India Launches New Surveillance Satellite

April 20, 2009, BANGALORE, India -- India put an Israeli-built spy satellite into orbit April 20, aimed at boosting its defense surveillance capabilities in the aftermath of the Mumbai militant attacks.

The satellite, which can see through clouds and carry out day-and-night all-weather imaging, has been a long-standing demand of the Indian military.

Its acquisition was fast-tracked after the Nov. 26-29 Mumbai siege in which 10 gunmen killed 165 people.

The 300 kilogram (650 pound) RISAT 2 was launched by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket from the Sriharikota launch site, 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of the southern city of Chennai.

"It has been successfully placed in the orbit 20 minutes after lift-off this morning," G. Padmanabhan, a scientist from India's Space Research Organisation, told AFP by phone.

Another senior scientist and member of the Space Commission, Roddam Narasimhaiah, told AFP images from the satellite, 550 kilometers above Earth, would show "any movement on the surface of the earth."

"It can be used for monitoring the country's borders 'round the clock, check cross-border movement and help the Indian security forces in anti-infiltration or anti-terrorist operations," Narasimhaiah said.

India says the Mumbai attackers came by boat from the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

India's existing satellites get blinded at night and in the monsoon season, but the new satellite will be able to work in all light and weather conditions, Narasimhaiah added.

The acquisition will also provide New Delhi with the capability to track incoming hostile ballistic missiles.

India has forged close military links with Tel Aviv in recent years, with Israel replacing France in 2007 as its second-largest arms supplier after Russia.
(Defense News)

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