India Launches $200M TECSAR Spy Satellite
The April 20/09 launch of the RISAT-2 satellite gives India the ability to monitor cross-border movements of suspected terrorists, as well as troop movements in Pakistan and other neighboring countries, at night and under all weather conditions. The satellite was reportedly a modified TECSAR satellite, purchased from Israel Aerospace Industries for $200 million. Indian sources state that the satellite launch was accelerated after the recent terrorist attack in Mumbai.
The 300 kg/ 660 pound TECSAR’s military X-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) provides up to 1 meter radar resolution was carried into low earth orbit aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C-12) from the Satish Dhawan Space Center located on the barrier island of Sriharikota in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The PSLV-C-12 also carried the 40 kg/ 88 pound experimental communication ANUSAT satellite built by Chennai-based Anna University.
The satellite purchase marks a growing military relationship between India and Israel…
In January of 2008, India reportedly launched a TECSAR satellite for Israel aboard a PSLV-C-12 rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Center. Israel has used its own “Shavit” rocket for other launches, but working with India widens Israel’s placement and payload options by avoiding the necessity of launching westwards, against the rotation of the earth. By turning to India, Israel is able to launch a satellite into polar orbit; a defense analyst told AFP news agency that this orbit that provides Israel with the ability to monitor Iran’s nuclear progra.
On India’s side of the fence, its government has been building a number of satellites with dual-use capabilities, but reported problems with Cartosat-2, and expanding coverage needs, apparently made existing options unsatisfactory. India’s response was to delay the civilian RISAT-1 satellite, in order to make way for RISAT-2.
The PSLV-C-12 rocket experienced launch postponements, and the April 20/09 launch had its own drama. Despite that, the rocket lifted off into orbit from Sriharikota spaceport as scheduled. RISAT-2 will fly in a sun-synchronous orbit, at 550 km altitude, for use in a number of roles including civilian disaster and recovery monitoring. It is expected to last for 3 years.
The Indian-developed RISAT-1, which also uses SAR technology, will follow in a subsequent launch. It is designed for agricultural monitoring in the civilian C-band, flying at 608 km above the earth. Its dedicated missions will include time-lapse coverage of the Kharif crop, the important autumn harvest in India and Pakistan.
See also: Asian Surveying and Mapping | Spaceflight Now | The Hindu | Hindustan Times | NDTV | Times of India | Associated Press of Pakistan | Hindustan Times: official denials that RISAT-2 is a spy satellite.