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How The NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar Satellite Will Benefit Society

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How The NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar Satellite Will Benefit Society


NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is visiting ISRO facilities in India, including the UR Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru where the NISAR satellite is being tested ahead of its launch early next year. The spacecraft is the first collaboration of its kind between NASA and ISRO. On board are a pair of radar payloads that have the potential to be of incredible benefit to all humans, as well as all life, on the planet.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is on a multi-day tour of ISRO facilities in India, during the course of which new avenues for collaboration will be explored with ISRO, along with programs to encourage students to participate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Nelson will be visiting the UR Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru, where the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite is being tested ahead of its expected launch in early 2024, to ensure that the spacecraft survives the rough ride to space and performs as expected in the low gravity environment after deployment. NISAR is the first collaboration of its kind between the two space agencies, and has the potential to benefit all humans on the planet.

Only about 10 per cent of ISRO’s budget and time are allocated to flagship science missions that capture the imagination of the public, such as Aditya-L1 and Chandrayaan-3. The other 90 per cent of the resources are dedicated to resources in Earth orbit that directly and immediately benefit the citizens of the country, such as satellites for communication, navigation and Earth observation. The last of these is one of the strong points of ISRO, allowing the nation to track changes in the environment, plan large scale infrastructure projects, and provide reliable weather predictions services. Radar satellites are invaluable when it comes to monitoring changes to the surface of the planet, but traditionally have a trade-off between coverage and resolution.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory came up with the innovative SweepSAR technology, which is the fundamental technology behind the NISAR satellite. The technology provides high resolution satellite radar images, without compromising on the wide area of coverage. It was NASA that approached ISRO with the initial proposal for the NISAR collaboration, but ISRO refused considering that it was not benefiting by providing a satellite bus and a free taxi ride to space on one of its launch vehicles. Through a series of negotiations, ISRO reached a more equitable compromise, with the satellite design being improved in the process, with enhanced capabilities. The satellite is the first to carry a pair of radar payloads in different bands, with the observations by each instrument complementing the other.

In 2007, remote sensing scientists, geologists, meteorologists and oceanographers, brainstormed on how the latest technology developments for Earth observation satellites could be best put to use the latest technologies to gather the most valuable information that can be used to address pressing challenges facing the planet. The committee came up with a report known as the Earth Science Decadal Survey, which was an effort to identify focus areas and guide space activities. The priorities identified were tracking changes in ice sheets, vegetation and deformations in the surface of the Earth. The extent of polar ice and the movement of glaciers are both indicators of climate change. The amount of carbon stored within woody biomass provides scientists with valuable insights on how to respond to climate change. Careful measurement of the Earth’s crust allows scientists to estimate ground water levels, as well as keep tabs on volcanoes, earthquakes and landslides.

NISAR Will Help Track Climate Change And Natural Disasters

Because of the recommendations of the decadal survey, NASA has launched a number of satellites aligned with the goals of the decadal survey, including the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), the Soil Moisture Active-Passive (SMAP) satellite, and the Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT). The synthetic aperture radar technology had the capabilities for capturing exactly the kind of data that was recommended by the decadal survey. NISAR is a single satellite loaded with two radar payloads, and is the first of its kind collaboration between NASA and ISRO, and it is an important mission for the planet. At a lecture in IIIT-Hyderabad, project scientist on NISAR Paul Rosen said, “We have been building this (NISAR) for almost ten years now, jointly between NASA and ISRO. I work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where we are building the US components. It has been a long ride and we are finally getting ready to launch this system early next year. Synthetic aperture radar is a very powerful tool, allowing us to look through the carbon cycle, climate through ice characterisation, the Earth’s surface and interior, and water, and weather.”

At a lecture in IIT-Madras about three weeks ago, ISRO Chairman S Somanath said, “We are working with many nations. We are working with France, Japan, Russia and USA to develop new payloads and instruments. One of the interesting payloads which is currently getting integrated is NISAR. It is a very unique, very complex satellite. The costliest satellite ever built for Earth observation in the world, is this satellite. The Americans have spent huge amount of money, Indians have spent huge amounts of money to build this satellite. This is a radar satellite, the S-band radar comes from India and the L-band radar comes from US, and we merged these two and put it in a single satellite. Many people don’t know that the land surface actually moves up and down by metres with cyclic variations of water under the Earth. This can only be very precisely measured only by high accuracy measurements by multiple radar bands. This is the beauty of it, and it does many more measurements that are important.”

The radar instruments can peer through obscuring clouds, and track changes across the whole planet. The extent of agriculture, amount of forest cover, soil moisture levels, health of wetlands, changes in the ice cover, dynamics of ice sheets, threat of sea level rise and reshaped coastlines can all be tracked with NISAR. Nilesh Desai, the director of the Space Applications Centre (SAC), at the foundation day lecture in IIT-M, Pune, said, “The whole world is looking forward to this NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar. It is a science mission. So, data will be available free of cost, to everybody. A lot of interest it has generated because of the applications also. Disaster response, coastal and ocean, cryosphere, and especially land deformation. We cannot predict the earthquakes or tsunamis. This could go a long way in getting some idea about how to go about with the prediction of this.”

Apart from Earthquakes, scientists will be attempting to use the observations conducted by NISAR to predict volcano eruptions as well. In fact, the satellite can provide valuable information on a wide range of natural disasters, including oil spills, forest fire damage and floods. The targets of observations by NISAR are often proxies or indicators for invisible mechanisms and processes, and can guide an incredible variety of future human responses and efforts. For example, careful measurement of surface deformations can hint at the things buried underground, guiding future archaeological excavations. The data can also potentially be used for identifying promising regions for mineral explorations.





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INS Arihant’s Nuke-Capable K-4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile ‘Ready To Roll’

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INS Arihant’s Nuke-Capable K-4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile ‘Ready To Roll’


NEW DELHI: India tested its nuclear capable K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), designed to have a strike range of 3,500 km, for the second time in six days on Friday. The missile test, as the one conducted on January 19, was undertaken from an undersea platform in the shape of a submersible pontoon off the coast of Andhra Pradesh according to a report by Rajat Pandit of TOI.

The solid-fuelled K-4 missile is being developed by DRDO to arm the country’s nuclear-powered submarines in the shape of INS Arihant and its under-development sister vessels. INS Arihant, which became fully operational in November 2018 to complete India’s nuclear triad, is currently armed with the much shorter K-15 missiles with a 750 km range.

“The K-4 is now virtually ready for its serial production to kick-off. The two tests have demonstrated its capability to emerge straight from underwater and undertake its parabolic trajectory,” said a source.

India has the land-based Agni missiles, with the over 5,000-km Agni-V inter-continental ballistic missile now in the process of being inducted, and fighter jets jury-rigged to deliver nuclear weapons. But INS Arihant gives the country’s deterrence posture much more credibility because nuclear-powered submarines armed with nuclear-tipped missiles are considered the most secure, survivable and potent platforms for retaliatory strikes.

Once the K-4 missiles are inducted, they will help India narrow the gap with countries like the US, Russia and China, which have over 5,000-km range SLBMs. The K-4 missiles are to be followed by the K-5 and K-6 missiles in the 5,000-6,000 km range class.

The 6,000-ton INS Arihant, which is propelled by an 83 MW pressurised light-water reactor at its core, in turn, is to be followed by INS Arighat, which was launched in 2017. The next generation of nuclear submarines, currently called S-4 and S-4*, will be much larger in size.





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After Upgradation, Sukhoi Su-30MKI Indigenisation To Reach 78%

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After Upgradation, Sukhoi Su-30MKI Indigenisation To Reach 78%


India has received clearance to upgrade 84 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets, which will result in 78% indigenization after the upgrade

In a significant step towards bolstering its military might with indigenously developed technology, India is poised to witness its Russian-origin Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets evolve into a domestic platform. Speaking at a recent lecture.

The upgrade program is being led by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in partnership with the Indian Air Force and other partners. The upgrade is expected to cost US$7.5 billion.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) granted Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for the upgrade. The upgrade is part of India’s efforts to improve the capabilities of its primary fighter aircraft, it refers to as the “Super Sukhoi”.

This initiative is a part of a larger effort by the Indian Air Force to modernize its ageing fleet. Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari asserted the critical role of an offensive air force as demonstrated in current global conflicts and emphasized India’s move towards an indigenized arsenal. To this end, the IAF has been proactive, from upgrading its Mirage 2000 to enhancing its MiG-29 fleet.

In summary, the IAF’s commitment to updating their combat forces with the latest technology, including shifting to fifth-generation fighter jets, ensures operational preparedness and a strong deterrence capability. The gradual indigenization of its air fleet marks a pivotal shift in India’s defence landscape, reducing dependency on foreign imports and fostering technological sovereignty.





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Akash Weapon System Exports For The Armenian Armed Forces Gathers Pace

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Akash Weapon System Exports For The Armenian Armed Forces Gathers Pace


According to unconfirmed reports, Armenia is a top contender for an export order for Akash SAM system manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL).

While there is no official confirmation because of the sensitivities involved, documents suggest that the order for the same has already been placed the report further added.
There are nine countries, in turn, which have shown interest in the indigenously-developed Akash missile systems, which can intercept hostile aircraft, helicopters, drones and subsonic cruise missiles at a range of 25-km. They are Kenya, Philippines, Indonesia, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Vietnam and Algeria reported TOI.

The Akash export version will also be slightly different from the one inducted by the armed forces. The 100-km range air-to-air Astra missiles, now entering production after successful trials from Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, also have “good export potential”, said sources.

Akash is a “tried, tested and successfully inducted systems”. Indian armed forces have ordered Akash systems worth Rs 24,000 crore over the years, and MoD inked a contract in Mar 2023 of over Rs 9,100 crores for improved Akash Weapon System

BDL is a government enterprise under the Ministry of Defence that was established in 1970. BDL manufactures surface-to-air missiles and delivers them to the Indian Army. BDL also offers its products for export.

Akash Weapon System

The AWS is a Short Range Surface to Air Missile (SRSAM) Air Defence System, indigenously designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). In order to meet aerial threats, two additional Regiments of AWS with Upgradation are being procured for Indian Army for the Northern borders. Improved AWS has Seeker Technology, Reduced Foot Print, 360° Engagement Capability and improved environmental parameters.

The project will give a boost to the Indian missile manufacturing industry in particular and the indigenous defence manufacturing ecosystem as a whole. The project has overall indigenous content of 82% which will be increased to 93% by 2026-27.

The induction of the improved AWS into the Indian Army will increase India’s self-reliance in Short Range Missile capability. This project will play a role in boosting the overall economy by avoiding outgo of precious foreign exchange to other countries, increasing employment avenues in India and encouraging Indian MSMEs through components manufacturing. Around 60% of the project cost will be awarded to the private industry, including MSMEs, in maintaining the supply chain of the weapon system, thereby creating large scale of direct and indirect employment.





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