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All-seeing eyes in the sky

All-seeing eyes in the sky

A pre-dawn third launch of 2019 from Sriharikota yesterday gave India its newest microwave Earth observation satellite – RISAT-2B. The third in India's RISAT programme in ten years – after Israelian-built RISAT-2 and ISRO-built RISAT-1 – is an all-weather, day-and-night satellite expeditiously made in 15 months to enhance India's capabilities in agriculture, national security and disaster management. RISAT-2B can provide added details such as the size of objects on Earth, structures, movement and change which will be crucial in the aforementioned fields. One can argue that its main purpose rests on national security following incidents at Pulwama and Balakot but it will be useful in providing appropriate data for agriculture and tracking weather exigencies. RISAT-2B is capable of providing ground imageries during cloud, rain and in the dark which may bolster our defence lines and keep us aware of any imminent threats. It is about making it more secure and the introduction of RISAT-2B in space only compliments the existing space and defence infrastructure that India has indigenously developed over the years, expeditiously in recent times propelling India's space programme to new heights. It was launched using PSLV-C46 which completed its 48th mission. With the launch, ISRO also tested a new low-cost light Vikram processor which will control future ISRO launch vehicles. With more to come, collectively, they will enhance reconnaissance capability from space making incessant vigilance over the country in all aspects a reality. Before RISAT-2B, India only had two radar-satellites (2009 and 2012) but ISRO is positive about launching four alone in 2019 which would be a massive achievement for India. With terror instances on a rise, the importance of reconnaissance capability from space takes precedence. Serving such an important cause, these radar-satellites are assembled in complex procedures and the data they provide is heavier than normal remote-sensing satellites. With its precise marking of ground in all-weather situations, RISAT-2B will be instrumental in providing monsoon data on crops while capable of picking up small structures on the ground such as bunkers and tents usually put up by hostile elements near borders to avoid detection of their presence. India has demonstrated its space prowess quite well in recent times with Mission Shakti being the highlight. India has coped with international powers to utilise space as a medium for security and data purposes through indigenously developed technology. And, that remains quite an achievement for the country which has an upcoming Chandrayaan-2 lander-rover mission which will take place between July 9-16 as asserted by ISRO chief and Space Department Secretary Dr Sivan. Chandrayan-2 entails an orbiter, lander and a moon rover which has been named "Pragyan" or "Knowledge" as India hopes to understand moon's geology. This comes after Chandrayaan-1 which was launched in 2008 and provided us with first-ever signatures of the presence of water molecules on the lunar surface. Touching the moon's surface will be a remarkable achievement for India, as it will only be the fourth country to do so as, was the case during Mission Shakti's feat. With defensive as well as resourceful fronts being explored in space endeavours, India needs to list down its action plan and prioritise accordingly. While ISRO remained the sole guardian of India's space excursions, the addition of ASAT to its arsenal makes India discuss the civilian and military aspects of space projects. Being a strategic place and accessible by very few, a prominent presence in space is a crucial factor which makes us stand apart. While ISRO has staked its interest in exploring space for socio-economic progress, pursuing militarian aspirations will urge India to develop military-specific satellites.

While upcoming missions will make India proficient in space endeavours, it must ensure a robust policy that governs those. And, simultaneously, also pursue classification of its space excursions into research, military-based and civil-aid. The three fields will help ISRO balance its efforts in developing missions and India can distinctly control three fronts of space prowess which would yield tremendously to the nation.

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