India’s navigation satellite system: where we stand today

Lalit Shastri

When it comes to NavIC, the receivers linked to mobile phones, and gps have got delayed. The receiver and mobile chipset are necessary to access the navigation system and due to this reason, it has not been possible till now to integrate it with mobile phones and provide visual and voice navigation for drivers. Hence the navigation system has not been commercialised as yet. The military version also has not made much headway. Especially, as far as the main goal and objective is concerned, the Indian missile systems, Indian Air Force assets require to be upgraded with NavIC.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Dr. Jitendra Singh told Parliament (Lok Sabha) on 20 November 2019 that India’s indigenous navigation satellite system termed as Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC) is already established by ISRO and is functional since April 2018.

NavIC consists of Space Segment (constellation of seven IRNSS satellites) and Ground Segment (spread across India). The system is providing Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) service and one satellite (IRNSS-1A) is providing messaging service, Singh informed the House.

The Minister further said in his written reply that the use of AIS-140 compliant NavIC-based vehicle trackers system has been made compulsory to all commercial vehicles. More than 75 companies are now manufacturing NavIC based vehicle trackers, and several thousand vehicles are now plying on the roads equipped with these devices. The updated version of new mobile models will be having NavIC based positioning systems. NavIC has been accepted by 3GPP (Third Generation Project Partnership) thereby enabling incorporation of NavIC as part of assisted GNSS. NavIC is also useful for applications like timing solution, drones, surveying, weather radiosondes, forestry, precision agriculture, etc.

Inquiries by Newsroom24x7 have revealed that the ground segment is working as claimed by the Government in Parliament but when it comes to NavIC, the receivers linked to mobile phones, and gps have got delayed. The receiver and mobile chipset are necessary to access the navigation system and due to this reason, it has not been possible till now to integrate it with mobile phones and provide visual and voice navigation for drivers. Hence the navigation system has not been commercialised as yet. The military version also has not made much headway. Especially, as far as the main goal and objective is concerned, the Indian missile systems, Indian Air Force assets require to be upgraded with NavIC.

In April 2018, ISRO had launched NavSat IRNSS-II after the atomic clocks of the first navigation satellite IRNSS-IA imported from European Aerospace manufacturer Astrium started failing one by one. It is learnt that at least half of the atomic clocks being used in navigation satellites launched by ISRO have been showing errors. To be precise, in five satellites, one or more atomic clocks have failed. These clocks are used to measure accurate positioning of an object on earth.

The Government’s response in Parliament (Lok Sabha) came in response to a query directed towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi by by Ms Kirron Kher. She asked about the progress made so far under Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) program, in which India will have its own Positioning System; the steps taken by the Government to introduce this positioning system in consumer products like mobile phones; and the proposed timeline by which the positioning system would be introduced in consumer products?

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