India launched new “spy-satellite” capable of keeping lookout from space even in cloudy conditions, leaving no-room for doubt the next-time its armed-forces conduct an operation such as Balakot air-strike earlier this year. The ISRO used its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle to launch the 615-kg RISAT-2B satellite capable of clear viewing during the day, night and even under adverse weather-conditions at 5:30-am 22nd May. ISRO chief Dr K Sivan called the launch of RISAT-2B a “fantastic mission”. The home-grown space agency has sent 354 satellites into orbit and crossed a landmark of lifting a total of over 50 tonne of material into the space.
The special radar-enabled satellite has been placed at a low earth 557-kilometre orbit, a suitable level for detecting hostile installations as well as monitoring agriculture, forestry and possible disaster zones. The space agency did not release details or photographs of the satellite, considering that it is meant for strategic needs.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) had sent Mirage 2000 fighter jets to strike a terror camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan territory, on the morning of February 26. Some experts have speculated that heavy cloud cover at the time could have blinded Indian satellites, resulting in no images or videos of the operation being released so far. The lack of “proof” even spurred some opposition leaders to question the actual impact of the air strike. Two previous radar-enabled satellites launched by India into space were RISAT-1 and RISAT-2, the latter being an acquisition from Israel. The RISAT-1, a C-band radar imaging satellite, was not available for recording the impact of the Balakot strikes because it was declared dead in 2017. However, there is no clarity on why images from the RISAT-2, a tiny 300 kg satellite with an X-band radar launched in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks – have not been released.
The next launch for ISRO is the prestigious Chandrayaan-2 Mission slated for lift off between July 9-16. It would be the first mission where India attempts to soft land a robot on the lunar surface. With this mission, India “would be going where no one has ever gone before which is to the south pole of the moon on the near side.