Bangalore: India launched 10 satellites on a single rocket on Monday, including one with a powerful camera that can shoot clear images of even road signs, which would be a boon for the country’s military.
Besides carrying eight Canadian and German “nano-satellites”, the rocket carries another Indian satellite called IMS-1, which has a hyper-spectral imaging camera that would capture various mapping data that India intends to share with developing nations in Africa and South-East Asia.
The user country would need small receiving stations supplied by Antrix Corp., the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation, or Isro, to receive the free images from the 81kg satellite, the space agency said.
“Getting commercial satellite images is very expensive and information from this satellite has potential for mapping purposes,” said George Joseph, director of the Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTEAP), a United Nations affiliated body for space science research and education in the region. “I don’t find any reason why countries cannot use this,” said Joseph from Ahmedabad.
Isro fired the satellites using a stripped-down Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, called PSLV C-9. A normal PSLV, Isro’s workhorse rocket, has six strap-on boosters that help lift heavier satellites of close to 2 tonnes into space. But this time, the rocket hurled satellites that weighed a total 820kg. The mission cost Rs222 crore.
“Of all the missions, this was the most challenging as the fourth stage of the rocket should fire the 10 satellites into the orbit one after another in a timed sequence, without any collision,” said Isro chairman G. Madhavan Nair soon after the launch.
The conical fourth or final stage of a rocket is where the satellites are parked and once it nears the required orbit, the rocket opens its cone and allows the satellites to drift to their space homes.
The satellites of the University of the Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies in Canda and the Aachen University of Applied Sciences in Germany were launched on commercial terms but Isro did not disclose details. These “nano-satellites” weigh less than 10kg each and are built to carry out experiments on new sensors and devices in space.
“Developing and launching small satellites is an important competence in today’s market, and it is logical that India should pursue this endeavour,” said Claire Jolly, senior policy analyst for space at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Isro launched eight small satellites for overseas customers, including an Israeli spy satellite, earlier this year.
The space agency’s 690kg Cartosat-2A satellite packs a camera that can snap 1m images on the ground and will used by the Indian military. The second in a series, it is more agile than its predecessor and can return to track locations more frequently.
An Isro spokesman said all remote sensing satellites can “theoretically” be used for strategic purposes and that the armed forces was a user of the Indian space system.
India has 10 functioning remote sensing satellites in orbit, including Cartosat-2, launched in January 2007, that shoots and beams back images the agency sells to urban planners and cartographers.
Remote-sensing data is shared between government agencies such as the department of science and technology, department of agriculture and cooperation, and ministry of water resources under a national natural resources management system.
PTI?contributed?to this story.