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India launches first electronic intelligence-gathering satellite

02 April 2019
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India’s PSLV-C45 launch vehicle put EMISAT and 28 other satellites into orbit on 1 April. Source: Via PIB

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched the first electronic reconnaissance satellite developed by the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to detect enemy radar and gather communications intelligence.

Launched on 1 April from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota aboard the indigenously designed Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C45 (PSLV-C45), the 436 kg Electro-Magnetic Intelligence Satellite (EMISAT) was placed into a 748 km sun-synchronous polar orbit about 17 minutes after lift-off, officials said.

The ISRO’s Telemetry Tracking and Command Network in Bangalore is expected to bring the satellite to its final operational configuration, according to the Indian government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB).

Official sources told Jane’s on 2 April that EMISAT’s payload was designed by the DRDO’s Defence Electronics Research Laboratory in Hyderabad as part of Project Kautilya, while the ISRO built the satellite’s body.

The entire development project was completed in eight years and is modelled on Satellite with ARgos and ALtiKa (SARAL): a co-operative altimetry technology venture for oceanographic studies between the ISRO and France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES).

Industry sources said the EMISAT is a derivative of the ISRO’s Indian Mini Satellite-2 (IMS-2) series of electronic intelligence satellites, which has a maximum launch weight of 450 kg and a payload of no more than 200 kg.

Their architecture is similar to that of the ISRO’s HySIS Earth-observation satellites that were launched in November 2018, which were designed to provide hyper-spectral imagery for various applications in agriculture, forestry, and in the assessment of coastal zones and inland waterways.

Military sources said EMISAT is likely to be placed in an elliptical orbit to optimise its “dwell time” for a particular area under observation.

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