Space: Why Risat 2 Came Before Risat 1


May 3, 2012: On April 26, India launched its first locally designed and manufactured radar satellite: Risat 1. The 1.9 ton satellite was put into a 480 kilometers high orbit by an Indian PSLV rocket. This was the 20th successful launch of the PSLV. Risat 1 is designed to last for at least five years and will mainly be used for monitoring natural disasters and agriculture. In wartime it can be used to monitor military operations. In peacetime it can be used to assist in counter-terror operations.

India already has a radar satellite in orbit: Risat 2. This one was bought from Israel and launched three years ago using a PSLV rocket. The low orbit (550 kilometers) RISAT 2 weighs 300 kg (660 pounds) and can identify items three meters or larger in a narrow (a ten kilometers wide swath) beam or 50 meters using a wide (240 kilometers wide) beam.

Risat 2 was obtained and launched in five months in response to the 2008, Mumbai terror attacks. Radar satellites are particularly effective for tracking ships at sea. Unlike photo satellites, radar is equally accurate at night or when there is cloud cover. India plans to use the RISAT 2 for monitoring its Pakistani border in Kashmir for Islamic terrorists and for counter-terrorist operations in general. But most of the time Risat 2 performs the same functions as Risat 1.

Over the last decade Israel has replaced France as the main supporter of Western military technology to India. Russia is still the main supplier, providing cheaper and less capable gear that India can afford and is adequate for the local competition. But for high tech stuff India is increasingly turning to Israel. After the 2008, Mumbai terrorist attacks, India asked Israel to speed up delivery of the RISAT 2, which Israel did. The 2008, Mumbai terrorists had arrived via a hijacked ship, which RISAT 2 could have tracked.



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