Tag Archives: small satellites

Strengthening Intelligence Gathering, Surveillance and Reconnaissance are of Vital Importance

National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS)

International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP)

Press Release – For Immediate Release

“Strengthening Intelligence Gathering, Surveillance and Reconnaissance are of Vital Importance”

The International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP), a unique programme at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) in IISc campus released four related reports on Small Satellites, Space War and Identification of Uranium Mill sites.

The four reports were released today by Dr Baldev Raj, Director of the NIAS and critiqued by Prof YS Rajan and Vice Admiral RN Ganesh. Introducing the reports, Prof Rajaram Nagappa highlighted the focus of them and their utmost importance to India’s national security. Dr Baldev Raj releasing the reports underlined the importance of the National Institute of Advanced Studies based in Bangalore but providing vital inputs and concrete recommendations to India’s security. He mentioned with pride that the NIAS is truly interdisciplinary and a cradle of good research work.

L to R (Dr. YS Rajan, Prof S. Chandrashekar, Prof Baldev Raj, Prof Rajaram Nagappa, Prof. Lalitha Sundaresan)

L to R: Dr. YS Rajan, Prof. S. Chandrashekar, Prof. Baldev Raj, Prof. Rajaram Nagappa, Prof. Lalitha Sundaresan

Dr Baldev Raj also reminded the primary objective of the NIAS founded by Dr Raja Ramanna and JRD Tata – in terms of engaging in a larger debate within and outside. “These reports are a part of that dialogue” underlined Dr Raj. He said, he has always always been fascinated by the ISSSP; he appreciated its scholars undertaking independent research work and also being successful in working together

The report titled “The Promise of Small Satellites for National Security,” authored by Prof Rajaram Nagappa provides a survey of small satellites that can be employed for military ISR requirements. The report also examines satellite and launch history of ISRO and concludes while ISRO has demonstrated technological capabilities, there is a lack of capacity in the country to meet the military space requirements. The report also carries a survey of small satellite launch vehicles and determines a launch vehicle capable of placing a small satellite of 350 kg mass in an orbit around 500 km can be configured using available rocket/missile stages in the country. The advantage of using readily available and flight-qualified stages is that the development time can be effectively reduced. For generating a faster turn around of the small satellite launch vehicle and satellites, increased industry involvement is essential.

Vice Admiral Ganesh commenting on the report said, “despite the constraints, the ISRO has gone ahead and undertaken a commendable job relating to both satellites and rockets.” According to him, the primary military requirement is for communications – imagery, surveillance, electronic warfare etc.

According to the report, one needs more frequent revisits, especially as mobile platforms like ships and other transport systems may have to be tracked.  As one would like to track such objects at night or under cloud cover conditions, one has to use optical imaging satellites as well as radar imaging satellites to get good imagery under all conditions. Electronic intelligence satellites (ELINTs) have antenna arrays to monitor electrical radiation from emitting sources. This will help in locating such sources (ships, radar stations and other such installations). The report also stresses the importance of technology. Nano-satellites in the mass range of 1-10 kg or micro-satellites in the mass range 10-100 kg or small satellites 100-1000 kg can be designed and employed for such applications. Small satellites will perhaps be more suited for the purpose of ELINT, optical and radar imaging to meet the 24×7 ISR requirements. A constellation of 15-18 satellites will be required. More satellites in the constellation can further reduce the time gap between revisits.

The second report titled “Space, War and Security: A Strategy for India” authored by Prof S Chandrashekar, presents a critical appraisal of Indian capabilities to monitor and use the space environment for various military tasks. These include Command & Control, Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance as well as a number of other space functions such as navigation and weather services. It makes a strong case for a new strategy that integrates these components into a coherent national strategy that is relevant for the country at this point in time. The formulation and implementation of such a strategy will also need a significant enhancement in capabilities to build and launch satellites. These are identified in some detail. India also needs a significant augmentation of its ground based radar and optical tracking facilities in order to monitor the happenings in space on a real time basis. Finally the report addresses the need to re-organize and restructure our entire national security complex to be aligned to this new global reality.

Two more reports, titled “Identification of Uranium Mill sites from Open Source satellite Images” & “Estimating Uranium Mill Capacity Using Satellite Pictures” authored jointly by S. Chandrashekar, Lalitha Sundaresan &  Bhupendra Jassani focus on the use of openly available satellite imagery for the identification of Uranium mills.

Its authors explained “using a sample of known Uranium mills from across the world a set of keys has been derived. These keys link observables in the satellite image (Google Earth image) with equipment and materials related to the processing of Uranium ore. Based on these features and their sequencing in the process a step by step algorithm for the identification of a Uranium mill has been worked out.”

ISSSP Reports Release Function

National Institute of Advanced Studies

Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore-12

International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP)

Reports Release Function


Promise of Small Satellites for National Security
Space, War and Security – A Strategy for India
Identification of Uranium Mill Sites from Open Source Satellite Images
Estimating Uranium Mill Capacity Using Satellite Pictures

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016 at 4:15 pm, Lecture Hall, NIAS




4:00 – 4:15: Coffee/Tea
4:15 – 4:20: Welcome and Introduction of Reports by Prof. Rajaram Nagappa
4:20 – 4:30: Release of ISSSP Reports by Prof. Baldev Raj, Director, NIAS
4:30 – 5:00: ISSSP Reports: A Critique  by Vice Admiral R N Ganesh & Prof. Y S Rajan
5:00 – 5:30: Response by the Authors



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.

India’s Tech Roadmap Points to Small Sats, Space Weapons

Defense News, September 10, 2013

Aditi Malhotra, Research Associate, National Institute of Advanced Studies

Ms. Aditi Malhotra was quoted by the Defense News on India’s efforts towards developing small satellites and protecting space assets. The link of entire story which appeared on September 10, 2013 is given below.

For the entire link click here
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