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Eyes in the Sky – India’s Military Satellites


Starting this month, ISRO is launching a series of military satellites for the defence forces. Read on to know how these satellites helps the defence forces…

Starting this month, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) plans to send up at least eight earth observation (EO) satellites of varied hues and at the rate of almost one a month. Communication satellite GSAT-32 is also in the offing next year to replace GSAT-6A, which was lost in a failed launch and was meant to mainly serve the ground forces. Out of its 47 operational satellites, India currently has six to eight satellites which are used entirely for military purposes.

For the last few years, these military satellites have been constant sentinels in our skies and have given ground information to our defence forces which to an extent was not possible earlier. The Cartosat 2-series of satellites played a key role in assisting the armed forces in the surgical strike of 2016.

The recent air strike by the Indian Air Force in Pakistan’s Balakot, which caught the attention of the entire country, was certainly a terrific example of the capability of the country’s armed forces. However, the dramatic strike was also aided by the information and images received from the ring of all-seeing radar imaging satellites built by the ISRO.

These satellites will not only provide more “eyes in the sky” in order to track terrorist launch pads and hideouts, they will also help to monitor activities in the Indian Ocean, especially those by Chinese warships, give precise data on weather and map affected areas during natural disasters.

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

Lethal Features
According to public information already put out by ISRO, Cartosat-3 will have 30 cm resolution, which is at a par with the world’s best satellites. This means that 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. In near future, there will be several RISATs or next-gen Cartosats coming up as the military’s ‘Eye in the Sky’ from the U.R. Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru.

In April, India also launched the country’s first electronic surveillance satellite, EMISAT which will help detect electronic signals on the ground, especially hidden enemy radars. Jointly developed by the ISRO and the DRDO, this advanced electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellite, along with the AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System), would work as a vital tool for India to locate, tackle and silence enemy radars and secure the country’s airspace.

Upcoming Launches
The following are some of the upcoming sky monitors which ISRO intends to launch in 2019-2020.

Cartosat-3 – June 2019
RISAT-2BR1 – July 2019
GISAT-1 (New Series) – September 2019
RISAT-2BR2 – October 2019
GISAT-2 – November 2019
RISAT-1A – November 2019
GSAT-32 – February 2020


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