India is all set to launch its first dedicated military satellite. India’s first dedicated military satellite GSAT-7 or “Rukmini”, which will be launched by Arianespace from French Guiana on Friday. It will provide the Navy with an almost 2,000-nautical-mile-footprint over the critical Indian Ocean region (IOR).
Essentially a geo-stationary communication satellite to enable real-time networking of all Indian warships, submarines and aircraft with operational centres ashore, the 2,625kg Rukmini will also help the Navy keep a hawk-eye over both Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. “From Persian Gulf to Malacca Strait, it will help cover almost 70% of the IOR,” said a source.
China, in sharp contrast, has taken huge strides in the military space arena, testing even ASAT (anti-satellite) weapons against “low-earth orbit” satellites since January 2007. “With counter-space being a top priority, China has been testing its ‘direct-ascent kinetic kill’ capabilities. It also has active programmes for kinetic and directed-energy laser weapons as well as nano-satellites. By 2020, it hopes to have a space station with military applications,” said a source.
Incidentally, around 300 dedicated or dual-use military satellites are orbiting around the earth, with the US owning 50% of them, followed by Russia and China. But India has lagged far behind in utilization of the final frontier of space for military purposes, refusing to even approve the long-standing demand of the armed forces for a full-fledged Aerospace Command.
DRDO contends it can develop ASAT weapons if required by marrying the propulsion system of the over 5,000-km Agni-V missile with the “kill vehicle” of its two-tier BMD (ballistic missile system) system.
Apart from working on “directed energy weapons” at its Laser Science &Technology Centre, DRDO also has futuristic programmes for launching “mini-satellites on demand” for use in the battlefield as well as “EMP (electromagnetic pulse) hardening” of satellites and sensors to protect them against ASAT weapons.