Tag Archives: ELINT

Space, War and Security – A Strategy for India

Space, War and Security – A Strategy for India

Author: S. Chandrashekar

To read the complete report click here

To cite: S. Chandrashekar.  Space, War and Security – A Strategy for India. NIAS Report No. 36-2015. Bangalore: International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, December 2015.


Q&A with the author, Prof. S. Chandrashekar about the Report

Chandra Space ReportIn your paper you talk about the connections between space assets, nuclear weapons and conventional war. Can you tell us a bit more on how these are connected?

Ever since Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear weapons and conventional war have always been connected. The dawn of the space age through the launch of Sputnik was made possible because of the development of ICBMs. Of course missiles became the preferred delivery system for both nuclear and conventional weapons. Satellites because of their vantage point in space cover large areas on the ground. Military interests for both offence and defence have always wanted to control the high ground. Space is no exception to this desire. Space assets have always played a major role in the war strategies of major space powers.

If this were so space would have always been a contested ground. However international concerns about the weaponization of space seem to have more recent origins. What has changed in the world space order for these renewed emerging concerns?

The Cold war Period of the space age saw the emergence of what can be called the sanctuary regime in space where the desire to preserve stability and the peace limited the military uses of space to what we currently call the ISR functions where information provided by satellites maintained the peace. This also saw an international space order dominated by the USA and the USSR – who established this sanctuary regime – associated with what is even today described as the peaceful uses of outer space.

Reagan’s Star Wars initiative led to a change and conferred greater legitimacy to space weapons – that moved from testing to keeping technology options open – towards possible deployment.

The breakup of the Soviet Union and the first Gulf War which saw large scale use of space assets for both defensive and offensive weapons linked space assets more directly with war. The rise of China and its desire to counter the dominant US position in space has resulted in a number of Chinese led assymetric responses that more directly link space assets with the risks of escalating conventional war to a nuclear war. Through such approaches China hopes to deter US intervention into areas that China perceives as being vital to its national interests such as Taiwan.

This emerging China US dynamic makes the connections between space nuclear weapons and conventional war more direct and immediate. These are the changes that India needs to take into account in formulating a suitable space strategy.

What do you see as the most immediate concern for India as far as these developments are concerned?

Evidence suggests that India did not have any independent way of knowing about the Chinese ASAT test. India’s knowledge about the Yaogan military constellation especially the Chinese ELINT capability does not seem to be based on independent information and knowledge. This gap in Space Situational Awareness is not consistent with Indian aspirations as a potential key player in the current world order. India needs to bridge this gap in space capabilities as quickly as possible.

What should India do in order to improve awareness of what is happening in space?

For civilian space applications countries need to track and monitor the health of satellites. Most active satellites transmit radio signals that can be received on the ground and these can be used to fix the position of the satellite and determine its orbit. However once satellites reach their end of life they may not be able to transmit radio signals on a continuing basis. There are also spent rocket stages and a number of objects put into orbit during the commissioning of a satellite. Military testing of ASAT weapons, other experiments done in the past where particles have been released into space as well as fragments from the explosion of spent rocket stages all create debris. More recently two satellites have collided with each other creating a debris cloud. Indian facilities for tracking transmitting satellites may be adequate. However to track inactive satellites and space debris India needs long range radars, optical and laser tracking facilities located suitably so as to be able to track these objects. These are the facilities that India needs to set up.

Once these are available India would be in a position to monitor the happenings in space. By making sure it knows where the inactive satellites and larger debris objects are located, it can provide routine data to all satellite users including Indian operators on risks associated with possible collisions. It can also monitor the space activities of the major space powers especially on the military aspects of the use of space such as ASAT testing, launchings related to C4ISR functions for the military as well as other satellites used for various civilian and military functions.

To read the complete report click here

Promise of Small Satellites for National Security

Promise of Small Satellites for National Security

Author: Rajaram Nagappa

To read the complete report click here

To cite: Nagappa, Rajaram. The Promise of Small Satellites for National Security. NIAS Report No. 33-2015. Bangalore: International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, December 2015, available at http://isssp.in/promise-of-small-satellites-for-national-security/

Small Satellites

India is one of the few spacefaring nations having demonstrated capability in both launch vehicle and satellite domains. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) functioning under the Department of Space is the responsible agency and has established the capability to plan and implement end-to end missions. The main thrust of ISRO is aimed at carrying out satellite-based applications for societal benefits.

These include satellite missions for communication, earth observation, meteorology and regional navigation. ISRO also carries out scientific missions, deep space missions and offers commercial launch services. Technology improvements have been steadily incorporated and in the earth observation satellites, better than one metre resolution has been achieved. Because of the dual use nature of space applications, the security services in the country have derived information useful their purpose from the ISRO space programmes. 

Among the launch vehicles, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is operational and has a good track record. The Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV) should also be reaching operational status shortly and while the GSLV Mk-3 is still in the development stage. ISRO is a civilian organisation and very rightly prioritizes its mandated tasks. Consequently, the space services currently do not cater to the needs of military space, which are evolving now. Though ISRO has the technical capability, there are capacity constraints in both satellite building and launch services.

Envisaged military space requirements will include exclusive communication satellites, electronic intelligence satellites (ELINT) and constellation of optical and radar imaging satellites for continuous intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) activities. Small satellites are playing an important role in space applications. They are faster to build, are cost effective and better as they benefit from the use of latest technologies. Small satellite platforms can be adapted for military missions involving optical and radar imaging applications with good resolution as also for ELINT operations. Many examples of international practices bear this out. For increasing the launch frequency, a small satellite launch vehicle can be configured using stages of the Agni missiles and/or ISRO solid rocket stages. Such a launch vehicle would be capable of placing a satellite of mass 350 kg in a nearly circular 500 km polar orbit – quite adequate for military space missions.

The report surveys the small satellite capabilities to meet military space requirement. Use of available standard small satellite buses is suggested to cut down the development time. Major involvement of industry in both satellite and small launch vehicle realization and integration services is suggested to overcome the capacity constraint. It is also suggested that advantage be taken of mobility and different launch locations to carry out the flight missions.

Conducting Academic and Policy Research related to National and International Security Issues
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