India one step closer to its independent satellite navigation system

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is developing an indigenous position determination system that will potentially complement or even replace the Global Positioning System (GPS) operated by the US. India is slowly moving towards its own desi (indigenous) satellite navigation system with the aim to launch the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) – the first regional navigation for mobile phone. One of the posts talks about successful launch of this project and now India is ready to reap the results.


ISRO states that seven IRNSS satellites, once operational by July next year, will be significantly more accurate for the Indian territory than the GPS system. All the seven satellites are expected to be in orbit by March 2016. The IRNSS is expects the system to provide location accuracy of almost 20 metres. GPS accuracy offers a similar accuracy for India.

The advantage of IRNSS is that the navigation range has been designed to span around 1,500 km radius around India. Existing GPS system is not available at all places in India and signals are weak in remote areas. The IRNSS the signal will available with full accuracy equally throughout the country.

satellite navigation system - RNSS_Coverage

With this initiative, it is expected that India will undergo major change in Indian navigation system, manufacturing devices and its services. Interesting? Let us witness the change.

Source: ISRO, IndiaTimes

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Measuring plant health from space by FLEX

FLEX is the name of an ESA satellite that is planned to be launched in 2022 in order to measure vegetation health from space. FLEX refers to fluorescence.

Very generically, fluorescence is the spontaneous emission of light by a substance that has absorbed some kind of elextromagnetic radiation (for instance light). It is a form of luminescence. In most cases, the emitted light has a longer wavelength and therefore less energy than the absorbed radiation. A very well known example of fluorescence occurs when the absorbed radiation is in the ultraviolet region of the spectrum and therefore invisible to the human eye while the emitted light is in the visible region, which gives the fluorescent substance a distinct colour that can only be seen when exposed to UV light.

Chlorophyll fluorescence
Chlorophyll fluorescence refers to the light that is emitted by chlorophyll molecules during photosynthetic energy conversion from an excited to non-excited states induced by absorption of sun light. It occurs in all higher plants and algae. The conversion of solar energy into biochemically usable energy carriers (ATP and NADPH) is a complex and highly regulated sequence of light absorption, electron transfer and biosynthesis. The photochemical conversion is accompanied by a release of energy in form of heat and fluorescence. The properties of fluorescence can be measured and relate to the photosynthetic activity of plants.

Chlorophyll fluorescence is a well investigated effect. For instance, it is known that Chlorophyll fluorescence indicates most types of plant stress – water availability, extreme temperatures, etc. In plant physiology and ecophysiology “[…]chlorophyll fluorescence has become one of the most powerful and widely used techniques”[1].
Chlorophyll fluorescence in plants has two peaks occurring at wavelengths around 685nm (photosystem I) and 740nm. The full chlorophyll emission spectrum hence covers a wavelength range from red to near infrared between ~640-800nm.

The fluorescence explorer, FLEX, is designed to measure the fluorescence of plants from space and will thereby yield important information on plant health and improve the understanding of the way carbon moves between plants and the atmosphere and how photosynthesis affects the carbon and water cycles.
FLEX will carry the Fluorescence Imaging Spectrometer (FLORIS) that covers the effective range of chlorophyll fluorescence between 500 and 780nm with varying spectral sampling and resolution of 0,1nm and 0,3nm respectively in the oxygen absorption bands. The spatial resolution will be 300x300m² covering the scale of individual agricultural and forestry management units.

Following a rigorous selection process, the satellite will be ESA’s eighth Earth Explorer, planned for launch by 2022. The FLEX satellite will orbit in tandem with one of the Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellites, taking advantage of its optical and thermal sensors to provide an integrated package of measurements.

Jan Woerner, ESA’s Director General, said, “FLEX will give us new information on the actual productivity of vegetation that can be used to support agricultural management and the development of a sustainable bioeconomy. It will therefore help to understand our ecosystem.”

Fluorometer used to measure plant stress in the field, a usual practice.

Measuring plant health – Fluorometer used to measure plant stress in the field, an aready used practice

Fluorescence image of adaxial leaf surface (32 x 24 mm) measured with IMAGING-PAM chlorophyll fluorometer. Wikipedia

Fluorescence image of adaxial leaf surface (32 x 24 mm) measured with IMAGING-PAM chlorophyll fluorometer. Wikipedia

Vegetation plant stress.

Measuring plant health – Vegetation plant stress
















ESA Report for mission selection

1: Maxwell K., Johnson G.L., 2000: Chlorophyll fluorescence – a practical guide. Journal of Experimental Botany, Vol.51, No.345, pp. 659-668



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