What is the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS-NavIC)?

India became the fourth country in the world to have its independent regional navigation satellite system developed by ISRO to provide accurate position information service to assist in the navigation of ships in the Indian Ocean.

Adding to its list of achievements, India became the fourth country in the world to have its independent regional navigation satellite system developed by ISRO. The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) with its operational name of NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation) has been recognised by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as a part of the World Wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS) for operation in the Indian Ocean Region.

During its 102nd session held virtually (4 to 11 November 2020), the  Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of IMO approved IRNSS as a World Wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS). The process of getting the said recognition took two years.  

This is a significant achievement for Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW), Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) towards Prime Minister Modi's 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' vision. 

What is the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS)?

It is India's independent regional navigation system designed to provide accurate position information service to assist in the navigation of ships in the Indian Ocean Region. NavIC is certified by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), responsible for coordinating mobile telephony standards globally.

As per experts, it has the potential to replace the US-owned Global Positioning System (GPS) in the Indian Ocean extending up to approximately 1500 km from India's boundary.

Active satellites of IRNSS:

It is a constellation of eight satellites in the space, out of which 7 are currently active. These satellites are positioned approximately 36,000 km away from Earth and are as follows:


IRNSS provides two kinds of services:

1- Standard Positioning Service (SPS) 

2- Restricted Service (RS)

Applications of IRNSS:

1- Terrestrial, Aerial and Marine Navigation

2- Disaster Management

3- Vehicle tracking and fleet management

4- Integration with mobile phones

5- Precise Timing

6- Mapping and Geodetic data capture

7- Terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travellers

8- Visual and voice navigation for drivers

IRNSS Architecture

IRNSS Space Segment

3 out of 7 satellites are geostationary orbits (GEOs) located at 32.5º East, 83º East and 131.5º East longitude while the remaining 4 geostationary satellites (GSOs) are located 55º East and the other two at 111.75º East (two satellites in each plane). 

The life span of the satellites:

The life span of GEOs is 9.5 years while GSOs have a life span of 11 years. 

IRNSS Ground Segment

The IRNSS Ground Segment consists of the following:

1- IRNSS Spacecraft Control Centre (SCC)

2-IRNSS Navigation Centre (INC)

3- IRNSS TTC & Uplinking Stations (IRTTC)

4- IRNSS Range and Integrity Monitoring Stations (IRIMS)

5- IRNSS Timing Centre (IRNWT)

6- IRNSS CDMA Ranging Stations (IRCDR)

7- Laser Ranging Station (ILRS)

8- Data Communication Network (IRDCN)

IRNSS User Segment

The IRNSS User Segment consists of dual-frequency IRNSS receivers (L5 and S-band frequencies) or the single frequency IRNSS receivers (L5 or S-band frequency). 


In 2006, the project was approved by the Government of India and was expected to be completed and implemented by 2015.

The constellations' first satellite (IRNSS-1A) was launched on 1 July 2013 and the seventh and final satellite (IRNSS-1G) was launched on 28 April 2016. With the last launch of the constellation's satellite (IRNSS-1G), IRNSS was renamed Navigation Indian Constellation (NAVIC) by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

What does the IMO recognition of the IRNSS mean?

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is the United Nations' agency which is responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships. With this recognition, India became the fourth country next to the US, Russia and China to have its own regional navigation system. Also, this navigation system is similarly placed as GPS, most commonly used by marine shipping vessels across the world or the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS). It is to be noted that IRNSS is a regional navigation system and not a global one. 

Who all are authorised to use IRNSS?

At present, all merchant vessels including small fishing vessels are authorised to use the IRNSS. The vessels having transponders installed in them will be tracked by satellite navigation showing the accurate position in the Indian Ocean region. At least 2,500 merchant vessels are there in the Indian waters which are authorised to use this system. The IRNSS is a modern and more accurate navigation system. 

The IMO encourages countries to develop their own navigation systems to reduce their dependency on foreign navigation systems. The IRNSS can provide accurate position information to assist ships in the Indian Ocean. 

Countries and their own navigation satellite systems

1- The United States' GPS: Global Positioning System (GPS) is the world's most used GPS system and is operational since 198. It is a constellation of 32 satellites. 

2- Russia's GLONASS: Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) provides global coverage with a constellation of 26 satellites. 

3- Europe's Galileo: It is a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) which became operational in 2016 and has a constellation of 30 satellites. 

4- China's BDS: The BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) provides regional coverage of the Asia- Pacific region, plans to provide global coverage by 2020 with a total of 35 satellites.

5- Japan's QZSS: The Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) is a regional satellite system covering Japan and the Asia-Oceania region with a total of 4 satellites and 7 are planned. 

6- India's IRNSS-NavIC: The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System or IRNSS with its operational name of Navigation with Indian Constellation (NAVIC) is India's regional satellite system with a constellation of 8 satellites. 

Global Indian Navigation System (GINS)

The Department of Space, GOI in its 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) initiated the study and analysis for GINS which is expected to have a constellation of 24 satellites, positioned 24,000 km above the Earth. 

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