6][7]


  1. ^ Navalgund, R. R.; Kasturirangan, K. (1983-12-01). "The Indian remote sensing satellite: a programme overview". Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Sciences Section C: Engineering Sciences. 6 (4): 313–336. Bibcode:1983InES....6..313N. doi:10.1007/BF02881137. ISSN 0973-7677. S2CID 140649818.
  2. ^ Comprehensive Remote Sensing. Elsevier. 2017-11-08. ISBN 978-0-12-803221-3.
  3. ^ a b "The Saga of Indian Remote Sensing Satellite System - ISRO". Archived from the original on 2019-06-27. Retrieved 2019-12-27.
  4. ^ FAS website on IRS
  5. ^ Jones, Andrew (2020-11-07). "India back in action with launch of Earth observation satellite, nine rideshare small sats". SpaceNews. Retrieved 2021-01-06.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ IRS Satellites in ISRO annual report of year 2006-07Archived 2009-04-08 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Eleventh Five Year Plan For Indian Space Programme" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-05-12. Retrieved 2020-01-23.
  8. ^ a b Kumar, Chethan (April 6, 2022). "gaganyaan: 2 Gaganyaan abort tests in August, December; relay satellites next year". The Times of India. Retrieved 2022-04-08.
  9. ^ Kumar, Chethan (2021-03-12). "Isro aims for 7 more launches from India in 2021". The Times of India. Retrieved 2021-03-12.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ Chethan Kumar (Oct 2, 2021). "isro: Isro lines up 3 Earth Observation Satellites with key indigenous technologies". The Times of India. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  11. ^ "Annual Report 2020-21, Department of Space, Government of India" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2021-04-25. Retrieved 2021-03-12.
  12. ^ "GSLV - Planned Launches" (PDF). Vikram Sarabhai Space Center. Retrieved 2020-01-15.