ISRO VS NASA: Facts on Launch Vehicles, Technology, Missions & Achievements

(Last Updated On: June 28, 2018)


Most of us are eager to know how the comparison of ISRO vs NASA will be. These two space agencies are consistently keeping their position as the top 5 space agencies in the world. Before start comparing ISRO vs NASA, the background of both organizations should be considered.

We all know that NASA is the space agency of United States of America, one of the richest and developed countries in the world. ISRO is the space agency of the India which is a developing country, so the difference in budget and costly technologies will reflect in the performance of both agencies.

Even from such thing, ISRO is capable to compete with top spending space agencies like NASA and ESA. So the scale here used for compare ISRO vs NASA will consider these facts also.

#1. Launching Vehicles

ISRO’s first rocket (M-100) was launched in 21st November 1963 was imported from Russia. At that time India doesn’t have a space agency. After 6 years in 1969 August 15th ISRO was formed.

After that ISRO developed a series of launch vehicles like SLV, ASLV, PSLV, GSLV and its different variants and conducted many satellite launches. Using these vehicles ISRO launched a lot of satellites for indigenous use and also as a part of the commensal agreement with different space agencies.

In the USA the scenario is different Most of the rockets used by NASA are developed by joint venture between NASA and other private companies. Except for some old rockets likeAtlas-Agena, Thor-Ablestar, Thor-Delta, SM-65E Atlas, Saturn I.

The Recent satellite launches NASA used SPACE X rockets and in some future missions like parker solar probe NASA is using Delta IV-Heavy which was developed by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

When we considering ISRO vs NASA, Vehicles used by NASA have heavy lifting capacity. But ISRO is different from NASA in developing the rockets ISRO has indigenously developed all the vehicles from the SLV to the latest heavy lifter GSLV Mk III.



When we comparing ISRO vs NASA in technology development the first thing came to mind is that the development of cryogenic technology. Cryogenics is the study of materials at very low temperature. In cryogenic engines, liquefied gas fuels are used at very low temperature.

NASA had this technology years before ISRO start thinking about it. This technology used in NASA’s Saturn V rocket made NASA the pioneers in the moon landing. The USA and other developed country denied to hand over the cryogenic technology to ISRO during 1980’s.

ISRO indigenously developed the technology and successfully placed geostationary satellite in geosynchronous orbits but still, ISRO still has not achieved the errorless technology. ISRO is using indigenously developed cryogenic engines in its GSLV.

We all know the USA has the world’s number one technology in Navigation, The Global Positioning System. ISRO is also developing a regional navigation system known as IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System).

In previous years ISRO was depending on European Space Agency’s ARIANE 5 rockets to launch communication satellite to geosynchronous orbits. ISRO developed and launched a communication satellite to geosynchronous orbit using GSLV MK III recently.

#3. Major Achievements

Comparing the achievement of ISRO and NASA everyone will first think about the moon landing and Apollo missions that is still an unbeatable achievement of NASA but the political and social circumstances at that time is different the moon landing was a part of the race between Soviet Union and USA rather than its contribution to the science and technology.
On 22 October 2008 India’s first moon mission Chandrayyan 1 was launched.

A Lunar orbiter and an impact probe was the part of this mission. By this mission, India became the fourth country to place its flag on moon’s surface.

The major achievement of this mission was the discovery of water in the moon. The presence of water was first recorded during the decent of moon impact probe and later the discovery was confirmed by lunar orbiter’s onboard equipment Moon Mineralogy Mapper.

Mangalyaan is the one of the top mission excited by ISRO. The Mangalyaan otherwise known as Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) was launched on 5th November 2013. ISRO became the first agency to reach Mars in its first attempt.

NASA is a master in interplanetary missions. They achieved a successful Mars mission ‘Mariner 4’ after a failure of their first mission Mariner 3. In case of moon mission also NASA gone through a lot of failures, they reached moon after a continuous failure of 12 missions.

We all know that NASA is one important organization providing knowledge about deep space objects. NASA discovered many Galaxies, Exoplanets, Stars etc. Recently ISRO also gets involved in this kind of space research programs.

In the beginning, ISRO was concentrated in a mission that can make a direct impact on ordinary people’s life like communication satellites, Weather forecasting satellites etc.

On 28 September 2015 ISRO launched its first multi-wavelength space observatory, Astrosatto the orbit. ISRO established some terrestrial telescope and infrared observatory for the deep space observation.

As a result of these programs Indian scientist recently discovered an exoplanet 600 light years away using 1.2m Telescope at PRL’s GurushikharObservatory in Mount Abu, India. Indian scientific research institute Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research discovered a supercluster and named it as ‘Saraswathi’.

#4. Commercial Satellite Launches and Mission Budgets

In commercial satellite launches, ISRO has the upper hand in the world. ISRO’s commercial satellite launches are conducted by Antrix Corporation Limited, It is the commercial arm of ISRO.

ISRO launched 104 satellites in a single launch and broke the record set by Russian space agency of 37 satellites in a single launch. While comparing ISRO vs NASA, the US space agency is far behind in this achievement.

The other thing in which ISRO has the upper hand is in executing low-cost space missions. Indian Mars mission MOM is the world’s cheapest Mars mission. This capability of ISRO makes attract world countries to approach ISRO for their satellite launches.

These facts about ISRO vs NASA shows a result that both space agencies have their unique role in lifting humankind in new heights. ISRO and NASA have long diversity in their socio-economic background that will reflect in the missions they plan.


Unnikrishnan V is an avid regular writer at KEYSHONE. He is an Aeronautical Engineer from Kerala.He has a bachelors degree in aeronautical engineering from Anna University, Chennai. He is an amateur astronomer and very interested in astrophysics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *