Science & Technology
14th Jan, 2020
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has initiated ‘Project NETRA’ to safeguard Indian space assets from debris and other harm.
What is Project NETRA?
- Project NETRA is an early warning system in space to detect debris and other hazards to Indian satellites.
- The project is estimated to cost ?400 crores.
- NETRA’s eventual goal is to capture the GEO, or geostationary orbit, the scene at 36,000 km where communication satellites operate.
- Under NETRA, or Network for space object Tracking and Analysis, the ISRO plans to put up many observational facilities:
- connected radars, telescopes
- data processing units
- a control centre
- They can, among others, spot, track and catalogue objects as small as 10 cm, up to a range of 3,400 km and equal to a space orbit of around 2,000 km.
How ISRO will achieve this?
- In the plans, are a high-precision, long-range telescope in Leh and a radar in the North East.
- With these, ISRO will also use the Multi-Object Tracking Radar (MOTR) at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, and the telescopes at Ponmudi and Mount Abu to get a broad SSA picture.
What is Space Situational Awareness (SSA)?
- Space Situational Awareness (SSA) refers to the capability of detecting and tracking man-made and natural threats.
- India’s SSA will be first for low-earth orbits or LEO which have remote-sensing spacecraft.
- The new SSA centre would consolidate debris tracking activities that are now spread across ISRO centres.
- The SSA also has a military quotient to it and adds a new ring to the country’s overall security.
Why space debris matters?
- Space debris could be floating particles from dead satellites or rocket parts that stay in orbit for many years.
- Satellite agencies agonise over even a speck of paint or fragment floating towards their spacecraft as it can disable onboard electronics and cripples the satellite worth several hundred crore rupees besides many services that run on it.
- Agencies constantly look for debris at the time of launch and through the life of a satellite.
- Though India still has a collision avoidance manoeuvres on its satellites. But to do that, the country depends on data from NORAD and others available in the public domain.
NORAD, or the North American Aerospace Defense Command, is an initiative of the U.S. and Canada that shares selective debris data with many countries.
- But, the country, do not get accurate or comprehensive information.
- Currently, there are 15 functional Indian communication satellites in the geostationary orbit of 36,000 km; 13 remote sensing satellites in LEO of up to 2,000 km; and eight navigation satellites in medium earth orbits.
- By establishing an observation system of its own, India will become part of the global network and can access precise data.
Significance of the project:
- Capability to predict threats from debris: Once in place, the project will give India its own capability in space situational awareness (SSA) like the other space powers, which is used to ‘predict’ threats from debris to Indian satellites.
- An eye for space attacks: It also goes so far as to serve as an unstated warning against missile or space attack for the country.
- Contributing in international efforts: NETRA effort would make India a part of international efforts towards tracking, warning about and mitigating space debris.