Thursday 26 May 2022, 03:49 PM
Military Satellite Applications in INDIA
By Air Commodore Trilok Chand (Retd) | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 3/2/2020 3:27:57 PM
Military Satellite Applications in INDIA

Indian Satellites Programme

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) responsible for the Indian  satellite programme has done India proud through its path breaking initiatives. Vision of the ISRO is to harness space technology for national development, while pursuing space science research and planetary exploration. Several satellite applications have influenced the quality of life of the ordinary Indian citizen through better communications, weather forecast, land surveys, minerals location and so on. India has its own progressive satellite launch systems considered best in the world. From launching micro and mini satellites to the launch of the heavy and sophisticated Mangalyaan, Chandrayaan and very soon Gaganyaan launch systems, India have them all. Launchers or Launch Vehicles are used to carry spacecraft to space.

India has two operational launchers: Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).GSLV with indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage has enabled the launching of up to 2 tonne class of communication satellites. The next variant of GSLV is GSLV Mk III, with indigenous high thrust cryogenic engine and stage, having the capability of launching 4 tonne class of communication satellites.

Indian sub-continent as seen by Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft during its geocentric phase – Courtesy ISRO website

In the military domain too, satellites have helped in providing a better C4ISR (Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) systems.

Dual Use Military Satellites

Satellite communication has helped Indian defence forces in overcoming several geographical barriers which separate its far flung formations both during peace and war. Defence forces started using the facilities provided by the earlier Indian satellites meant for general population. A part capacity of the INSAT series satellites is being extensively used. Established in 1983 with commissioning of INSAT-1B, it initiated a major revolution in India’s communications sector and sustained the same later. GSAT-17 joined the constellation of INSAT System consisting 15 operational satellites, namely - INSAT-3A, 3C, 4A, 4B, 4CR and GSAT-6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 18.The INSAT system with more than 200 transponders in the C, Extended C and Ku-bands provides services to telecommunications, television broadcasting, satellite news gathering, societal applications, weather forecasting, disaster warning and Search and Rescue operations.

Navigation:  Navigation is a major requirement of the personnel and several weapon platforms of the defence forces. GPS of the USA have been used extensibly by the defence forces as well. It can be denied and interrupted at crucial moments. Therefore India has designed and developed its own navigation systems; GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) for the civil aviation and  Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS): NavICfor others including defence forces. So far, ISRO has built a total of nine satellites in the IRNSS series; of which seven are currently in orbit. Three of these satellites are in geostationary orbit (GEO) while the remaining four in geosynchronous orbits (GSO) that maintain an inclination of 29° to the equatorial plane. The IRNSS constellation was named as “NavIC” (Navigation with Indian Constellation) by the Honourable Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi and dedicated to the nation on the occasion of the successful launch of the IRNSS-1G satellite. The eight operational satellites in the IRNSS series, namely IRNSS-1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, 1F, 1G and 1I were launched on Jul 02, 2013; Apr 04, 2014; Oct 16, 2014; Mar 28, 2015; Jan 20, 2016; Mar 10, 2016, Apr 28, 2016; and Apr 12, 2018 respectively.

Earth Observation: Starting with IRS-1A in 1988, ISRO has launched many operational remote sensing satellites. Today, India has one of the largest constellations of remote sensing satellites in operation. Currently, thirteen operational satellites are in Sun-synchronous orbit – RESOURCESAT-1, 2, 2A CARTOSAT-1, 2, 2A, 2B, RISAT-1 and 2, OCEANSAT-2, Megha-Tropiques, SARAL and SCATSAT-1, and four in Geostationary orbit- INSAT-3D, Kalpana & INSAT 3A, INSAT -3DR. Varieties of instruments have been flown onboard these satellites to provide necessary data in a diversified spatial, spectral and temporal resolutions to cater to different user requirements in the country and for global usage.

The data from these satellites is used for several applications covering agriculture, water resources, urban planning, rural development, mineral prospecting, environment, forestry, ocean resources and disaster management. "The Cartosat satellite has the ability to provide defense forces with specific scene-spot imagery and images according to the military's area of interest and help track developments along India's land borders with China and Pakistan. It can help detect changes in man-made features (or geographical features) along its land and maritime borders.

Exclusive Military Satellites

Space now includes and will include for many years to come the military functions such as surveillance, reconnaissance, early warning, survivable C4I, detection, targeting, weapon control, weapon delivery and target damage assessment. Military space systems can gather information about distant battle-fields, transmit it in real time to command centres and inflict damage to targets through remotely controlled weaponry, without putting personnel at risk. Indian defence forces have to respond to such realities. As of December 2018, there are 320 dual use or dedicated military satellite in the space, half of which are owned by USA alone, followed by Russia, China and India.  Out of the total 47 operational satellites, India currently has six to eight satellites which are used entirely for military purposes. There are four Cartosat-2 series satellites (2C, 2D, 2E, 2F) and Gsat-29 satellite besides Risat-2. The latest, the 712-kg Cartosat-2 series, can accurately identify objects in a 0.6mx0.6m square area. To boost its network-centric operations, the IAF is also likely to get another satellite GSAT-7C within a few years. The GSAT-7 was launched in 2013 for the exclusive use of the Indian Navy to monitor the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) with the satellite's 2,000 nautical mile ‘footprint’ and real-time input capabilities to Indian warships, submarines and maritime aircraft. The multiple-band spacecraft is used exclusively by the Navy to shore up secure, real-time communications among its warships, submarines, aircraft and land systems. GSAT-7 is said to have significantly improved the country's maritime security and intelligence gathering in a wide swathe on the eastern and western flanks of the Indian Ocean region, among others. The Indian Navy placed an order for GSAT-7R on 11 June 2019. GSAT-7R is expected to be launched in 2020 to eventually replace GSAT-7.

launched in 2018 is an advanced military communications satellite meant primarily for the Indian Air Force with Indian Army using 30% of capacity. GSAT-7A will enable IAF to interlink different ground radar stations, ground airbases, aircraft to aircraft real-time control system, Airborne early Warning and Control System. The satellite will enhance network-centric warfare capabilities of the Indian Air Force and therefore enhance its global operations. The satellite will also be used by Indian Army's Aviation Corps for its real-time control and communication system for the helicopters and UAV's operations.

Weather Forecast: Most military operations during peace and war are affected by weather conditions in more than one ways. Commencement, progress and outcomes of many battles have been decided by the prevailing weather. Weather satellites provide an accurate forecast to the defence forces in the respective theatre . Transponders available on the INSAT series satellites were extensively used by the defence forces.

Surveillance: Reconnaissance and intelligence gathering functions form a very important part of the defence forces as it helps then in forecasting, planning, executing and undertaking post strike damage assessment activities. RISAT-2, or Radar Imaging Satellite 2 is an Indian radar reconnaissance satellite that is part of India's RISAT programme. RISAT-2's main sensor is an X-band synthetic aperture radar from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Major use of the RISAT series satellites by the military was during the September 2016 surgical strike and February 2019 Balakot Strikes by the Indian Air Force.There are several other military oriented programmes underway which are contributing to enhancement of the military potential of India. India successfully launched Microsat-R, a military satellite on board its Polar rocket PSLV C44. Microsat-R served as target for Indian ASAT experiment on March 27, 2019.India's ballistic missile Agni V can also be used as a satellite launcher on demand by the Defence Forces. Newly set up Defence Space Agency in association with the ISRO and DRDO is poised to raise India to its greater glory in the years to come.

Air Commodore Trilok Chand (Retd)



Indian Space Research Organisation,ISRO,PSLV,GSLV,


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