India will launch its first navigation satellite this year as a part of its Gagan (GPS aided geo augmented navigation) project, says S. Ramakrishnan, director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC), according to a report from The Hindu. Gagan is a regional satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) jointly developed by Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Ramakrishnan said that the first navigation satellite, Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) will be launched with PSLV C-22 rocket in the next few months and only after all the satellites are positioned accurately in the space, the government will be able to provide navigation service through Gagan. He added that the service is expected to be launched in 2014.


In March 2011, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) had approved a one-time grant of Rs 378 crore from the Government Budgetary Support for implementation of Gagan project over Indian airspace for seamless navigation.

CCEA had approved a total project cost of Rs 774 crore, of which AAI was expected to contribute Rs 604 crore and ISRO was expected to contribute Rs 170 crore. Out of Rs 774 crore, CCEA had noted that Rs 148 crore was already spent in Technology Development Strategy (TDS) Phase which included AAI’s contribution of Rs 108 crore and ISRO’s contribution of Rs 40 crore.

The remaining Rs 626 crore was allotted for the project’s final operational phase, of which AAI was expected to contribute Rs 496 crore and ISRO was expected to contribute Rs 130 crore. Interestingly, CCEA had then noted that the project was expected to be operational by May 2013.

Use Cases

Gagan could be used in aviation sector and help in navigation over Indian airspace. Other applications include all weather national infrastructure and can be used by defense services, security agencies, Railways, surface transport, shipping, telecom industry and personal users of position location based services.

That being said, using Gagan technology would also mean replacing the current GPS receivers and devices with Gagan receivers and devices. Hence, we are not sure if the Government will replace the existing GPS receivers with Gagan receivers and devices. Also, it is not clear if the scope of the project will be limited to government activities or the government plans to roll out the technology to the general public? If it does, will it tie up with handset manufacturers and navigation solution providers to integrate Gagan tech to their products?

We had also earlier reported that India’s Ministry of Home Affairs wants the “Communications Monitoring facility” to be technically capable of tracking. The facility would be able to plot the information on a map to enable geographical analysis of the calls.Therefore the government might implement this tracking through Gagan, without having to depend on any external navigation system.

Other Navigation Technologies

In November 2012, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, was installing global positioning system (GPS) based devices in vehicles transporting public distribution system commodities to prevent smuggling of foodgrains. The Delhi High Court had also ordered auto-rickshaws in Delhi to compulsorily install GPS and printers in their vehicle (pdf of the court order). Commercial navigation tools such as MapMyIndia, TomTom, Nokia Maps, among others also use GPS for navigation.

There is also Russia’s Glonass, which had partnered with the state owned telecom service provider BSNL and MTNL to offer its satellite-based navigation service to their susbcribers. In March 2010, NIS GLONASS had signed an Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) to set up a working group to establish and incorporate a joint venture with ISRO’s commercial subsidiary Antrix to offer navigation and information services on the GLONASS platform. The company had inked an agreement with DIMTS (Delhi Integrated Multimodal Transit System) in November 2010, to form a consortium to participate in tenders to build Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and traffic management solutions for Indian metropolitan cities.

It had also signed a contract with the Hyderabad-based HBL Power Systems in August 2010, to provide satellite navigation systems to keep track of the company’s vehicles and promote Glonass system in India.

Apart from that, there is also European Union’s Galileo positioning system and Chinese Compass navigation system, however Galileo was meant only for civilian use.

(By Apurva Chaudhary and Vikas SN)