GSAT- 7 – ANOTHER MILE­STONE : A VIEWPOINT

Though many for­eign satel­lites on L Band have foot­prints over In­dia, use of a for­eign satel­lite for op­er­a­tional mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions raises le­git­i­mate ap­pre­hen­sions of se­cu­rity

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - LT GEN­ERAL (RETD) P.C. KA­TOCH The views ex­pressed herein are the per­sonal views of the au­thor.

The re­cent launch of GSAT-7, In­dia’s first mil­i­tary satel­lite from Kourou space­port in French Guiana on Au­gust 30, is another feather in our mil­i­tary ca­pac­ity build­ing par­tic­u­larly in terms of sur­veil­lance ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The satel­lite is ex­pected to be fully op­er­a­tional by end Septem­ber.

Armed with mul­ti­ple de­fence ap­pli­ca­tions, the satel­lite will boost our mar­itime sur­veil­lance ca­pa­bil­i­ties, giv­ing a ma­jor push in en­sur­ing na­tional se­cu­rity at sea. Pri­mar­ily a naval satel­lite, the In­dian Navy would be the pri­mary user of this multi-band in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ca­tion satel­lite. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion transpon­ders of GSAT-7 are planned to be switched on by mid- Septem­ber af­ter the In­dian Space Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ISRO) places the satel­lite in its or­bital slot of 74 de­grees into geo­sta­tion­ary or­bit at an al­ti­tude of 36,000 km above the equa­tor. Fre­quency bands of GSAT-7 will help space-based ma­rine com­mu­ni­ca­tions in In­dia and the sur­round­ing seas re­plac­ing ex­ist­ing In­marsat base global satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions from the In­dian Navy’s ships.

GSAT-7 is an ad­vanced com­mu­ni­ca­tion satel­lite that is car­ry­ing pay­loads in UHF, S, C and Ku Bands pro­vid­ing a wide range of ser­vice spec­trum from low bit rate voice to high bit rate data com­mu­ni­ca­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties to users.

Glob­ally, com­mu­ni­ca­tion satel­lites are func­tion­ing on C, Ku, Ka, S and L Bands. C Band is widely used and proven, has large band­width and has no rain at­ten­u­a­tion. Ku Band has sim­i­lar ad­van­tages plus Com­mu­ni­ca­tion on the Move (COTM) is pos­si­ble. How­ever, in both C and Ku Band, the equip­ment is not eas­ily por­ta­ble and is prone to me­chan­i­cal fail­ure due to size, weight and move­ment. The sub­assem­blies are large and so the in­stal­la­tion time is con­sid­er­able. In the Ka Band, broad­band com­mu­ni­ca­tion is pos­si­ble, power con­sump­tion is low, use of so­lar pan­els is pos­si­ble and fea­si­bil­ity of COTM ex­ists.

How­ever, this sys­tem gets ad­versely af­fected by snow, rain and heavy clouds. Space seg­ment in Ka Band is presently lim­ited in In­dia. The S Band is meant only for radar com­mu­ni­ca­tions. L Band is by far more re­li­able es­pe­cially un­der NLOS con­di­tions as ac­cu­rate point­ing is not re­quired be­tween satel­lite and user ter­mi­nals. The sys­tem is highly por­ta­ble and man-por­ta­ble op­tion is avail­able, which is suited to the Army. It is light weight with no mov­ing parts, quick to de­ploy with rapid con­nec­tiv­ity, not af­fected by weather con­di­tions and has low power re­quire­ments, lower at­ten­u­a­tion and bet­ter range.

How­ever, L Band has less band­width avail­abil­ity com­pared to C, Ku, Ka Bands and has in­ter­fer­ence with ter­res­trial com­mu­ni­ca­tions. L Band ser­vices in­clude Stan­dard IP, flex­i­ble band­width based on us­age, user con­trol and spot beams. A dis­pas­sion­ate anal­y­sis of the var­i­ous types of satel­lites would in­di­cate that L Band is most suited for non-ter­res­trial com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the tac­ti­cal bat­tle area (TBA). More­over, L Band ter­mi­nals are plug and play, re­li­able on ac­count of in­te­grated de­sign, com­mu­ni­ca­tions for land, sea and air ap­pli­ca­tions, flex­i­ble and have low ini­tial in­vest­ments.

For some in­ex­pli­ca­ble rea­son none of the in­dige­nous satel­lites are L Band. Though many for­eign satel­lites on L Band have foot­prints over In­dia, use of a for­eign satel­lite for op­er­a­tional mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions raises le­git­i­mate ap­pre­hen­sions of se­cu­rity. Yet, due to high costs of de­vel­op­ment and op­er­a­tions of satel­lite sys­tems, out­sourc­ing of ser­vices is con­sid­ered by many na­tions.

There is a need to ex­am­ine im­pli­ca­tions of hir­ing a for­eign L Band satel­lite for mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions (till all the re­quire­ments of the Army are met through ISRO satel­lites). Such an ex­er­cise should in­clude fea­si­bil­ity of en­sur­ing fool­proof se­cu­rity with the Se­cu­rity Gate­way po­si­tioned within In­dia and with su­per­im­posed se­cu­rity so­lu­tions de­vel­oped by CAIR. Ob­vi­ously, such an ar­range­ment would re­quire firm com­mit­ment re­gard­ing avail­abil­ity of space seg­ment at all times and un­der all con­di­tions, aside from se­cu­rity is­sues be­ing suit­ably ad­dressed. Need for such ex­am­i­na­tion is nec­es­sary in or­der to leap-frog into net-cen­tric­ity, which is presently too dis­tant. How­ever, this re­quires thor­ough anal­y­sis.

We also need to ex­am­ine whether to­tal mil­i­tary satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions should be based on ex­clu­sive mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tion satel­lites or a mix of mil­i­tary and com­mer­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion satel­lites with ad­e­quate se­cu­rity keep­ing in mind China’s an­ti­satel­lite ca­pa­bil­ity that will likely tar­get ex­clu­sive mil­i­tary satel­lites more in times of war.

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