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India's spy satellite RISAT placed in orbit

April 20, 2009 08:12 IST
Last Updated: April 20, 2009 16:34 IST

Giving a big boost to its defence surveillance capabilities, India on Monday successfully launched an all-weather Israeli-built spy satellite that will help security agencies keep a vigil on the country's borders. The Indian Space Research Organisation's workhorse PSLV-C12 rocket soared majestically into a clear sky at 6.45 am from the spaceport in Sriharikota and placed its first Radar Imaging Satellite and micro-educational satellite ANUSAT into orbit about 19 minutes later.

The 300 kg RISAT-2 will primarily keep an eye on the country's borders round-the-clock and help in anti-infiltration and anti-terrorist operations. A jubilant ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair said, "The year 2009 has started off well. The final moments of the launch were more thrilling than a cricket match as we hit a few boundaries and bowled some googlies."

Nair said the performance of the PSLV-C12 launch vehicle was 'precise and on the dot'. "Again, we have set a record. As in the past, we declared the launch date, time and we made it happen," he said.

Adding that the RISAT2 would be a good asset to national resources, he said, "I am sure it is going to serve the country well." India's newest eye in the sky has the capability to maintain vigil on the country's borders even at night and through clouds. The satellite, built with Israeli cooperation, enhances significantly India's capabilities in earth observation as it can track minute movements on land, sources said.

Till now, Indian satellites operated only in the visual range and RISAT-II, for the first time, uses microwave frequencies to track the earth. Though ISRO maintains that it will use the satellite for disaster management purposes and weather forecasts, the satellite imagery data can be made available to defence forces for securing the national borders.

RISAT-II has all-weather capabilities to take images of the earth and would also be beneficial in mapping and helping in managing natural disasters, such as floods and landslides, they said.

Different from previous remote sensing satellites, RISAT-II uses Synthetic Aperture Radar, equipped with many antennas, to receive signals that could be processed into high-resolution pictures. The SAR, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, equips RISAT-II with defence capabilities, the sources said.

India has been developing its own RISAT but since the project was delayed, it was decided to seek Israeli help in building the SAR, the sources said.

The SAR payload can take images during day, night and in all weather conditions, including through cloud cover, a capability that Indian satellites did not have till now.

The 300 kg RISAT-2 will keep an eye on the country's borders round-the-clock and help in anti-infiltration and anti-terrorist operations. The multi-mode, multi polarisation, SAR operating in C-band frequency provides a spatial resolution of three metres to 50 metres, the sources said.

Various modes such as Scan SAR and, strip and spot modes provide images with coarse, fine and high spatial resolutions. Analysts said that the satellite can be used to track terrorist camps across the border and also to aid defence forces in combating infiltration in regions such as Jammu and Kashmir [Images].

However, top ISRO officials were tightlipped about the cost of the satellite, which has a lifespan of three years. Asked about the defence capabilities of the satellite, ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair said it was not on the agenda of the space agency.

"This is essentially meant for peaceful applications like disaster management," he said.

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