In a flawless mission the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C12) on April 20 put in orbit Radar imaging Satellite (RISAT-2), a surveillance satellite, which could keep a watch on the country’s borders.
This was the first time the Indian space research organization (ISRO) put in orbit a RISAT in the microwave band. It can take images of the earth day and night, see through clouds and identify objects on the ground. The 300kg RISAT-2 has been procured from Israel.
The RISAT-2 could precisely look at water bodies and vegetation. Its images would have wide ramifications in managing disasters such as cyclones, floods and landslips. It would also be “a powerful tool” in estimating the paddy acreage. It can also be used for surveillance purposes and its images can be used for identifying arms caches and bunkers.Both the RISAT-2 and ANUSAT were injected into orbit 550 km above the earth at an inclination of 41 degree, 19 minutes after lift-off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.
RITSAT-2 was developed by ISRO in collaboration with the state-run Isreal Aerospace Industries. It can see through clouds, darkness, fog and even a few inches deep into the soil to check how wet it is.The advanced capabilities are on account of its Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) that uses microwave radiation to ‘see’. Only a few other space leaders such as Canada, the European Union and the US use this technology.
RISAT-2 will enhance ISRO’S capability for earth observation and surveillance across the border. ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair, however, denied the satellite was a spy in the space. It can see features on ground like buildings, water bodies and roads. Its coarse resolution is 10m and its finest is 1m, enough to spot a small car. But it is not good enough to see human movements or track terrorists.
India’s launch of the military spy satellite RISAT-2 is not just about the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), but about taking a quantum leap in its defense surveillance capabilities, especially as India strengthens its defense in the post-26/11 world. It gives India an eye (through clouds and other weather vagaries) on its restive borders with Pakistan, China and Bangladesh.The launch means terrorist movement on the LOC will now have a greater chance of being picked up by Indian forces. The importance of acquiring pre-emptive capabilities can hardly be overstated. India’s earth observation programmers have thus far been related to agriculture, monsoon and education. RISAT puts India squarely in the limited League of Nations with military use of satellites. The capacity building will help India leverage its space capabilities better in terms of its defense requirements.
RISAT-2 and RISAT-1 (to be launched in early 2010) satellites will generate a huge amount of data in the form of real-time high resolution imagery, which would need to be analyzed and acted upon quickly. ISRO has not spelt out the names of agencies that will use RISAT data or the infrastructure it plans for coordination with other national agencies.It is not known whether the National Technical Research Office, has established the facilities to convert satellite data into usable intelligence inputs. To this end, the country will need a new crop of professionals well versed in remote sensing as well as security issues. Otherwise ISRO’s efforts in generating valuable data may meet the fate of earlier satellites like Edusat where the lack of adequate ground linkages has led to their sub-optimal use.