India’s largest ever ‘eye in the sky’ will take on its neighbours

RISAT 1 takes launches aboard the PSLV-C19 in IndiaISRO

  • India’s largest surveillance satellite so far, the Radar Satellite (RISAT) 2BR1, is set to launch on May 22.
  • It is the third in India’s RISAT series of launches.
  • This will mean increased vigilance along India’s China and Pakistan borders.
India is upgrading its spy satellite system by launching another ‘eye in the sky’ on May 22. The South Asian country’s new addition will be able to pierce through clouds, and capture ‘the real picture’ of its borders, amidst intensifying geopolitical tensions.


The Radar Satellite (RISAT) 2BR1 is the latest addition to the RISAT series of India’s defensive satellites. This is an upgrade over its predecessors and adds to India’s surveillance capabilities.

On one side, India will be able to monitor the Indian Ocean for Chinese naval ships more efficiently and, on the other, keep an eye on the Arabian Sea for Pakistani warships.

Even Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the Line of Control (LoC) that runs between Pakistan and India will be under surveillance — day and night.

RISAT 2BR1 is first of the five planned military satellites that Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has planned for 2019. This is an impressive record for ISRO, which launches one or two military satellites a year.

Piercing the Clouds

RISAT 1 and RISAT 2 are strong surveillance satellites in their own right. But RISAT 2BR1’s X Band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) can pierce through the clouds, and has a resolution of up to one meter.

Increased resolution means, it can decipher between different objects on the ground provided they’re at least a meter apart.

RISAT 2, launched in 2009, was India’s first reconnaissance satellite, also known as spy or intelligence satellites.

The original X Band SAR on board was a military grade sensor radar from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). It was actually launched before RISAT 1, officially an agricultural satellite, in lieu of the 2009 Mumbai terror attacks which called for increased vigilance along the borders.

Striking resolution

Images from RISAT 2 are known to have played a role in conducting the surgical strikes along India’s LoC in 2016, as well as the 2019 Balakot airstrike.

The indigenously manufactured X Band SAR on RISAT 2BR1 uses the motion of the radar’s antenna to scan over the area where the target is assigned.

So, rather than use conventional beam scanning to capture an image, X Band SAR uses radar pulse calculations to create a spatial resolution. Larger the aperture, or longer that radar pulses take to return, the higher the image resolution.

The RISAT 2BR1 will launch from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh abroad one of the variants of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

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