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50 Satellites For Intelligence Gathering Planned To Be Launched In 5 Years: ISRO Chief S Somnath

While speaking at an annual science and technology event organized by the IIT Bombay, ISRO Chief S Somnath said, for realizing India's aspiration to become a strong nation, the current size of its satellite fleet, which houses 54 satellites, is not enough and it should be 'ten times what we have today.'

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Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman S Somanath
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Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman S Somanath said on Thursday that India is aiming to launch 50 satellites in the next five years in a bid to strengthen the geo-intelligence repertoire of the country. The process reportedly will include the creation of a layer of satellites in different orbits with the capacity to track the movement of troops and image thousands of kilometers of area.

India's overall satellite fleet has a current strength of 54.

What did the ISRO Chief say?

While speaking at an annual science and technology event organised by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, ISRO Chief S Somnath said, for realising India's aspiration to become a strong nation, the current size of its satellite fleet is not enough and it should be "ten times what we have today."

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He further added that it was important to improve the ability of satellites to detect changes, to bring in more of AI-related and data-driven approach to analyse data, reduce data downloads and get only the necessary information.

Spacecrafts are capable of observing a country's borders and neighbouring regions, the ISRO chief noted.

"All of it can be seen from satellites. This capability gives us enormous potential. We have been launching satellites to handle this, but there is a different way of thinking now and we need to look at it in a much more critical manner because the power of (any) nation is the ability to understand what is happening around it," Somanath said.

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Many satellites are being designed and configured, he said.

"We have already configured 50 satellites to be realised in the next five years and this is going to be launched for India for supporting this particular geo-intelligence capability over the next five years plus (period)," the ISRO chief added.

If India is able to launch satellites at this scale, threats to the country can be better mitigated, Somanath said.

"We have found out a way by which a layer of satellites can be launched starting from GEO (geostationary equatorial orbit) to LEO (lower earth orbit) and also (in) very low earth orbit where we need very critical assessment of some situation," he said.

This is a new domain which is coming up not only in optical, but also in SAR (synthetic aperture radar), thermal and various other technologies, Somanath pointed out.

"We will have communication between satellites, so that if some satellite detects something, which is at GEO at 36,000 kms, it can have a large view.  If you find some activity happening, you can task another satellite in the lower orbit (to check) much more carefully and then give more information," he said.

"We are also looking at imaging, not a very small area (but) thousands of kilometers of area and we would like to cover entire borders in everyday cycles. This is a tremendous capability that we are building if we are able to launch these satellites in the next five years," he said.

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