International cooperation is a strategic area for a space programme because relationships with other countries are influenced by political, economical, cultural, and human personality factors as well as scientific and technological factors.
India has always recognised that space has dimension beyond national considerations, which can only be addressed along with international partners.
Over the years, as ISRO has matured in experience and technological capabilities, the scope for cooperation has become multifaceted.
While exploratory missions beyond the earth are the natural candidates for such cooperative efforts, there are many other themes like climate change on earth that are of interest to international cooperation because of their global impact.
ISRO has the benefit of International cooperation since inception. Establishment of Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS), conduct of Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) and Satellite Telecommunication Experiment Project (STEP), launches of Aryabhata, Bhaskara, Ariane Passenger Payload Experiment (APPLE), IRS-IA, IRS-IB satellites, INSAT series of satellites, Mission to Moon, Human Space flight Programme Initiatives, etc., have the components of international cooperation.
ISRO is pursuing bilateral and multilateral relations with space agencies and space related bodies with the aim of building and strengthening existing ties between countries; taking up new scientific and technological challenges; refining space policies and defining international frameworks for exploitation and utilisation of outer space for peaceful purposes. Internationally India is viewed by space faring nations as an emerging space power capable of achieving its goals in a more cost effective and time-efficient manner. Specifically the developing countries look to India for assistance in building up their capabilities to derive benefits of space technology. The scope of international cooperation has become wider and diverse, as ISRO has made tremendous progress in recent time.
Formal cooperative arrangements in the form of either Agreements or Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) or Framework Agreements have been signed with Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), European Space Agency (ESA), France, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Mongolia, Myanmar, Norway, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, The Netherlands, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America and Venezuela.
ISRO’s maiden mission to Moon, the Chandrayaan-1, has been an exemplary example of international cooperation with its international payloads. It has also earned several national and international laurels and was instrumental in the ISRO-NASA joint discovery of water molecules on the moon surface, unattained by any of the previous missions of such nature.
The data products generated from recently launched OCEANSAT-2 and Scatterometer is made available globally in near-real-time for global applications through an arrangement with EUMETSAT. The data from other instruments of this satellite is also highly sought of by international scientific community.
The Indo-French joint satellite mission called MEGHA-TROPIQUES for the study of the tropical atmosphere and climate related to aspects such as monsoons, cyclones, etc.,was successfully launched in October 2011 by India’s Polar Satellite launch vehicle (PSLV).The data products are made available to the Principle Investigators of International Announcement of Opportunity for validation activities. As the first of Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) constellation of eight satellites, MEGHA-TROPIQUES data would contribute to the global scientific community to study and understand the dynamics of climate system.
Another joint mission with France, named SARAL (Satellite for ALTIKA and ARGOS) for studying ocean from space using altimetry was successfully launched on February 25, 2013. CNES provided a radar altimeter instrument called ALTIKA and an onboard relay instrument for the international ARGOS data collection system, while, ISRO provided the satellite platform, launch and operations for this joint mission.
ISRO and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are working on the development of the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UVIT) planned on ISRO’s multi wavelength astronomy satellite ASTROSAT.
India continues to play active role in deliberation on Scientific and Technical and Legal sub-committees of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN-COPUOS). India also plays major role in other multilateral fora including United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP), International COSPAS-SARSAT system for search and rescue operations, International Astronautical Federation (IAF), International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), International Institute of Space Law (IISL), Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), Inter Agency Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), Space Frequency Coordination Group (SFCG), Coordinating Group on Meteorological Satellites (CGMS),International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG), International Global Observing Strategy (IGOS), International Space University (ISU), Asian Association for Remote Sensing (AARS), International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS), etc. . Recently, India hosted the 39th Scientific Assembly of COSPAR and the 26th Plenary of CEOS in India.
Internationally, ISRO plays active role in sharing its expertise and satellite data for the management of natural disasters through various multi-agency bodies like International Charter for Space and Major Disasters, Sentinel Asia and UNSPIDER.
The Centre for Space Science and Technology Education for Asia and the Pacific (CSSTE-AP) has been set up in India under the initiative of UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UN OOSA) and offers nine month post graduate diploma courses in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems (every year), Satellite Communication (every alternate year), Satellite Meteorology and Global Climate (every alternate year) and Space and Atmospheric Science (every alternate year). After completion of the course, students have opportunity to carry out research in their own country for one year leading finally to the award of a Master’s Degree from Andhra University.