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Opinion: ISRO satellites give India panopticon surveillance over targets

(Representative Image) Photograph:( Others )

New Delhi, Delhi, India Jan 12, 2018, 10.13 AM (IST) Written By: Col Danvir Singh

Indian Space Research Organisation’s PSLV-C40 rocket carried the Cartosat 2 series satellite along with 30 other satellites of foreign and Indian origin. It was by far the longest mission placing satellites in two different orbits.


This satellite in the Cartosat 2 series, which is made with the objective of providing high-resolution scene-specific spot imagery which will be used for Land Information System (LIS) as well as Geographical Information System (GIS)-based applications. 

This satellite, weighing 710 kg, is carrying on board the state-of-art technology in terms of panchromatic (PAN) camera that take black and white pictures of the earth in the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The swath covered by this high-resolution PAN camera is 9.6 km and their spatial resolution is less than 1 metre. 


India’s neighbour and arch rival Pakistan has raised questions over the usage of the satellite by India and showed its concern which is not without reason.


Islamabad’s Foreign Office spokesperson said New Delhi must refrain from putting the new satellite to military use which could create trouble in the region. He said, “All space technologies, including earth observation satellites, are inherently dual use and can be employed for both civilian and military purposes and therefore it is essential that such pursuits are not directed towards a build-up of destabilizing military capabilities, which can negatively impact the regional strategic stability.” 


The sources say that the ability of this satellite to steer up to 45 degrees along as well as across the track, is what sets it apart from the previous in series. This ability combined with high-resolution imagery adds power to the celestial vision. Now the observatories in India need not waste time giving orbital corrections to be over the area of interest, instead, the steering itself could do the trick. In short, it implies that larger areas in real time can now be scanned, almost eliminating the shadow periods. Monitoring of missile and nuclear activities as also the terror infrastructures in Pakistan will now be under constant Indian watch by the combined surveillance of Cartosat 2, EROS A and RISAT satellites. 


Cartosat-2's panchromatic camera can produce images better than 1 meter in resolution. To be precise, the resolution is .8 meters which is even better when compared to the 82 cm panchromatic resolution offered by the Ikonos satellite. India had been previously purchasing images from Ikonos at about US$20 per square kilometre; the use of Cartosat-2, now provides imagery at 20 times lower cost. At the time of Cartosat-2's launch, India was buying images worth about ₹20 crore per year from the American Ikonos operated by Digital Globe. 


Today’s launch of Cartosat 2 satellite enhances India’s military capabilities in its space-based assets manifolds. With GSAT-7 and GSAT-6, satellites are being developed for strategic purposes. The earlier remote-sensing satellites (sub-metre resolution, matching with the best in the world) launched by ISRO as dual-purpose satellites like the technology experimental satellite (TES, 2000) and the four cartographic satellites (CARTOSAT-1, 2, 2A and 2B in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010) places itself in the elite club. 


With Israeli assistance, India has also launched two Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites called RISAT II (2009) and RISAT I (2011). These satellites visit the target area every 3-4 days. At any given moment and time there always exists surveillance over sensitive areas which has further enhanced by today’s launch. 


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL).