Military applications of Indian Space program

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INDIA NEEDS A DEDICATED SPACE FORCE
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2023 BY INDIAN DEFENCE NEWS

India's Anti-Satellite Missile on display during Republic Day Parade 2023
by Cdr Sandeep Dhawan (Retd)

Indian Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, delivered a keynote address for the 37th Air Chief Marshal P.C. Lal Memorial Lecture on 5th May 2022, in New Delhi. He stated that the Ukrainian conflict has lessons for future wars and the Indian Air Force must gear up for those challenges. He further urged the Indian Air Force to become an “Aerospace Force” and be prepared to protect the country from the challenges of the future.
This was further emphasized by Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Anil Chauhan in his address at the Indian DefSpace Symposium in April 2023. He stated that India should build offensive and defensive capabilities in the space domain. Looks like the Indian Air Force (IAF) got the drift and presented a case to the Indian government to be renamed, the Indian Air and Space Force (IASF).
A news portal known to take a contrarian stand immediately grabbed the opportunity to bring out that the IAF veterans were unhappy with the move and called the renaming somewhat excessive and needless. I agree, as well as disagree with them. If the move is cosmetic, then it is an effort in vain, but if it brings about the structural changes to strengthen the planned military reforms, i.e. Theaterisation, then it is a welcome move. I would go one step further and suggest an independent “Space Force”. This would not only demolish the unnecessary expenditure argument but also have long-term benefits.
Why Do We Need A Space Force?
One explanation is that China, France, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, all have a Space Force. So why should India be left behind? The answer is not that simple, but not complicated either. Why do seafaring nations want a Navy? The Navy secures that domain for all activities and deters threats in that domain. A Space Force would be replicating the same in space.
American company SpaceX has launched over 5,500 satellites by the end of November 2023. Elon Musk’s company has plans to create a constellation of 42,000 satellites. Amazon also launched two prototype satellites in November. They aim to launch 3,236 satellites under Project Kuiper. China plans to deploy a “State Network” (Guowang or GW) mega-constellation of almost 13,000 low-orbit satellites to provide services to China, spy on rival networks, and even carry out sabotage missions.
India, which was lagging behind has seen good momentum in the last five years. The number of Indian space start-ups has more than doubled, from 21 to 47 since 2020. They also received a whopping $233 million in funding. India recorded a historic moment in 2022 with its first private rocket launch by Skyroot. It is amply clear that sooner than later space will be a crowded domain. More and more nations would be jostling for a limited space. Just like SpaceX, Amazon, and Chinese agencies, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Indian companies would also need a safe environment and security for their assets in space.
On the military front, we have recent examples of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Israel-Hamas war. Both these conflicts have displayed that space should be viewed as a critical enabler. During these ongoing wars, we have witnessed both sides attacking SATCOM capabilities to degrade command and control, and effort to interfere with GPS to reduce its effectiveness in the region.
Russian cyber-attack against commercial satellite communication networks used by the Ukrainian military draws a clear connection between space and cyber domains. However, Ukraine augmented the capability of its systems by integrating SpaceX’s Starlink SATCOM system. This exercise improved the Ukrainian command and control structure and proved much harder to target and degrade.
Coming to India’s immediate neighbour China. With 290 Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) satellites, 49 precision-navigation-and-timing satellites, a growing number of rapid-response launch capabilities, multiple ground-based lasers, numerous jammers targeting wide swaths of SATCOM frequencies and GPS, China has become a clear and present danger.
The importance of establishing and protecting defensive and offensive capabilities should be India’s immediate priority. Nothing exemplifies this more than memories of how the U.S. denied GPS support to the Indian armed forces during the Kargil War in 1999. It didn’t stop there. In 2012, the U.S. once again shut off its GPS satellites causing the BrahMos missile tests to fail.
Today, India has seven satellite constellations, Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC). This is an Indian version of the U.S. GPS, an autonomous regional satellite navigation system that provides accurate and real-time navigation and timing service. Its present reach is limited to 1,500 km. However, ISRO plans to extend the range to 3,000 km, which will take the NavIC services beyond the Indian borders. Responsibility for securing these essential and critical satellites would also rest with the Space Force.
Noteworthy Developments
In October 2023, during the 11th China Command and Control Conference, a paper was submitted. The paper discussed the establishment of a new type of force believed to be a near-space command. Near-space is defined as a 20 to 100 km zone above the surface of the Earth. If this information is correct, then this would be the fifth Chinese force after the People’s Liberation Army, Navy, Air Force, and Rocket Force. As per the paper, this force would be equipped with hypersonic weapons for attacks on critical enemy infrastructure, and global high-altitude surveillance using solar-powered automated drones and spy balloons.
It would be other nations’ naiveté if they underestimated China. China demonstrated its mal intent very clearly in October 2021, when it tested a system that incorporated a glide body into a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS). The system placed in low-earth orbit was capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.
The present situation is akin to the pre-World War Two days, when every Western leader was mollycoddling Hitler, ignoring all the war preparations Führer’s forces were making. The establishment of the Chinese near-space command could be the last wake-up call to the world.
An Independent Space Force
Only the availability of the best military equipment wouldn’t ensure success on the battleground. A modern military needs a well-trained force, well-rehearsed multi-domain operations, effective tactics, and a robust logistics supply chain. The creation of the Indian Space Force is more than overdue, and its importance cannot be overemphasized. India’s space assets, including the ground facilities, are worth $40 billion and expanding. The Indian military satellite network alone would expand to over 100 satellites in less than a decade. If ISRO and civilian companies need a Space Force for safe passage and security then the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force, and the future Rocket Force would need its assistance to get ISR inputs and safeguard their communication links to operate in a hostile environment.
Keeping the Space Force a part of IAF would also raise the question of staffing and budgeting. Would the present Defence Space Agency (DSA) merge into the IAF or continue working as it is? In all likelihood, the younger service, i.e. the space component of IASF would suffer as the air requirements would take priority. Even in the United States, there was endless opposition to a separate Space Force. But, in times to come, it would deliver dividends. Therefore, a dedicated Indian Space Force would be a better choice than burdening the existing IAF ecosystem.
A veteran of the Indian Navy, Cdr Dhawan served in the Navy from 1988 to 2009. He was a Maritime Reconnaissance Pilot and a Flying Instructor. He is a geopolitical analyst and writes for various online websites and organizations
 

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India planning to launch 50 satellites for intelligence gathering in five years: ISRO chief
Many satellites are being designed and configured, he said

ISRO Chairman S. Somnath. | Photo Credit: PTI
India is aiming to launch 50 satellites in the next five years for geo-intelligence gathering which will include the creation of a layer of satellites in different orbits with a capacity to track the movement of troops and image thousands of kilometres of area, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman S. Somanath said here on December 28.
For realising India's aspiration to become a strong nation, the current size of its satellite fleet is not enough and it should be "ten times what we have today", he said, speaking at `Techfest', an annual science and technology event organised by the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay here.
It was important to improve the ability of satellites to detect changes, to bring in more of AI-related and data-driven approach to analyse data, reduce data downloads and get only the necessary information, he said.
Spacecrafts are capable of observing a country's borders and neighbouring regions, the ISRO chief noted.
"All of it can be seen from satellites. This capability gives us enormous potential. We have been launching satellites to handle this, but there is a different way of thinking now and we need to look at it in a much more critical manner because the power of (any) nation is the ability to understand what is happening around it," Mr. Somanath said.
Many satellites are being designed and configured, he said.
"We have already configured 50 satellites to be realised in the next five years and this is going to be launched for India for supporting this particular geo-intelligence capability over the next five years plus (period)," the ISRO chief added.
If India is able to launch satellites at this scale, threats to the country can be better mitigated, Mr. Somanath said.
"We have found out a way by which a layer of satellites can be launched starting from GEO (geostationary equatorial orbit) to LEO (lower earth orbit) and also (in) very low earth orbit where we need very critical assessment of some situation," he said.
This is a new domain which is coming up not only in optical, but also in SAR (synthetic aperture radar), thermal and various other technologies, Mr. Somanath pointed out.
"We will have communication between satellites, so that if some satellite detects something, which is at GEO at 36,000 kms, it can have a large view. If you find some activity happening, you can task another satellite in the lower orbit (to check) much more carefully and then give more information," he said.
"We are also looking at imaging, not a very small area (but) thousands of kilometers of area and we would like to cover entire borders in everyday cycles. This is a tremendous capability that we are building if we are able to launch these satellites in the next five years," he said.
Mr. Somanath noted that the overall satellite fleet of the country, with its current strength of 54, is "just not enough" for a nation like India which is aspiring to be powerful and strong.
"I think it must be ten times what we have today," the ISRO chief said.
  • India is aiming to launch 50 satellites in the next five years for geo-intelligence gathering which will include the creation of a layer of satellites in different orbits with a capacity to track the movement of troops and image thousands of kilometres of area, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman S. Somanath said.
  • It was important to improve the ability of satellites to detect changes, to bring in more of AI-related and data-driven approach to analyse data, reduce data downloads and get only the necessary information, he said.
  • If India is able to launch satellites at this scale, threats to the country can be better mitigated, Mr. Somanath said.
 

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India's first spy satellite made by local private player set for SpaceX liftoff

IANS
Representative Image

Synopsis
India's first military grade spy satellite, manufactured by the domestic private sector, is ready and has been shipped for launch on a SpaceX rocket. The ground control in Bengaluru will direct the satellite's path and process imagery. It will provide imagery with 0.5-metre spatial resolution. The satellite has been built in partnership with Satellogic.
New Delhi: India’s first military grade spy satellite manufactured by the domestic private sector is ready, and has been shipped for launch on a SpaceX rocket.
Work is also in progress on a ground station that will control the asset and process sub-metre resolution imagery from it.
ET has learnt that the satellite built by Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) was completed last week and is being sent to Florida for an expected launch by April.
The unique aspect of the TASL programme is that the ground control will remain in India, which will enable secrecy of the coordinates that are required to be monitored by the armed forces. In the past, exact coordinates and timings for monitoring had to be shared with foreign vendors.
By the time the satellite is in operational mode, the state-of-theart ground control centre will be set up in Bengaluru.
The control centre will direct the satellite’s path and process imagery that can be used by the armed forces to monitor infrastructure and acquire military targets. Capable of providing imagery with 0.5-metre spatial resolution, the satellite has been built in partnership with Satellogic — a Latin American company.
Isro also has sub-metre resolution satellites, but given the vast level of coverage required in order to monitor the border as well as enemy movement, the armed forces have been forced in the past to lean on US companies to acquire urgently needed intelligence. There has been a spike in imagery procurement from foreign entities, especially after developments on the LAC with China.
With its primary defence role, the satellite imagery can also be exported to friendly countries. TASL is learnt to have been contacted for orders. The Bengaluru plant is capable of producing 25 such low earth orbit satellites in a year, which could technically put together an entire constellation in space within a short time. It is learnt that tech absorption for making the satellite has been done at a component level and, as part of the larger strategy, future payloads can be developed in the country and customised for the forces’ requirements.
 

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Since it was launched by a private US operator, it means this satellite was compromised already. Why wasn't this one launched by ISRO which would have made sure that this satellite wasn't compromised?
 

Blademaster

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Care to explain.

Depends on launch slot available.
the us space operator have to have access to the satellite to fit into their fairing and mate it to the rocket. It gives all sorts of opportunities for any US personnel secretly on the payroll of CIA or NSA to get inside and insert something into it without knowledge of Indian operators and be able to hack into the satellite.
 

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the us space operator have to have access to the satellite to fit into their fairing and mate it to the rocket. It gives all sorts of opportunities for any US personnel secretly on the payroll of CIA or NSA to get inside and insert something into it without knowledge of Indian operators and be able to hack into the satellite.
You cannot just break into a system only by adding a hardware. You need to integrate with software and network along.

As far as satellite's apsis are concerned, NORAD can and does track real time location of every satellite in the world. Launching it from US will not make a difference here.
 
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Blademaster

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You cannot just break into a system only by adding a hardware. You need to integrate with software and network along.

As far as satellite's apsis are concerned, NORAD can and does track real time location of every satellite in the world. Launching it from US will not make a difference here.
Pls do not underestimate the capabilities of NSA and CIA to hack into other systems surreptitiously.
 

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Pls do not underestimate the capabilities of NSA and CIA to hack into other systems surreptitiously.
I do not have any answer for "But what if unicorns were real" kind of arguments. Things are just technically possible and impossible.
 
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