Chennai: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is readying a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) to launch an Israeli RISAT (Radar Imaging Satellite), in the first week of April. Given its all-weather, day and night capability, the RISAT falls in the class of high-tech spy satellites and as of now there is some uncertainty about the end user – if it should be Israel or India.
Reports suggest that the given the current security environment in the Indian sub-continent, the Indians may have acquired the RISAT from Israel for their use, as the indigenously developed version is slated for launch only at the end of the year, or even early next year.
The RISAT is a radar-imaging satellite used for remote-sensing, which can take pictures of the earth 24 hours of the day, through rain and cloud. It is not clear as to the size of the Israeli RISAT, which may be in the region of about 300 kg. If so, the Indian RISAT would be approximately six times its size, at around 1780 kg.
Vehicle integration is moving apace at the spaceport at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
The launch vehicle, PSLV-C12, will also deploy a mini-satellite called Anusat, built by Anna University, Chennai. Anusat, an amateur communications satellite weighing 38 kg, was integrated at the Madras Institute of Technology, Chennai, of Anna University. It is undergoing tests at the ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore and is due to reach Sriharikota soon.
Last year, ISRO put into orbit the TecSAR spy satellite from Israel, which drew a howl of protest from Iran. This too was a radar-imaging, remote-sensing satellite and the launch was executed under a commercial contract between the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Antrix Corporation, the commercial wing of the Government of India's Department of Space.
The PSLV due to take the RISAT and the Anusat into orbit will be a 'core alone' version – that is it will be missing the six strap-on boosters, which are part of the standard PSLV.
The Indian RISAT will be the first satellite launched by India to operate in the microwave region. It will carry a multi-mode, agile, C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) payload operating in a multi-polarisation and multi-resolution mode. Remote sensing satellites launched previously by ISRO cannot carry out the operations of the type which can be undertaken by RISAT. Indian space scientists see the RISAT as a major milestone for the country as far as remote sensing satellites are concerned.
Apart from its military usefulness – it can sense military build-ups taking place deep in the interior of a hostile country at any time of the day or night, in any weather condition, adverse or helpful. It will have immense uses in the civilian arena as well, particularly during the monsoon season.
India's high-tech intelligence-gathering assets are severely constrained as the planned Israeli Phalcon Airborne Early Warning and Control System systems are yet to be delivered.