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India's spy satellite boost

India's spy satellite boost

Author: Habib Beary in Bangalore
Publication: BBC News
Date: November 27, 2001

India's Technology Experiment Satellite (TES), which can be used as a spy satellite, has been beaming down what space officials call "excellent pictures".

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), based in this southern Indian city, is keeping the pictures under wraps for strategic reasons.

"We have not got approval of the government to release the pictures yet", ISRO officials say.

India is in possession of images of the war in Afghanistan, official sources maintain.

TES, launched in October from the Sriharikota launch pad on the east coast, is a precursor for the launch of fully operational spy satellites.

The first high-resolution pictures from its one-metre camera were taken over the temple town of Puri in Orissa on the east coast.

"The pictures beamed by TES of the temples are fantastic!" enthuse ISRO officials.

The temple images were shown to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee last week, and he was delighted to see them.

With TES in position, defence officials say India can pick up images even of a truck moving along the border area of Pakistan.

India has fought three wars with Pakistan, two of them over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Technical wizardry

TES can detect objects three-foot long or more.

India is the second country in the world after the USA that can offer images with one-metre resolution.

TES can be used for the mapping industry and geographical information services, officials said.

Apart from US military satellites, Ikonos, a private space company in the US, has a satellite that beams high resolution images.

India has emerged as a key player in the $1bn market for satellite images, jockeying with two well-established names, Spot of France and Landsat of US.

Antrix Corporation, the corporate arm of ISRO, sold images worth $7m in the global market last year.

The images beamed by five remote sensing satellites excluding TES are being received and marketed from nine international ground stations across the world.

With the success of TES, the ISRO Satellite Centre in Bangalore will embark on manufacturing operational remote sensing satellites that can double as spy satellites.

ISRO says its programmes are civilian-related, and denies building spy satellites.

But as ISRO Chairman Dr.K.Kasturirangan said after launching TES, "It will be for civilian use consistent with our security concerns".

The 1,008kg satellite was launched from a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

The 44-metre PSLV rocket hurled into polar orbit TES and two tiny satellites, one from European Space Agency and the other from Germany.

These two satellites rode piggyback on the Indian satellite.
 


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