Indian intelligence satellite launch highlights growing capabilities

Indian intelligence satellite launch highlights growing capabilities

India’s Space Research Organisation will launch an electronic intelligence satellite into low earth orbit today. The satellite will serve three

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Photo: Reuters

India’s Space Research Organisation will launch an electronic intelligence satellite into low earth orbit today.

The satellite will serve three military purposes: to monitor enemy assets, collect topography imagery and detect communication devices in certain areas. It is likely the satellite will be focused on India’s border with Pakistan, although it could also be used to gather intelligence on China.

Today’s launch follows India’s successful test of an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) last week. ASAT weapons are designed to target and destroy enemy satellites. Considering modern militaries are heavily reliant on satellites for intelligence gathering, operating advanced weaponry and even communicating, ASATs are incredibly powerful.

In the long-term, there are considerable strategic advantages to India’s development of ASAT weaponry. Notably, only three other states possess ASAT capability—the US, Russia and China. Meanwhile, efforts to prevent ASAT testing and the militarisation of space are ramping up, with Russia and China pushing hard for space arms control treaties. If those efforts become a reality, it will become harder for other states, including Pakistan, to freely develop ASAT capability, firming India’s position as a space power.

More immediately, with nationalist sentiment currently high in India, last week’s test and today’s launch will give Prime Minister Narendra Modi a boost as he seeks re-election next month.

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