An Eye in the Sky
India recently launched a long-range missile, Agni- V, with a range of 5,000 km and capable of targeting Europe and most of Asia, thus joining an elite group of seven countries with such capabilities. A week later, it unveiled and launched a space spy satellite that can monitor activities on Indian soil despite cloudy weather.
The result of a ten-year long domestic effort, Risat- 1 (Radar Imaging Satellite), as it is called, is the country’s first microwave remote sensing satellite. The 1858 kg spacecraft was injected into orbit by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, India’s first ever rocket invented in the 1960s to reduce dependence on foreign investment and supplies.
Risat-1 will mainly be used for agriculture purposes and disaster management. Scientists say images from the satellite can help gauge the extent of flooding, drought or even damage from a tsunami, within hours of a calamity occurring. But the satellite, India’s most expensive at 4.98 billion rupees (around US$95 million), can also be used for defense purposes or to track insurgents in dense forests. India now joins a select group of countries including the US, Canada and countries in Europe, with similar technology.
The spy satellite, serves essentially as an “eye in the sky with 24/7 visibility, day and night... [that] can penetrate through cloud cover.” More than just a monitor for environmental hazards, the satellite is of strategic importance on India’s borders with its neighbors.