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May onwards ISRO to launch a back to back string of eight defence satellites


The space above India sets an unprecedented rush of satellites mainly for the country’s military. From the may beginning, atleast eight earth observation (EO) satellites of varied hues are planned to be sent by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at the rate of almost one a month.

Satellite GSAT-6A will be replaced by the communication satellite GSAT-32. GSAT-6A was meant to mainly serve the ground forces and was lost in a failed launch. Such defence satellites were put up only once in a year until now, and were spaced out over a few years, like in the case of Cartosat-2 series high resolution imaging satellites.

When we look at the last three launches by ISRO like HysIS, launched in November; Microsat-R in January; and the EMISAT, we can say that there is a lot more to come.

Payloads for DRDO

According to the officials, traditionally, the payloads for ISRO’s satellites come from the Space Applications Centre, the payloads of the Microsat-R and EMISAT were from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Soon after EMISAT’s launch, ISRO Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space, K.Sivan, announced that the next mission would be the radar imaging satellite RISAT-2B, followed by a high resolution mapping satellite Cartosat-3.

Both are understood to be useful militarily and seen as overdue assets.

 Equal treatment

“To us, every satellite is just that, another satellite of national relevance. We don’t worry about its demarcation [as a military or a civil one],” Dr Sivan. This is also how successive Chairman of ISRO have argued the case for ISRO’s production of ‘military’ satellites.

Objects of desire

Cartosat-3 will have 30 cm resolution, which is at a par with the world’s best, according to public information already put out by ISRO. It means the satellite can clearly ‘see’ and capture images of guns, devices, objects or human movement at that scale from space.

There are already half-a-dozen Cartosat-2 series satellites in orbit, though these possess a lower resolution capability than the upcoming Cartosat-3.

Radar imaging satellites like India’s RISAT series can provide almost an uninterrupted view of earth, day or night, rain or shine, a handy feature for the forces to detect border infilitration.

And so, we should see many more RISATs or next-gen Cartosats coming up as the military’s objects of desire from the U.R. Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru. A few of them would serve civil agencies as well.