The Indian Space Research Organisation is to build a remote sensing satellite, Cartosat-3, capable of taking images of the earth with a resolution of 0.25 metres.

Currently, GeoEye-1 produces the highest resolution earth images taken by a commercial satellite. The American spacecraft, launched in September 2008, is capable of taking panchromatic images with 0.41 metre resolution. WorldView-2, another satellite operated by the same company, DigitalGlobe, offers a best resolution of 0.46 metres. However, in accordance with U.S. regulations, commercially released images from these satellites are degraded to 0.5 metre resolution.

DigitalGlobe plans to launch WorldView-3 next year, which will supply images with a resolution of 0.31 metres. Cartosat-3’s camera would better that performance. In the words of one expert, this satellite's images could allow a scooter to be distinguished from a car.

In the ‘Notes on Demands for Grants, 2013-2014’ from the Department of Space, which forms part of the budget documents presented to Parliament recently, Cartosat-3 figures as a separate item with an allocation of Rs. 10 crores. “Cartosat-3 is an advanced remote sensing satellite with enhanced resolution of 0.25 metre for cartographic applications and high-resolution mapping,” the document said.

IN 1988, ISRO launched India’s first operational remote-sensing satellite, IRS-1A. The best resolution its cameras could provide was about 36 metres. Seven years later, IRS-1C went into space, with a panchromatic camera that had a resolution of 5.8 metres. It supplied the highest resolution images available from any civilian satellite in the world till Ikonos, an American satellite launched in 1999, began taking images with better than one-metre resolution. India launched the Technology Experiment Satellite in 2001, followed some years later by the Cartosat-2 series of satellites that could take images with 0.8 metre resolution.

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