- The ground station will augment the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) operations crucial not just for civilian needs like disaster management but also for the armed forces
- “The plan will take some time to materialise as it involves huge logistical challenges, international approvals and co-operation,” a scientist said
Two years after China opened a ground station at the North Pole, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has drawn up plans to set up what will be its first overseas ground station in the region, primarily to augment the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) operations that are crucial not just for civilian needs like disaster management but also for the armed forces.
Isro has a full-fledged IRS programme with a constellation of earth observation satellites, with the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Hyderabad responsible for data acquisition and processing, data dissemination, aerial remote sensing and decision support for disaster management.
“So far as the station at North Pole goes, Isro is serious about it. But the plan will take some time to materialise as it involves huge logistical challenges, international approvals and co-operation. But we will surely have it,” one scientist said.
The scientist added that any hardware installation is a complex task, and given the region’s extreme conditions—considered more difficult to deal with than the South Pole—the challenges will be more.
14-orbit coverage ::
Elaborating the need for this, another scientist explained that with the advancements in high-resolution satellite programs of IRS, the complexity and role of ground stations have increased multifold.
“High-resolution satellites need frequent visibilities with larger processing power, data storage capacity onboard, data downlink of stored image to ground stations for meeting the global and Indian user requirements,” the scientist said.
Presently, the global requirements are met through NRSC’s IMGEOS at Shadnagar, which was commissioned in 2011 and AGEOS in Antarctica, which was commissioned in 2013 and partly through SVALBARD ground station (not Isro’s).
“However, Isro wants to achieve a 14-orbit coverage, to realise which the ground station at North Pole is important…
Because this will provide an opportunity to download the complete data within the same orbit and enable the usage of on-board resources in every orbit and to transfer the raw data in near real-time to Shadnagar,” the scientist said.
2nd Antenna in Antarctica next yr ::
Further, the space agency, which was supposed to establish a second data reception antenna at AGEOS in Antarctica this year, will only be able to do it sometime next year.
The AGEOS, at Bharati Station, Larsemann Hills, Antarctica is receiving IRS data from satellites like Resourcesat-2, Risat-2, the Cartosat family of satellites, Saral and Oceansat, and transferring the same to Shadnagar.
While the existing data receive antenna at Antarctica already supplements Earth Observation (EO) data collection for ISRO, the second one is meant for two specific projects.
“The proposal was to set up a second data reception antenna system to support reception from two specific projects immediately and future ones later,” the scientists said, adding that there has been some delay in establishing this, and that it is likely to be completed next year.
The two specific projects these antennas will aid are Cartosat-3—which will have dual uses like its predecessor Cartosat-2 series, which provided data for India’s 2016 Surgical Strikes on Pakistan—and the proposed Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar (Nisar) mission, expected to launch in 2022.
The $1.5 billion project, Nisar is a first of its kind endeavour that will be able to operate in two frequencies, both in bands lower than KU-Band or AA-Band. While Isro will develop and provide the S-band radar, expected to have a 12-cm wavelength, Nasa will supply the 24-cm wavelength L-band radar. Isro will also provide the launch vehicle.
The proposed second data reception terminal at Antarctica will support and act as a follow-on station to the one at Shadnagar.
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