April 21, 2011

Indian Space Program Could Offer Opportunity for Cooperation around Climate and Environmental Data Sharing

The India Space Research Organization
(ISRO) successfully launched three satellites into orbit on Wednesday:
ResourceSat-2 and two nano-satellites, YouthSat and X-Sat. The payloads were
launched from the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C16, the
17th consecutive successful launch from the
PSLV after it failed
during its first launch in 1993

ResourceSat-2 is the follow on mission to
ResourceSat-1, an ISRO satellite launched in 2003 that was expected
to have a mission life of 5-7 years
. As a remote sensing satellite,
ResourceSat-2 is equipped with three cameras that provide higher resolution images
than its predecessor. In addition, it
will carry an experimental instrument built
by the Canadian based company, COMDEV,
which will provide ship surveillance (including the speed and position of vessels
on Earth).

The mission objective for ResourceSat-2 is
nearly identical to ResourceSat-1, which focused on providing data on natural
resources, including water and agricultural as well as climate studies. In
explaining ResourceSat-2’s mission, ISRO
Chairman K Radhakrishnan said that it will “monitor
natural resources at different resolutions
. It can be used to monitor snow
cover, glacier changes, urban landscape and others.”

In addition, India has touted
ResourceSat-2 as a satellite that will provide useful data to the international
community when it begins transmitting
on April 28
. The
Times of India
yesterday that data from ResourceSat-2
will be shared among
15 countries. Similarly, in discussing the new satellite, R.R. Navalgund, director
of the Space
Applications Centre
(which is a major component of ISRO) said,
You can
collect data from the entire globe
. So, there will be a great demand for
this kind of data which is available from the Resourcesat-2…. It will become
the workhorse for monitoring the resources of the entire earth for the global

Besides ResourceSat-2, the launch today also
put YouthSat and X-Sat into orbit. YouthSat is a joint project between India
and Russia that will study “the
relationship between solar variability and thermosphere-lonosphere changes
according to an ISRO brochure. Earlier this month, India and Russia also pledged
to strengthen
cooperation between their space programs in the future
X-Sat is a Singaporean satellite that, as the country’s first satellite, will
be used primarily to broaden the knowledge of Singapore’s space program.

Looking ahead, India plans to enhance its
already robust space program. Last November, for instance, ISRO
promised to launch three satellites
– Megha-Tropiques, SARAL
and RISAT-1 – solely devoted to studying climate change this year alone. Then, earlier this year, India’s Department of Space pledged to
launch “not
less than 30 satellites
” in the next decade. Thus, India’s ambitions in
space seem to be expanding as the country continues to experience economic

ResourceSat-2, YouthSat and X-Sat Intregrated with PSLV-C16. Courtesy of ISRO
and the Indian government.

A video of the launch
can be viewed on
The Times of India website.