Bangalore: India and France are jointly building a remote-sensing satellite for a global weather data-collection system that is expected to help scientists predict climate changes better and devise ways to protect the environment.
The Satellite for Argos and Altika (Saral), named after the nearly 30-year-old Argos system that tracks climate changes by collecting data from a network of unattended transmitters in the ocean and land, will be designed and constructed by Indian Space Research Organization (Isro).
Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency, will provide Altika, a radar altimeter that measures sea surface height and wind speed for Saral.
The satellite is planned for a launch on an Indian rocket by 2010.
CNES founded the satellite-based Argos system in 1978 along with National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US.
Argos later expanded to 18 nations including India.
Argos has two processing centres—in the US and France— that process raw data sourced from satellites that redirect information from ocean or land-based transmitters, some of which are fitted on animals and marine life.
The processed information is shared with users on the web. “The information from Argos is used to build models by researchers and then understand climate changes in ocean and land. The altimeter can find patterns much below the sea surface,” said J. Srinivasan, who carries out research on climate change at the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Studies, which is part of the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science.
Nearly 2,500 transmitters are fitted on buoys spread across all the oceans. These serve to monitor changes in sea temperature and wave heights.
Researchers fit smaller transmitters on animals, birds and marine life to track their movements and understand how they react to changes in environment.
Saral is the second joint initiative between the two space agencies of India and France, following Megha Trophiques, a remote-sensing satellite to study monsoons, cyclones in tropical countries, which is expected to be launched in 2008.
“There is no commercial deal. It is between governments. These satellites are focused on research,” said S. Krishnamurthy, spokesman of Isro, which is headquartered in Bangalore.
Details regarding the exact cost of the Saral project are not available.
Remote-sensing satellites cost between Rs100 crore and Rs250 crore, depending on the number of cameras and other instruments installed.
Cartosat-2, the satellite capable of taking pictures with a one-metre resolution—snap images as small as a street sign —launched early this year at the cost of Rs216 crore.
Isro is expected to spend Rs129 crore to build Oceansat, the satellite to study wind patterns and temperature in ocean.
This satellite is scheduled for launch next year.