India’s spy satellite goes into orbit (Second Lead)

April 20th, 2009 - 3:35 pm ICT by IANS  

ISRO By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh), April 20 (IANS) India’s defence surveillance capabilities received a quantum boost Monday with the launch of an all-weather day-night spy satellite that has the capability to look through clouds and fog.

The launch of the radar imaging satellite RISAT-2, equipped with a sophisticated Israeli-built synthetic aperture radar (SAR) was hastened in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, ahead of RISAT-1 that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is still building.

At 6.45 a.m., the ISRO workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) soared aloft with a deep throated growl with 340 kg of luggage - the 300-kg RISAT-2 and the 40-kg Anusat educational satellite built by Chennai’s Anna University with funding from ISRO.

After 17 minutes into the flight guided by ISRO-developed navigation systems, the 229-tonne rocket slung RISAT-2 540 km above the earth and Anusat 10 km further two minutes later to place them into their intended orbits.

Immediately after their launch, the Spacecraft Control Centre at Bangalore with the help of ISTRAC network of stations at Bangalore, Lucknow, Mauritius and in other places monitored the trajectories of the two satellites.

ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair said: “This is a fantastic New Year gift for the country. We are happy. Performance of the vehicle is precise. There is no deviation to the planned flight path. Both the spacecraft were delivered into orbit.”

Nair hastened to add that RISAT-2 “is an imaging satellite that can identify features on ground. There is nothing as a spy satellite. Though the satellite has a global coverage we will use it only for our use.”

However, the presence of the SAR on board made it clear that it would largely be used for military purposes, particularly along the India-Pakistan frontier in Jammu and Kashmir, informed sources said.

According to Nair, RISAT-2 has been positioned at a 41 degree inclination to enable it revisit a spot at frequent intervals.

Queried about the need for ISRO developing another such satellite, Ranganath R. Navalgund, director of the Space Applications Centre, said: “With two satellites the frequency of visits increases.”

According to him, satellites orbiting in some frequencies cannot look at the earth very closely.

Not disclosing the price paid to the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), with which RISAT-2 has been developed, Nair said: “Normally a remote sensing satellite weighing one tonne would cost around Rs.80 crore (Rs.800 million). This spacecraft is much smaller.”

India now joins a select group of countries in the world like Canada, Israel, Japan and a few others in having such a precision satellite.

Nair also said 2009 was going to be a big year for ISRO. “We will be launching Resourcesat, Oceansat and others. An indigenously developed cryogenic engine will be inducted this year.”

India is a world leader in the remote sensing data market and with the launch of RISAT-2, ISRO will have nine remote sensing satellites in orbit. The others are IRS 1D, Resourcesat 1, TES, Cartosat 1, 2 and 2A, IMS 1 and Oceansat 1.

The other remote sensing satellites slated for launch are Oceansat-2, Radar Imaging Satellite, Resourcesat-2.

“Oceansat-2 is expected to be launched this June or July using PSLV. Piggy-backing will be a Swiss-owned micro satellite. Following that will be the launch of GSAT with Geo Synchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV) that will be fitted with indigenous cryogenic engine,” S. Sathish, director (publications and public relations) at ISRO, told IANS.

He said the year-end will see the launch of remote sensing satellite Resourcesat and communications satellite INSAT 3D.

The micro education satellite Anusat, built by Anna University and having a life span of one year, will carry out drought and wasteland monitoring, urban planning and other studies.

“Anusat is expected to prod other Indian universities to built satellites and focus on space technologies,” Satish added.

One of the notable aspects of the rocket that went up is its avionics built by ISRO. It also weighs less than earlier systems.

The Indian space agency first tested its new avionics system called Advanced Avionics Module (AAM) on board PSLV that was launched in April 2007 with two equipment bays.

The first bay had ISRO’s regular navigation system while the second one had the 185-kg AAM.

Satisfied with the test flight results, the Indian space agency initially thought of inducting the indigenous system into operation first in its bigger rocket GSLV and later in PSLV.

However, the scheme of deployment has been reversed now.

“The ISRO developed microprocessor Vikram is faster than what is being used till date,” said Satish.

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