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Starting May, ISRO to launch a string of ‘defence’ satellites

Between now and early 2020, the space above India looks set to see an unprecedented rush of satellites meant solely or mainly for the country’s military.

Starting May, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) plans to send up at least eight earth observation (EO) satellites of varied hues and at the rate of almost one a month.

Communication satellite GSAT-32 is also in the offing next year to replace GSAT-6A, which was lost in a failed launch and was meant to mainly serve the ground forces. Until now, such defence-use satellites were spaced out over a few years; or were put up only once a year as in the case of the Cartosat-2 series high-resolution imaging satellites.

Looking at the last three launches, we could even say the train has already started. HysIS, launched in November; Microsat-R in January; and the EMISAT sent into orbit on April 1 are all for what is called “strategic use”.

DRDO payloads

While traditionally, payloads for ISRO’s satellites come from the Space Applications Centre, the payloads of the Microsat-R and EMISAT were from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Soon after EMISAT’s launch, ISRO Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space, K.Sivan, announced that the next mission would be the radar imaging satellite RISAT-2B, followed by a high resolution mapping satellite Cartosat-3.

Both are understood to be useful militarily and seen as overdue assets.