India launches earth observation satellite

India on Wednesday successfully launched an earth observation satellite that would enhance its surveillance capabilities among others. In a pre-dawn launch, the Indian Space Research Organization’s tested and trusted workhorse, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C46) blasted off at 5.30 am Indian time from a launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on its 48th mission, carrying the 615kg satellite RISAT-2B (Radar Imaging Satellite-2B) meant for application in fields such as surveillance, agriculture, forestry and disaster management support.

The satellite was successfully put into its orbit at a height of 555 km above the earth about 15 minutes and 30 seconds after the lift-off of the rocket. The launch was watched live by about 5,000 people from the visitors' gallery which is open to the public. The RISAT-2B is equipped with a synthetic aperture radar that can take pictures of the earth during day and night and also under cloudy conditions.

With a mission life of five years, the satellite would also be used for military surveillance, ISRO sources said. RISAT-2B launched on Wednesday would replace the RISAT-2, which was successfully launched in 2009. The solar arrays of RISAT-2B were deployed automatically and ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru assumed control of the satellite. "In the coming days, the satellite will be brought to its final operational configuration," an official statement said.

Commenting on the launch from the Mission Control Centre, ISRO Chairman K Sivan said the PSLV-C46 successfully injected RISAT-2B precisely in the designated orbit of 555 km. He said the PSLV-C46 also carried two other important piggyback payloads--an indigenously developed processor and a low cost Inertial Navigation System. "It is going to revolutionise our future launch vehicle missions" he said.

Sivan said the RISAT-2B is an advanced earth observation satellite. "In this satellite, another very complex new technology has flown. That is a 3.6 metre unfurlable radial rib antenna. This is also going to be the technology of the future," he added. This is the first time India launched indigenous technology of the kind into space. 

Two previous radar-enabled satellites launched by India into space were the RISAT-1 and RISAT-2, the latter being an acquisition from Israel. On future space launches, Sivan said India’s second mission to the moon “ is going to be a landmark mission and the landing on the moon is expected to be on September 6. "It is going to land at a particular location where nobody has gone before," he added.