Giving a big boost to its defence surveillance capabilities, India today successfully launched an all-weather Israeli-built spy satellite that will help security agencies keep a vigil on the country's borders.
Indian space agency ISRO'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 (RISAT 2) and micro-educational satellite ANUSAT into orbit about 19 minutes later in a textbook launch. 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 RISAT2 would be a good asset to national resources and "I am sure it is going to serve the country well." RISAT2 has all-weather capabilities to take images of Earth and would also be beneficial in mapping and managing natural disasters, such as floods and landslides. The 40 kg micro satellite ANUSAT, the co-passenger of RISAT 2, has been built by Anna University, to demonstrate the technologies related to message store and forward operations.
ANUSAT, the first built by an Indian University, is a 'store-and-forward' communication satellite that will help transfer confidential academic material and also monitor drought and wasteland, urban planning and other studies. RISAT2 has a lifespan of three years and ANUSAT, one year. Different from previous remote sensing satellites, RISAT2 uses Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), equipped with many antennas, to receive signals which are processed into high-resolution pictures.
The SAR, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), equips RISAT with defence capabilities. The SAR payload can take images during day, night and in all weather conditions, including under cloud cover, a capability that Indian satellites do not have. Nair said ISRO has "big goals" to achieve this year, referring to the line up of ISRO launches. "All this put together... it is going to be almost like the fireworks season at Sriharikota."
Today's is the 15th flight of PSLV, which has so far launched 30 satellites-- 14 for India and 16 for foreign countries -- since 1993. PSLV had also launched the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft on 22nd October last year.