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‘Thematic Satellites’ – bringing space science to social causes

Former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman, Dr K Kasturirangan has suggested that India should have theme-oriented satellites, designed to meet specific requirements especially in the areas of education and health.

“India has already introduced this concept through the missions of Edusat – specifically designed to cater to educational needs, Cartosat – designed to serve the Cartographic needs and so on,” Dr K Kasturirangan said.

Delivering a lecture on ‘Space – a vision for the next 25 years’, Dr Kasturirangan said, “Edusat or Gsat-1, a satellite exclusively for education, perhaps the first of its kind anywhere in the world, is under development and could be launched later this year.”

He said two specific theme-missions could be conceptualised in the near future – a satellite system for health related application and a satellite system for disaster related applications.

Detailed studies need to be done for defining future thematic mission satellites that would serve specific application areas such as water, agriculture, forest, fire and disaster management, he said.

For Healthsat, the system would include the ability of a remote hospital to access multiple-specialists in different locations for medical advisory services and search and lock to a specialist anywhere in the country, thus improving the probability of accessing a doctor at any time, the scientist said.

Another aspect would be to look at specific automatic bandwidth allocation based on the needs of the diagnostic service to be provided, he said. He said use of satellites in health care is likely to result in “any-time-health (ATH)” service through “health kiosks.” In this, a subscriber could walk into a health kiosk and strap on to himself an array of devices and sensors, and within minutes specialised measurements like pulse, ECG, blood pressure, heart beat rate, etc would be made.

Another concept could be the enabling of a medical and health database on a remote server that can be made accessible though satellites to the medical community for health and diagnostic analysis, he said.

Disaster management system could be a constellation of imaging and radar satellites used in conjunction with autonomous communication capability to be able to image disaster areas and deliver the images/information in near-real time to user systems, Dr Kasturirangan suggested.