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ISRO plans satellite series for mapping and climate monitoring

Bangalore: As part of an effort to increase its ability to map the country through satellite imaging, India plans to create a chain of nine earth observation satellites which will be used for civilian applications such as identifying potential fishing zones or mapping streets in cities.

They will be placed in the so-called low earth orbit or around 700km above the earth’s surface by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The agency will launch the satellites, also known as remote sensing satellites, over the next five years beginning June with Oceansat-2, a satellite that has devices that can track wind velocity on the surface of the sea and which can be used to identify fishing zones.

The launch of these civilian satellites will be preceded by the launch, in February, of Cartosat-2A, a satellite that will be used for defence purposes and which will have a camera that can shoot images as small as a bicycle on the road, using a PSLV rocket.

“There’s stress on (launching) satellites for monitoring ocean and atmosphere (activities in) next five years,” said V. Jayaraman, director of Isro’s earth observation systems.

Currently, India has 10 operational remote sensing satellites including Cartosat-2, which beams high resolution images that Isro’s commercial arm Antrix Corp. Ltd plans to sell to users, including the US government, whose internal security agencies need such information.

ISRO is building Cartosat-3, a satellite that can shoot images as small as a cat (a resolution of one-third of 1m; Cartosat-2 has a resolution of 1m). India’s focus on using satellites to monitor atmosphere and climate change is welcome as the country has been lagging behind others in terms of contributing to the science and geophysical parameters obtained through satellites, said Santhosh Seelan, professor, department of space studies at the University of North Dakota in the US.

India and France are jointly working on two satellites, Saral and Megha Tropiques, to track climate changes in the ocean and the tropics. ISROis building a family of radar imaging satellites that carry synthetic aperture radars, all-weather imaging sensors that are capable of taking images in cloudy and snow-covered regions.

“The data (from Indian satellites) is being routinely used for many applications around the world, the benefits of which are certainly enormous, but hard to quantify,” said Seelan, a former space scientist with ISRO.