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ISRO to develop full-fledged Earth observation satellite

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) says it plans to launch a full-fledged Earth observation (EO) satellite called the Hyperspectral Imaging Satellite or HySIS with specific applications. The satellite uses a critical chip technically called an optical imaging detector array that would be tested and perfected. No specific time-frame for its launch is set.

The payloads development centre, Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, designed the architecture of the chip which was made at ISRO’s electronics arm, the semi-conductor laboratory, Chandigarh.

ISRO is endeavouring to enter the domain of operational hyperspectral imaging from earth orbit with a satellite that can see in 55 spectral or colour bands from 630 km above ground. It is another important development by ISRO in its quest for better and diverse Earth observation technologies.

Gradual development of the technology:

  • ISRO first tried it out in an 83-kg IMS-1 experimental satellite in 2008. The same year, a hyperspectral camera was put on Chandrayaan-1 and used to map lunar mineral resources
  • ISRO added another EO niche with microwave or radar imaging satellites RISAT-1 and RISAT-2, a decade ago, that could see through clouds and the dark, an important feature useful for military and security agencies
  • Very few space agencies have such a satellite, a German environmental satellite called EnMAP is due to be launched on an Indian booster in 2018

What is Hyperspectral or hyspex imaging:

  • It is an Earth Observation(EO) trend that is being experimented globally and is an evolving science
  • It can be used for a range of activities from monitoring the environment, crops, looking for oil and minerals all the way up to military surveillance, all of which need images that show a high level of differentiation of the object or scene
  • Hyspex imaging is said to enable distinct identification of objects, materials or processes on Earth by reading the spectrum for each pixel of a scene from space
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