The Indian Techonomist: bulletin

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Indian remote-sensing satellite data now in Europe

According to the Indian Space Research Organisation, GAF-Euromap of Germany has acquired European rights to maket remote-sensing data from the Indian IRS-1C satellite. IRS-1C data is already distributed in the US and elsewhere by EOSAT - bought from Lockheed-Martin last month by Space Imaging Inc (SII). IRS-1C acquires the highest spatial resolution remote sensing data commercially available in the world today; Space Imaging president Jeff Harris said last month that "with the Indian satellites [IRS and P-series], we are entering a new era of earth information products."

Since its launch on December 28 last year, IRS-1C has been, says ISRO, the most sophisticated civilian remote sensing satellite in orbit. Space industry sources point out that although data is commercially available from Russian satellites originally built for military use, at somewhat higher resolutions than IRS-1C's 5-metre panchromatic (photographic) range, only IRS-1C provides full access to raw digital scanning data, rather than analogue photographs. In addition, IRS-1C provides many services other than photographs: 25-metre multispectral data, which is essential for vegetation and natural resource planning; and 180-metre wide-field data with a repeated coverage as the satellite completes its orbit every five days - this, says SII/EOSAT, is excellent for large-area resource monitoring.

IRS-1C data is currently acquired at three ground stations. At Shadnagar, India, an ISRO facility receives data for South Asia and portions of South-East and West Asia. SII/EOSAT's Norman, Oklahoma ground station receives data for almost all of North America including southern Canada and Mexico, as well as most of Central America. At Neustrelitz, Germany, GAF in cooporation with the German Aerospace Research Establishment (DLR) gathers remote sensing data covering Europe, northern Africa and parts of West Asia. The GAF facility has been operational since February this year, and its data will now, with the latest agreement, be marketed throughout Europe by GAF-Euromap.

SII/EOSAT is also working on ground stations in cooperation with the National Space Development Agency, Japan; the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research of South Africa, the Australian Center for Remote Sensing, and the National Research Council of Thailand. It has an arrangement with Antrix Corp Ltd, the marketing arm of India's Department of Space, to make Indian satellite data available worldwide for at least the next decade.

India is among the few countries to build and launch its own satellites. The IRS-1C is third in a line of advanced civilian remote-sensing satellites, and ISRO has also developed several geostationary satellites in the INSAT series, which are used for telecommunications and broadcasting. The agency has successfully tested its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and expects a geostationary launcher (GSLV) to be ready by the end of the decade. ISRO is negotiating with several global ventures, such as Iridium - in which the Indian government has an equity stake - for the development and launch of low-earth orbit satellites.