India Launches First Radar Satellite

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BANGALORE, India — India launched its first radar imaging satellite along with a university-built messaging spacecraft April 20 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on the country’s southeastern coast aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket.

Built in collaboration with Israel, the 300-kilogram Risat-2 satellite was placed in a 550-kilometer circular orbit at 41 degrees inclination, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said in a statement soon after the launch. The satellite is expected to operate for three years.

ISRO spokesman S. Satish told Space News April 19 that Risat-2 — to be followed next year by Risat-1 — features a synthetic aperture radar procured from Israel Aerospace Industries that can collect imagery day or night regardless of cloud-cover conditions. In a press release, ISRO said Risat-2 will enhance India’s capability in disaster management, especially during floods and cyclones. However, ISRO officials, who did not want to be named, said the spacecraft also will boost India’s space-based military surveillance capabilities.

Risat-2 is the latest example of the growing ties in space between India and Israel; in January 2008, ISRO launched Israel’s TechSAR radar imaging satellite aboard a PSLV rocket. The Tel Aviv University Ultra Violet Experiment, or Tauvex, is expected to be flown on board an Indian geostationary satellite at a date yet to be decided.

ISRO intends to launch three more Risat satellites by 2014. The Risat-4 satellite is expected to feature an electronically steered beam that will allow it to quickly search wide areas at high resolutions, according to ISRO documents.

Launched aboard the PSLV along with Risat-2 was a 38-kilogram satellite built at the Anna University in Chennai under an ISRO-funded project. Billed as India’s first university-built satellite, Anusat is a store-and-forward messaging spacecraft that will deliver academic material and also aid with drought management and urban planning, ISRO said.