Chennai: Swarms of satellites in the sky and even an individual owning one is possible today -- thanks to the emergence of small satellites targeted at performing specific activities, a top official of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said on Wednesday.
"All space-faring nations are considering small satellites as low cost options for a specific purpose. More than 1,000 small satellites weighing less than 100 kg have been launched over the past 30 years to observe the earth and the environment and to study the moon and other planets," ISRO Satellite Centre director TK Alex said.
Speaking at the 98th Indian Science Congress held at SRM University in Kattankulathur near here Alex said: "Even with the presence of a large communication network using conventional satellites or fibre communication, there is a niche for small satellites for providing the link for the missing areas."
According to him, small satellites besides their civilian applications, could also be used for proving the technologies useful for military and security related applications.
He said that small satellites have good potential due to their innovate approach to technology and their low cost enables the owner take a risk with a mission.
Alex said small satellites are low-cost systems suited for a wide spectrum of space missions for proving new ideas in communication and sensor technologies, biology experiments and advanced propulsion technologies.
"In the areas of traffic monitoring, ship identification, disaster monitoring, environment and climate change, agriculture, tourism applications and many other areas, small satellites are found to be best suited," Alex remarked.
Speaking to the reporters on the sidelines of the conference, he said ISRO is encouraging Indian universities to design and build small satellites to be sent aloft by its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
He further said educational institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology in Kanpur and Mumbai, Tamil Nadu based universities SRM, Satyabhama and VIT and ISRO`s own institute, Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IISST), are building small satellites.
"The satellite built by students of SRM University will be launched by ISRO this year. This gives an opportunity to students to get interested in the space technology."
The 40 kg Anusat, built by the students of Anna University in Chennai, was the first student satellite launched in April 2009. It carried an amateur radio store and advanced communications system.
The Studsat, built by engineering college students in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, was launched in July last year.
‘New satellites to boost transponder capacity’
Also, to make up to the loss of two communication satellites in 2010 and some going out of service, the ISRO plans some quick launches to augment its transponder capacity -- automatic receivers and transmitters for communication and broadcast of signals.
On the sidelines of the Space Summit session, Alex said: "In March/April, we will launch communication satellites GSAT-8 from French Guyana using Ariane rocket. Later this year or early 2012, GSAT-10 will be launched again by Ariane."
ISRO will also be launching GSAT-12 satellite using its own rocket - polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) in March/April, he said.
"In the meantime, we will be leasing transponders from other agencies to cater to our customers," he added.
According to Alex, ISRO will launch a remote sensing satellite Resourcesat soon. Piggy backing on that will be two small satellites, one built by Moscow University and ISRO, and the other by Singapore University.