ISRO’s Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad has developed the atomic clocks

SRIHARIKOTA: The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, NavIC, will soon be expanded as Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is building five more advanced navigation satellites with a focus on meeting country’s strategic sector needs.

More importantly, an indigenously developed rubidium atomic clock will be part of the new satellites. ISRO Chairman S Somanath told this daily, “One of the four atomic clocks onboard the first navigation satellite to be launched next month or by end of this financial year will be a desi one.”

ISRO’s Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad has developed the atomic clocks. This is a significant step as these clocks are critical for measuring precision location data.

For NavIC to be fully operational and provide accurate real-time positioning and time services, at least seven satellites — three geostationary, four geosynchronous orbits — should be functional. Two more will be standby satellites.

Between 2013 and 2018, India successfully placed eight navigation satellites of which a few are currently non-functional due to reported malfunctioning of atomic clocks. Somanath said, “NavIC is still operational and services are being provided with limited satellites. We have got approval for building five new navigation satellites. One is almost ready.”

Tapan Misra, former director of SAC under whose leadership these atomic clocks were developed, said, “Atomic clocks are critical to measure the distance between satellite and the object on the ground. India is among the few nations to have developed this technology.”

India decided to have its own navigation system in 1999 after the US refused to share GPS data that would provide vital details on Pakistani troop’s position during the Kargil War. NavIC was a culmination of two decades of work. ISRO is also gearing up for a busy schedule with many launches of PSLV, GSLV and SSLV lined up.