There is nothing called spy satellite: ISRO chief

April 20th, 2009 - 2:04 pm ICT by IANS  

ISRO Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh), April 20 (IANS) The radar imaging satellite (RISAT-2) launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) from here Monday is owned and operated by ISRO, its chief said, dismissing reports labelling RISAT-2 a “spy satellite”.
“This 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,” ISRO chief G. Madhavan Nair told reporters here at a post-launch press conference.

He was reacting to media reports terming RISAT a spy satellite or defence surveillance satellite launched by ISRO’s workhorse rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) early morning Monday. However, informed sources said the satellite’s synthetic aperture radar gives it day-night capability and the ability to look through clouds and fog, thus giving it defence applications.

The satellite launched Monday is actually RISAT-2 that was fast-tracked in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in place of the RISAT-1 that ISRO is developing.

The PSLV rocket also sent into orbit a micro-educational satellite Anusat built by Anna University with funding support from ISRO.

Though the launch went as planned, ISRO scientists spent tense hours Sunday as one of the umbilical chords holding the rocket to the launch pad fell off, damaging nearly six connectors.

“Six hours of countdown time were spent on setting things right,” Nair 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 Industry, with which RISAT has been develped, 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.

He said the launch of Anusat has prompted six other educational institutions like IIT-Kanpur and VIT-Vellore to approach ISRO for building such satellites.

Answering a question on the six month old Chandrayaan-1 moon mission, an official said the satellite was continuously sending data as it orbited the lunar surface.

On the status of the Chandrayaan-2 project, T.K. Alex, director of the ISRO Satellite Centre, said: “The project planning is in full swing. The two phased project will involve orbiting the moon and soft landing on the moon surface.”

He said ISRO is working with the Russian space agency and is in the process of finalising the test equipment that would go with the two rovers that would soft land on the moon.

“Engineering activity for the project is on and the launch will happen sometime in 2011 or early 2012,” Alex said.

According to K. Radhakrishnan, director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, ISRO’s manned space mission involving an outlay of Rs.12,400 crore has got the green signal from the Planning Commission.

“We have to build a new launch pad, facilitation centre for the crew and mission control centre for manned rockets,” he said, adding the rocket’s cabin would also have to be certified for human worthiness.

“We will first send a couple of developmental flights (test rockets) before putting human beings inside a rocket,” Radhakrishnan added.

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