RISAT-2 not a spy satellite: ISRO chief
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RISAT-2 not a spy satellite: ISRO chief

The PSLV today successfully launched two more new satellites - Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT-2) and the micro education satellite Anusat - into space. RISAT is the first such satellite 'possessed by India' that will function in the ‘microwave band’, which can also be used for military purposes. But ISRO Chairman, G Mahdavan Nair, categorically denied suggestions that it was a 'spy satellite.' MR Venkatesh reports.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2009 13:48 IST
MR Venkatesh
MR Venkatesh
Hindustan Times

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which had last October put India in an elitist space club with the magnificent first moon mission ‘Chandrayaan-1’, on Monday yet again proved its versatility, successfully launching two more new satellites into space, one of which has potential military application.

The PSLV-C12, the 14th consecutive successive flight by this launch vehicle class from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) here, 90 km North of Chennai, lifted off from the second launch pad at 6:45 am, and placed two satellites – ‘RISAT-2’ and ‘ANUSAT’, in a perfect orbital flight.

“I am extremely happy that the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has given its New Year gift to the country though belated,” a jubilant ISRO Chairman, Mr G Mahdavan Nair declared, after a “precise launch, on the dot, with no deviation whatsoever in the flight parameters.”

While ‘RISAT-2’ is a ‘Radar Imaging Satellite’ weighing 300 kg, to take images of the earth during day and night as well as in cloudy conditions, the Rs 5.2 crores ‘ANUSAT’ is a 40-kg, experimental communication micro-satellite built for the first time by an Indian University, the Chennai-based Anna University, with ISRO’s guidance.

Shortly after sunrise over the Bay of Bengal, in a clear morning sky, it was a spectacular sight to watch the 44-m tall PSLV-C12 lift off with both the satellites on board, leaving thick trails of colourful smoke and a thunderously cracking sound as the first stage visibly separated up above.

The pre-determined flight path took nearly 19 minutes to traverse, before the satellites were placed in an orbit of 550 km height from the earth with an inclination angle of 41 degrees to the equator. A major hiccup during the countdown on Sunday, when the launch vehicle’s ‘umbilical connector’ came crashing down, was successfully overcome in time by ISRO scientists working overnight who “made everything right”, Mr Nair said.

‘RISAT-2’, outcome of cooperation with Israel Aerospace Industries, is the first such satellite “possessed by India ” that will function in the ‘microwave band’, which can also be used for military purposes. But Mr Nair categorically denied suggestions that it was a “spy satellite”

“There is nothing like a spy satellite in our agenda; this is another series in the Earth-Observation satellite category,” Mr Nair was at pains to explain, but declined to go into RISAT-2’s cost as it involved a commercial understanding with the Israeli agency.

It was like any other remote-sensing satellite, Mr Nair said.

Parrying a query on whether some of its capacities would be used by the Indian Air Force, Mr Nair said, “this satellite is owned and operated by ISRO for most data acquisition operations.” It cannot image terrorists.

Its frequency has been so fine-tuned that “we can go as low as the soil and even a few meters below the soil,” Mr Nair said, adding, this satellite would enhance ISRO’s capability for mapping the earth particularly during floods, cyclones, landslides and in natural disasters management.

In the past India had to rely heavily on pictures from a Canadian satellite even during the Kosi floods last year, the ISRO Chief pointed out, adding, ‘RISAT-2’ will be particularly helpful in mapping our rice crop coverage.

Another key feature of this mission is that for the first time ISRO has put its own indigenously developed ‘Advance Mission Computer and Telemetry System’ on-board the PSLV flight, he said. It guides the launch vehicle from the lift-off till the injection of the two satellites. “This is a big step towards self-reliance,’ as it replaced a 30-year-old computer system, added Nair.

The ‘ANUSAT’ built by Anna University was a good starting point for diffusing high technology education, he said. Now other Institutions like IIT-Kanpur have come forward to take up “satellite building as student projects” under ISRO Satellite Centre’s guidance, Mr Nair said.

First Published: Apr 20, 2009 07:19 IST