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NavIC satellite: Why a regional navigation system matters to India

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Science and Technology/ Geography


Source: IE


Context:  ISRO will launch a new NavIC satellite ( NVS-01), belonging to the second generation of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), known as NavIC, to overcome some of the previous issues faced by NavIC.


Issues faced by NavIC (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System):

  • Atomic clock failure: Several of the existing satellites stopped providing location data after their onboard atomic clocks failed
  • Satellite Replacement: Some of the satellites in the NAVIC constellation have reached the end of their mission life or become partially defunct.
  • Limited Coverage: While NAVIC provides coverage over the Indian landmass and a radius of 1,500 km around it, there is a need for further expansion and ground stations outside India to improve coverage and accuracy in hard-to-reach areas.
  • User Segment Development: There has been a delay in the development of user receivers for the NAVIC system, resulting in limited utilization of the navigation services.
  • Mobile Compatibility: Mobile phones in India currently lack compatibility to process NAVIC signals, limiting the widespread use of the system.
  • Security and Encryption: Ensuring the security of NAVIC signals and preventing breaches or spoofing is a significant challenge.


New features of the Satellite are (to overcome some of the issues):

  • L1 Frequency: The inclusion of the L1 frequency (besides L5 and S frequency) enhances compatibility with wearable devices and personal trackers. The inclusion of L1 frequency also increases interoperability with other satellite-based navigation systems.
  • Longer mission life: The second-generation satellites will also have a longer mission life of more than 12 years. The existing satellites have a mission life of 10 years.
  • Rubidium atomic clock: The atomic clock ensures accurate positioning, addressing a previous issue faced by satellites in the constellation
  • The heaviest in the constellation of NAVIC satellites ( will be launched by a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) rocket): Previous satellites were much lighter and launched on PSLV. The higher weight allowance allows for more instruments and fuel to be loaded.


NavIC’s advantages over other systems:

Regional CoverageIndia is the only country that has a regional satellite-based navigation system (there are four global satellite-based navigation systems — the American GPS, the Russian GLONASS, the European Galileo, and the Chinese Beidou
Higher AccuracyOnce fully operational, NavIC open signals are expected to provide accuracy up to 5 meters, surpassing GPS accuracy (20 meters).
Geo-stationary SatellitesUnlike GPS, NavIC uses satellites in high geo-stationery orbit, ensuring constant coverage over the designated region.
Improved Signal ReceptionNavIC signals arrive in India at a 90-degree angle, making them easier to receive even in congested or obstructed areas (unlike GPS).
Indigenous DevelopmentNavIC is developed by ISRO, showcasing India’s technological capabilities and reducing dependence on foreign systems.



Why a regional navigation system matters to India:

Strategic IndependenceIndia’s NavIC system operates independently without relying on GPS or other global systems.
National SecurityNavIC enables precise tracking and navigation for defence operations and military applications.
Disaster ManagementNavIC helps in tracking and responding to natural disasters, such as cyclones and floods.
Transportation and NavigationNavIC enables precise tracking of commercial vehicles, enhancing road safety and efficiency.
Precision Agriculture and FarmingNavIC aids farmers in optimizing crop management, irrigation, and soil nutrient application.
Personal and Public SafetyNavIC enables real-time tracking of fishermen and sends alerts in case of potential dangers at sea.
Scientific and Technological AdvancementsNavIC aids in scientific experiments, geological surveys, and geodetic network development.


To know about NavIC: Click Here



Currently, NavIC’s reach extends only 1,500 km beyond Indian territory. However, for applications involving ships and aeroplanes travelling beyond this range, satellites in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) would be required. By adding MEO satellites in the future, NavIC can extend its global reach and aim to provide navigation services on a global scale, similar to the capabilities of the GPS system.


Mains Links:

  1. Why is the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS) needed? How does it help in navigation? ( UPSC 2018)


Prelims Links:

With reference to the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), consider the following statements: ( UPSC 2018)

  1. IRNSS has three satellites in geostationary and four satellites in geosynchronous orbits.
  2. IRNSS covers the entire India and about 5500 sq. Km beyond its borders.
  3. India will have its own satellite navigation system with full global coverage by the middle of 2019.


Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) None


Ans: A