ISRO launched India’s first electronic surveillance satellite, ‘EMISAT’


The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched India’s first electronic surveillance satellite, ‘EMISAT’, from Sriharikota in coastal Andhra Pradesh by PSLV-C 45.

Key Points :

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched the country’s first electronic surveillance satellite, EMISAT,from Sriharikota in coastal Andhra Pradesh.
  • India’s PSLV-C45 successfully injected EMISAT and 28 international customer satellites into their designated orbits (4 countries [USA, Switzerland, Lithuania, Spain]) in their respective orbits.
  • As many as 28 small satellites of international customers were also put in space as secondary riders.
  • These nanosatellites include 20 Flock-4A satellites, 1 BlueWalker 1, 1 M6P, 1 Aistechsat-3, 1 Astrocast-2, and 4 Lemur satellites.
  • It was also the first time when a PSLV rocket was launched from four strap-on motors.
  • Space-based electronic intelligence or ELINT from the 436-kg spacecraft will add capabilities to situational awareness of the Armed Forcesas it will provide location and information of hostile radars placed at the borders.
  • AMSAT or the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, India, has sent a payload called the Automatic Packet Repeating System.
  • This is expected to help amateur radio operators to get improved locational accuracyin their tracking and monitoring.
  • This will be another dimension to current land or aircraft-based ELINT, according to defence experts.

pslv-c45 isro



  • EMISAT is a low-Earth orbit satellite weighing 436 kg, which aims to boost India’s space surveillance capacity.
  • Developed by:The satellite is jointly developed by ISRO and Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO).
  • Objective:The objective of the satellite is to measure the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • Base:It is modeled after an Israeli spy satellite called SARAL (Satellite with ARgos and ALtika).
  • Structuring:It is an ELINT satellite based on IMS2 Bus (Indian Mini Satellite Bus series) which can have a maximum launch weight of 450Kgs with a payload no more than 200kgs.
  • Also, it shares the same Bus architecture as the HySIS satellite (launched in November last year).
  • Capability:The main capability of EMISAT is in signal intelligence, intercepting signals broadcast by communication systems, radars, and other electronic systems on the ground from hundreds of kilometers away in space.
  • Working:The Ka-band frequency that EMISAT is sensitive to allows it to scan through ice, rain, coastal zones, land masses, forests and wave heights relatively easily. It detects electronic signals on the ground, especially hidden enemy radars.

Kautilya : DRDO’s project Kautilya is named after the ancient Indian economist who emphasized the importance of spying for a king to protect his kingdom. It involves the development of Electronic Intelligence payload for integration on an indigenous minisatellite. The ELINT includes recordings and analysis of intercepted signals and helps create an RF signature of a radar which can, in turn, be used for locating and quickly identify the radar in subsequent encounters.

Technology Involved (GS-Science & Tech)

  • At first, EMISAT was ejected at an orbit 749 km away from Earth. To get the lower orbit, the fourth stage of the rocket or PS4 had to be restarted twice.
  • ISRO has started reusing PS4 as an innovated, low-cost, space-friendly test bed for its own microgravity experiments and those of others.
  • It is a very innovative mission as three experiments were attached to it, they are:
    • Automatic Identification System from ISRO:The Automatic Identification System (AIS) will be used for maritime satellite applications such as for capturing messages transmitted from the ships.
    • Automatic Packet Repeating System from AMSAT:The Automatic Packet Repeating System (APRS) will assist amateur radio operators in tracking position data.
    • India and Advanced Retarding Potential Analyzer for ionospheric studies from Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology: The Advanced Retarding Potential Analyzer for Ionospheric Studies (ARIS) will be used for structural and compositional studies of the ionosphere.

Why India Needed ‘Spy In The Sky’?(GS-Internal Security)

  • Neighbors and foes like Pakistan & China Makes it necessary for India to have surviellence capabilities in the sky.

India’s Defence Capabilities in Space:

  • The Indian Army used images from the ‘Cartosat’ series to plan the surgical strikes on terror launchpads in POK in 2016.
  • Out of the total 47 operational satellites, India currently has around 6 to 8 satellites which are used entirely for military purposes.
  • There are four Cartosat-2 series satellites (2C, 2D, 2E, 2F) and Gsat-29 satellite besides Risat-2 which can capture images.
  • ISRO launched a defense imaging satellite, ‘MicrosatR’, for DRDO in January this year, which can capture images at night
  • Besides dedicated military satellites, ISRO has also launched communication satellites GSAT-7 and Gsat-7A for Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy, which boosted drone operations.

Significances Of The EMISAT:

  • Sniffing Enemy Radars:This satellite will monitor and give locations for enemy radar sites deep in their territory. Till now, India was using airplanes as early warning platforms, but with this satellite, Indian will get a space-based platform to sniff out enemy radars.
  • Situational Awareness:Space-based electronic intelligence or ELINT will further add teeth to situational awareness of the Armed Forces as it will provide location and information of hostile radars placed at the borders.
  • Helpful in Surgical Warfare:Being capable of detecting electronic signals on the ground, will help India in surgical warfare especially to check Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
  • Successful Operations:For about eight years in the making, EMISAT can be a valuable tool for India to carry out stealth air operations in enemy territory since the satellite can detect enemy radars.

Weponization of Outer Space (GS-IR)

  • Efforts in the United Nations to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes began in 1957, months prior to the launch of the first artificial satellite into Earth’s orbit.
  • Early proposals for prohibiting the use of space for military purposes and the placement of weapons of mass destruction in outer space were considered in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the United Nations.

Existing Legal Framework

  • The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (“Outer Space Treaty”) entered into force in 1967, after consideration by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the General Assembly. The Treaty provides the basic framework for international space law.
  • In particular, it prohibits the placement of nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction in outer space and the stationing of such weapons on celestial bodies. It also establishes basic principles related to the peaceful use of outer space. This includes that the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and that the moon and other celestial bodies shall not be subject to national appropriation or claims of sovereignty

Prevention of an arms race in outer space

  • Since the early 1980s, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) has considered further proposals under the agenda item “prevention of an arms race in outer space”, including draft treaties aimed at, inter alia, preventing the placement of weapons in outer space and prohibiting the use of anti-satellite weapons.
  • In 2008, the Governments of China and the Russian Federation introduced the draft text of such a treaty to the CD.They presented a revised draft treaty in 2014.
  • The General Assembly has also been engaged in the matter of ensuring peace and security in outer space. In 2017, by resolution A/RES/72/250, the General Assembly decided to establish a Group of Governmental Experts to consider and make recommendations on substantial elements of an international legally binding instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, including, inter alia, on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space. Information on the work of the Group can be found here.

Outer Space Treaty, 1967:

  • The Outer Space Treaty,formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law.
  • The Outer Space Treaty prohibits only weapons of mass destructionin outer space, not ordinary weapons.
  • As of February 2019, 108 countriesare parties to the treaty, while another 23 have signed the treaty but have not completed ratification.
  • The exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countriesand shall be the province of all mankind.
  • Given the prohibitively expensive nature of space projects, India and other countries must utilise the increased presence in space to legitimately advance the well-being of their people.

Growing militarization of Outer Space :

  • There is no global regulatory regimeto address the growing militarisation in space which compel India to develop deterrence for the security of its space-based assets.
  • Anti-satellite technologyhas so far been in the hands of very few countries: United States, Russia and China.
  • The acquisition and demonstration of this technology make India a memberof an elite group of countries.
  • Outer space is becoming an arena for technological shows of forcewhether by deployment of spy satellites or testing of weapons.
  • Missiles are one aspect of space warfare, there are several equally effective methods like lasers, to incapacitate satellites that are being developed and are of equally serious concern.


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